Human interface guidelines

People put a lot of thought into computer user interfaces. Here I summarize some of the more important documentation resources. As a rule, the further back you go in history, the better it was. Seriously, everything after year 2000 is ugly and/or trash.

See why this stuff matters. Or, to quote a visually-impaired person:

Windows 95 interface was fine, yeah. For me, it’s all about the keyboard shortcuts. The thing that made the Windows 95 style fine was being able to rely on being able to hit Alt → F → S and save the file every single time in every single app.




Don’t get me wrong, they took this matter seriously. But they’re Microsoft. Mediocre is their best, for one reason or another.

The Windows guidelines can be found in their neatest form as printed books:

If you want to go digital, all you have is a bunch of poor choices:

There are also Windows 8 User experience guidelines and User experience guidelines for Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps, if you don’t mind sudden explosive diarrhoea.

To end on a better note, with Windows 11 they finally stopped looking for designers in local kindergartens: Design and code Windows apps might be a poorly structured web disaster randomly interspersed with technical details, but at least your eyes won’t bleed anymore.

To get the Windows 98 look in a web page, you can use this stylesheet.



First off, you should be aware of IBM Common User Access, which are hard-to-find documents. It’s not clear to me how much of it overlaps with Macintosh, and which parts are original.

Someone's gallery of user interfaces, should you be interested in what everything looked like.

Curious differences

On macOS and modern GNOME, which has become a wannabe clone of the former anyway, pressing the right mouse button invokes a context menu immediately. Not so on Windows, where you can drag items this way.


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