A Table of Rules for Interaction Designers

From Digital Ground, Architecture, Pervasive Computing, and Environmental Knowing by
Malcolm McCullough (2004) MIT Press. Pg. 159. “Common wisdom: a dozen axioms of interaction design practice”.

Activity Design activities, not objects
Cognitive ergonomics Minimize astonishment; maximize intuitive accessibility
Collective memory Provide affordances for history; use enduringly legible elements; commemorate events
Context Expect physical location to provide protocols and constraints
Coordination Versatility and satisfaction increase when actions involve tightly synchronized acts and multimldal reinforcement
Errors Prevent errors; don’t scold the people who make them
Flow Satisfaction emerges when abilities are fully engaged toward objectives that are just about manageable
Latency More satisfyin designs tap latent ability
Scale Images, objects, and actions have different meanings at different scales, especially relative to the body
Suspension of disbelief Help people take part in representing shared objects and activities, but don’t expect them to take that for reality
Tuning Don’t predict the state of complex systems; do let people customize, demonstrate, and accumulate the states of their technologies
Unintended consequences Expect resources to be borrowed by insiders for unforeseen uses with discovered benefits, but also with revenge effects
Work practices Tasks occur with a larger stream of conventions, the representation of which is essential to design

*Note to anthropologists: The inputs in this table similar Donna Haraway’s table of cybernetic dichotomies.


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