Mickey’s 10 Commandments

Who could possibly know more than Disney about guiding, exciting and entertaining people? Interface designers can learn a lot from “Mickey’s 10 Commandments”, developed by Walt Disney Imagineering President, Marty Sklar. (commandments in bold, my comments beneath)

  1. Know your audience
    The first link in the chain. Be aware of who your users are, what they like & dislike.
  2. Wear your guest’s shoes
    Put yourself in your user’s shoes, visit what you make regularly and try and see what it’s like for your visitors. Watch them and what they do.
  3. Organize the flow of people and ideas
    Know where you want to lead people and offer clear pathways to help them find the goals.
  4. Create a “Weenie”
    Like a hotdog on a stick, draw people on by offering clear visual attractions.
  5. Communicate with visual literacy
    Use the basics of form, colour, typography, etc. to get your message across clearly.
  6. Avoid overload
    Don’t confuse users by pulling them in too many directions at once.
  7. Tell one story at a time
    Think in stories, and make sure you’re only telling one at a time. A well-told story has far more impact than an info-dump.
  8. Avoid contradiction
    Be consistent in each experience you design, create a little world which is believable.
  9. An ounce of treatment, a tonne of treat
    Sometimes users will have to work their way through the experience. Offer them a treat at the end, a reward which makes the work worth it and leaves them feeling good about it.
  10. Maintain it
    Peeling paint gives a feeling of dysfunction. Spend time on upkeep: fix broken links, update content, remove or update outdated info.

Listening to Marty Sklar explain these made me think that there’s one commandment missing. When you hear his voice, it’s clear that he likes the people who visit Disney parks–“guests” in Disney-speak–and really wants to give them an enjoyable visit. Sometimes we interface designers develop an arrogant attitude, and look down on users who are too stupid to understand our genius. “The button’s right there you fool!” We need to remember that we’re trying to help people navigate through complicated functions and information. I’d add “Learn to like your users” between commandment 1 and 2.

Go have a listen to this Disney podcast to hear Marty Sklar explain the commandments himself. [via boingboing]


  1. Matt,
    Sometimes designers suffer from designer overload. In being the coolest, they forget their users totally. I refer to the designers who dont give a hand click icon to clickable items, developing flash only sites etc.

    Quite akin to the programmer who thinks that Java/PHP is the ‘bestest’ forgetting that its the business flow that precedes your personal preference, thereby dictating software choice.

    After making a lot of blogger faux pas, I think in writing and any kind of presenting, paying attention to point 7 above is very critical. Not every one can keep up with digressions, like Robin William’s voices for the Genie in Alladin.

  2. Good list.

    My cynical side tells me too add another one;

    11: Hire great lawyers and lobbyists. Micky was a borrowed idea but they a protected one. He has been the primary driver for copyright protection for many years. Creative Commons is bringing some balance to the force.


  3. Matt Balara says:

    Sure Mick, the ethical record of Disney leaves much to be desired from what I’ve heard. But they certainly understand telling a story and entertaining their audience. Thanks for stopping by!