The 10 Second Lighting Control Rule

10-second-ruleWhether manufacturing, specifying or commissioning lighting systems in commercial buildings, we should all be mindful of the ‘Ten second lighting control rule’.

THE RULE: An employee on entering a normal meeting room which they have never used before, should, in around 10 seconds, be able to find a lighting control device, understand the user interface on the device and control the lighting as required from that device.

A challenging rule for those of us in the industry, yes, but not unreasonable from a user’s perspective.

So what can we do to meet this rule?


Ensure the user interface is intuitive and quick to use.

A few guidelines to help you execute the 10 Second Lighting Control Rule

(1) Don’t provide too many control buttons.

The number of buttons will be depend on the type of space. However, as a general guideline for a general modern meeting room, no more than 6 buttons should be needed, four will often suffice.

(2) Provide ‘Parachute’ buttons.


Buttons with Icons indicating meeting room scenes, but clear ON and OFF buttons for those in a panic!

When people are in stressful situations they often panic and, when presented with many options, even clear text or icons can confuse. The inclusion of buttons simply labelled ‘ON’ and ‘OFF’ can be a life saver.

(3) Completely avoid functions which rely on double clicks or similar.

Think of the first time user – how do they work this out themselves?

(4) Use Touch screens in parallel with labelled keypads

Control of meeting room lighting from tabletop touch screens (provided primarily for the audio visual system control) should not be provided as the sole means of controlling lighting. They should be used in parallel with appropriately labelled keypads.

(5) Provide mode or ‘pre-set’ buttons

Which automatically set lighting levels for specific tasks.

(6) Return to the Rotary

If providing the ability to manually control dimming levels, consider providing a digital rotary switch, rather than push buttons. See this separate post Return of the Rotary for more detail.

(7) Seperate Dimming Down and Fading Up


Separate dim up and dim down buttons with labels

If using push buttons for manual dimming, provide separate switches for ‘dimming down’ and dimming up’. One button which toggles between dim up and dim down can be confusing to users who are not very familiar with their operation.

(8) Clearly label buttons on lighting control devices

This is critical. See this separate blog post How To Design Lighting Control User Interfaces for a Typical User for more detail on this.

With these few guidelines, implementing the The 10 Second Lighting Control Rule will provide users with a better experience.