Let’s Talk UI Design: Heuristic 2, Match between system and the real world

Hello everyone!  Today I discuss heuristic two from Jakob Nielsen‘s 10 Heuristics of User Interface Design.  Consider this post two in the Usability Heuristics Series.  This time, I’m gonna use a different example from before, but in the same context

Again, just to refresh:

Match between system and the real world

The system should speak the users’ language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user, rather than system-oriented terms. Follow real-world conventions, making information appear in a natural and logical order.

Attention: Everybody’s not a computer, a programmer, or a designer.  People do NOT speak programming lingo out in the real world (most people, anyway).  So….saying things like “Please re-authenticate” at a password error is not gonna fly.  Talk like your target audience talks.  Know how your audience sees things. For example, say your target audience are employers. Seeing your portfolio as a navigation item, for example, or placing works right on the first page.

Alright, so let’s say you are an employer hiring in the UI Design field.  You are currently going through a list of online student websites submitted in order to pick out candidates to go through the interviewing process.  You are looking for portfolio pieces; products that these students have put together or aided in putting together through some sort of specific design process that stresses on the user’s interaction with said products.

Alright let’s simplify a bit.

You want to see the students’ works.

So what’re you gonna look for?  The portfolio!


You parse through a few websites and stop on one that catches your attention.  There on the home page were this student’s designs interwoven into a beautiful user-friendly site.  You immediately identified the student, what he does, and examples of his work.  Perfect!

Boom!  Classic example here.  Julien Revoye expertly  defines here what the page is using lingo the employers want.  “You want my portfolio?  I’ll give you my portfolio!”  Julien is using the word “Portfolio” not just in his navigation, but in his title as well.  An employer doesn’t have to waste time to find the page because it’s right there, one of the main choices!  

Speaking your audience’s language will definitely go a long way.  Give them what they want,  not what you think they need.

——–User First, Designer Second——–


4 thoughts on “Let’s Talk UI Design: Heuristic 2, Match between system and the real world

    • Oh. My. Word. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I call a plain violation of this heuristic. Those are supposed to be classes? how do you sort through those? Yes, this is not speaking to you or to me AT ALL. This is….bad.

      Simply changing the name to the courses’ names (CGT XXX: Insert Title Here) would do worlds.


  1. Pingback: Let’s Talk UI Design: Heuristic 5, Error Prevention | Mad Hatter

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