The third rule of Shneiderman's Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design is as follows: "For every user action, there should be system feedback. For frequent and minor actions, the response can be modest, whereas for infrequent and major actions, the response should be more substantial. Visual presentation of the objects of interest provides a convenient environment for showing changes explicitly."
This means that for every user action, the system should show meaningful, clear reaction. This is as simple as a button changing to a highlighted state when pressed, the change notifying the user of their interaction. Shneiderman separates types of actions into two types, frequent and infrequent/major. Frequent actions can be anything like clicks/taps, loading, scrolling, icon changes, animations, icon badges, etc. This type of feedback shows small changes in the system.
A simple example of this is when filling out a signup form, the form field turns green or adds a check mark to the side to show the user has filled out a field correctly. Infrequent or major changes can create substantial changes to the system, consisting of state or page changes, color changes, alert windows and more. An example of an infrequent change is when a shopping app changes its entire state, from browsing mode to a checkout mode.
A system with feedback for every action helps the user achieve their goals without friction, and helps reduce cognitive load. A system without these factors can seem clunky, slow, or even broken to a user. Lastly, feedback also should be immediate, any delays should be minimized to prevent the system from looking slow.
From small to large actions, appropriate reactions are a must to help create an excellent experience. They are a key facet of providing great experiences for your users.
- Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design, Dr. Ben Shneiderman of the University of Maryland, website last accessed January 8, 2016, https://www.cs.umd.edu/users/ben/goldenrules.html
- “Designing the User Interface” textbook, Shneiderman and Paisant, (fourth edition, Addison Wesley, 2005)