We all know the golden rule. But do you know the golden rule of User Experience? Actually, the difference amounts to a simple word change:

Treat users as you would like to be treated.

Common sense, right? And yet, we often find that user experiences are built to profit the business who built them, not users like us.

Here’s an example: Apple’s latest iOS requires iPhone users to press the home button to unlock their phones. How does this extra effort improve the experience of using an iPhone? Based on the outcry from many users, it doesn’t.

Experiences like auto playing videos, which we may have thought we’d moved beyond, keep popping up.

Videos that play automatically are another UX pitfall that should have run its course — but hasn’t. Take CNN.com as an example. If I visit an article that is supplemented with video, the video loads an advertisement first and begins playing automatically. CNN is a television-based company, so it’s no surprise that they would actively promote video. But playing a video automatically while I am trying to read an article is disruptive and intrusive. To make matters worse, when the video ends, the page loads another video prefaced by another advertisement.

So how can you avoid these problems and keep the user at the center of every UX decision? How can you ensure you’re following the Golden Rule of UX?

Here are some fundamental guidelines to keep in mind as you design your user experience:

  • For video content, allow users to set a preference for how they want to watch, or include a pause that prompts viewers to decide whether they want the next video to play.
  • Remember that television and web are fundamentally different mediums. While a viewer expects an unending stream of content while watching CNN, a user wants to be in control when navigating a website.
  • Turning casual visitors into loyal users means giving them the content they want with a minimum of interruption. Create interruptions in the content experience and users will seek their content elsewhere.
  • Don’t complicate user experience without a good reason. (And no, increased revenue from ad impressions isn’t a good reason.)

We’re all web users. So before changing your user experience or altering how you present content, ask yourself the time honored question: is this how I would want to be treated as a user?