Hive’s 7 Design Principles

Here at Hive, we’re pretty obsessed with usability. To guide our decision-making, we run every design choice past a set of 7 very simple design principles. If it fails to meet one, we tweak and start again.


  • People prefer certainty to puzzled surprise. Many products aim to guess what the user wants to do, in an attempt to impress them. Users prefer to know exactly what will happen when they take a given action.

Revealed Complexity

  • One of the challenges of the new world of software is that people should be able to self-teach themselves a new system. We don’t believe in half day training courses, when people are capable of mastering something as complex as Facebook on their own.
  • We solve this using ‘revealed complexity’ — what’s the smallest amount of a feature we can show up front, so that someone only has to deal with the cognitive burden of figuring it out once they’re ready?


  • Options are a cop out. It’s the designer’s job to figure out the best way to use the product, and delegating that choice to the user is pure laziness.Hive only resorts to options as a last resort.

Lazy Option

  • Speaking of laziness, we’re all lazy. So if the product feature you’re proud of doesn’t represent the laziest possible way for your user to complete their work in that moment, people won’t do it. (Pro-tip: uploading files via a browse dialog is NEVER the easiest way to save a file).


  • Somewhere in the development of software, we let control freaks run the show. Imagine a physical office set up like most ‘collaborative’ software. Padlocks on everyone’s notebook so others can’t amend their notes, lie detector tests to check whether people changed the due date on their actions. It’s gone crazy. Presume open until required to do otherwise.


  • Ever since the Skinner box, we’ve known that animals respond well to small affirmations of behavior. Humans are just the same. In Hive, we try to take every opportunity to reward a user via small UI interactions for positive things that they achieve within the app.


  • On top of that, we have a specific product track for ‘delight’. Delight isn’t about the product working well, it’s about those moments when a product surprises you in a human way. Try logging into Hive extra early one day, or being the first to complete a task assigned to many, or write a particularly popular document. Hive looks for ways to delight you.

I hope that there’s some things on our list that give you food for thought.

What do you think about our principles? Is there anything we are missing?

We’d love to hear your thoughts!