UsabilityNet logo 1 UsabilityNet logo 2

Style guides


Style guides are used to provide a consistent look and feel. They should be defined as part of usability requirements and conformance should be monitored during development.


  • Style guides embody good practice in interface design.
  • Following a style guide will increase the consistency between screens.
  • Using a style guide can reduce the development time.
  • Following general usability guidelines will improve the quality of the interface.


  1. For a Graphical User Interface (GUI) such as Windows, develop and adhere to a GUI style guide based on good GUI design principles:
    offsiteMicrosoft Windows User Experience. Microsoft Press, 1999. [Official Microsoft guidelines for creating well-designed, visually and functionally consistent user interfaces, also available offsiteon the web.]
  2. offsiteGUI Design Handbook Susan Fowler. McGraw Hill. About offsiteFace: The Essentials of User Interface Design Alan Cooper. IDG Books

    offsiteGUI Design for Dummies Laura Arlov. IDG Books

  3. For web pages, develop and adhere to a style guide based on good web design principles:
    offsiteDesigning Web Usability Jakob Nielsen. New Riders. 1999.
  4. offsiteWeb Site Usability Jared Spool, Terri DeAngelo, Tara Scanlon, Will Schroeder, Carolyn Snyder. Morgan Kaufmann, 1998.

  5. Developers should also be familiar with and apply general user interface guidelines, for example see the guidelines in the offsiteRESPECT Handbook
  6. Someone familiar with the style guides and usability guidelines should review the user interfaces to check for conformity with the guidelines. Although style guides can speed development by simplifying detailed design, developers are often reluctant to use a style guide unless compliance is enforced.


A more consistent look and feel, and a list of any deviations from the style guide.

Next steps

Evaluate early working prototypes.

Case studies

Background reading

offsiteList of User Interface Design Style Guides

Home | Professional Groups | Tools & Methods | Usability Practitioner | Usability for Managers | EU Project Support | About this Site
©UsabilityNet 2006. Reproduction permitted provided the source is acknowledged.