Phil Gordon's rules of UI Design
Wednesday, Feb 11, 2009
In his 'Little Green Book', poker great Phil Gordon outlines a basic principle of poker play: At each turn to act, ask yourself: "Can I fold this? Can I fold this? Can I fold this?" If the answer is yes, then fold. If not, then ask "Can I raise this? Can I raise this? Can I raise this?" If the answer is yes, then raise. If the answer is no to both questions, then and only then should you call.

To a reasonable degree, I adhere to the same philosophy when iterating on a design. First, for each functional or aesthetic element, ask "Can I cut this? Can I cut this? Can I cut this?" and if you can, if the functionality isn't vital on the main page (or sometimes, at all), then cut, cut, cut. If you can't, then ask "Can I improve this? Can I improve this? Can I improve this?" If you can (and 'improve' here takes a meaning more nuanced than 'add to' or 'make more complex') then do it. If you can't cut it and you can't improve it, then leave it alone for this iteration and move to the next bit.

Cutting is really hard, and often inspires users to pen 'if you don't put it back then I'm leaving you' ultimatums, but be liberal in cutting within the privacy of your own development box and then step back and look at the whole canvas. Cutting one thing may make you miss the thing, but cutting several things can give you a whole new design that's worth getting to know.

If you like it, please share it.

Hi, I'm Kevin Fox.
I've been blogging at since 1998.
I can be reached at .

I also have a resume.


I'm co-founder in
a fantastic startup fulfilling the promise of the Internet of Things.

The Imp is a computer and wi-fi connection smaller and cheaper than a memory card.

Find out more.

We're also hiring.


I post most frequently on Twitter as @kfury and on Google Plus.


I've led design at Mozilla Labs, designed Gmail 1.0, Google Reader 2.0, FriendFeed, and a few special projects at Facebook.

©2012 Kevin Fox