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Autodesk Adopts Its Own Company-wide Human Interface Guidelines

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AliveInTheLab View Drop Down
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    Posted: 17.Oct.2017 at 04:00

Here's a blog post that gives you a sneak peek under the hood. This reflects work with technology that we are developing and using internally.

When you use a computer program, you exercise its User Interface (UI). Prior to the year 2000, making a UI "user-friendly" was all the rage. Now it's just expected. Another way some people use a computer program is via an Application Program Interface (API). APIs allow one program to talk to another program. When you embed an Excel workbook in a Word document, Excel and Word communicate using Microsoft APIs. APIs are becoming more commonplace as more and more tasks augment human capabilities via automation. In keeping with the times, or perhaps leading the way, Autodesk has Autodesk Forge which is our collection of APIs that we use to develop our own web-based services. We make these services available (as well as documentation/sample code) to customers and 3rd party developers that make up our Forge community.

UIs and APIs aside, let's discuss to how you use programs, what those programs do, and how they are built. Autodesk has over 100 desktop products.


Users of multiple products may have noticed that all products don't always work exactly the same way. Sometimes there is a good reason for this as some products are tailored to the specific industry they serve; however, at other times, it would be better for all involved if there was consistency. Quite honestly, many Autodesk products are part of our portfolio via acquisition, so there is no surprise at some of the inconsistencies. They say those who do not study history are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. As we develop more and more products and services, we're looking to do a better job than our past.

That's where HIG comes in — Human Interface Guidelines. The Autodesk Human Interface Guidelines are a living design system, helping teams design, write, and build better experiences within and across our products. The HIG includes a comprehensive set of design patterns, content guidelines, and reusable code components for Autodesk products and services. Using the HIG, our teams can build better products and services faster and bring consistency to the customer experience.

The HIG is:

  • cross-platform so Windows users, Mac users, smartphone users, etc. have a more consistent experience.
  • modular so only parts needed are part of each solution.
  • responsive so the solution adapts to the form factor (e.g., phone, tablet, or desktop) to deliver a great experience.
  • localized so it conforms to expected norms and native languages.
  • accessible so it is easy for Autodesk developers to understand and leverage.
  • documented to avoid any confusion on what can and cannot be done.
  • organized to facilitate rapid development.

At its highest level, the HIG consists of:

  • basics — the foundation of product design with elements like grid, color, typography, and icons.
  • components — basics fit into components that are UI elements that work together to make up a functional piece of the product experience like buttons, navigation, forms, and tables.
  • layouts — components combine together to form layouts that are specific types of pages or screens found in Autodesk products. 
  • experiences — layouts stitch together to become experiences that are key workflows and tasks across a variety of Autodesk products like sign-in, upload, sharing, in-help learning, and trials.


So as an Autodesk customer, look for more cohesiveness and an even more valuable, intuitive, and seamless experiences as our developers, company-wide, leverage the HIG.

Striving for consistency and excellence is alive in the lab.

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It's Alive in ihe Lab - Autodesk Labs blog by Scott Sheppard
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