Top 10 Tips for User Interface Design
With millions of new smartphones sold yearly, users are getting used to touch-based navigation and user interface design. So what does this mean for you? How can you create a UI that will keep your users engaged?
Designing great user interfaces is no easy feat. There are so many ways that people use our products, and different audiences will respond differently to different design elements. When designing an interface for your app, product, website, or service, it’s essential to understand how people interact with the design.
When designing user interfaces for applications such as web pages, mobile apps, or computer games, users typically want a clear, consistent experience across platforms and devices.
1 – Use White Space
Designers use colours, typography, shapes, textures, space, and more to create the visual identity of their apps and websites. But there is much white space to fill in, too. White space helps users navigate and understand the content of your app or website. It also improves the overall aesthetic of the experience.
In a digital world where screens are the new canvases and information and content are everywhere, the white space of your site or app is an essential part of the message you want to send.
White space is invisible, yet its absence creates confusion. It can make you seem less professional and less relevant to your users. You can’t control the colour of the background of your web browser or mobile phone.
And that means the visual messages you send will vary depending on your device’s default setting.
As a designer, you want to be consistent across all devices. The same design elements, navigation, and message must be available at any screen size.
White space is a great way to achieve this. It lets users scan and digest the message you want to communicate without being distracted by other elements in your design.
White space also works as a conversation starter. Visitors to your site may find reading the text on a busy page hard. They will pick up on your message more quickly when they see empty spaces, which helps break up the busy text.
2 – Don’t Crowd the User Interface Design
Good user interface design isn’t about making things pretty. It’s about creating easy-to-use tools that help people do things quickly and effectively. That means designing a system, so users don’t have to search through layers of menus, sub-menus and options to find what they want. Instead, they see what’s valuable to them at a glance. They can focus on the task rather than struggling with the system.
Designing for Clarity
We’ve all seen websites or apps cluttered and challenging to navigate. They might offer more choices or features, but the result is confusion.
As designers, we can help by simultaneously reducing the number of items on the screen. We can ensure there are no unnecessary options, sub-options or extra features.
Here are a few ideas for getting rid of “junk”.
- Focus on the content. The first rule of good UI design is to make sure it’s clear what the site or app does, not how it looks. Users should be able to see the task at hand. That means showing only what’s relevant – don’t distract users with flashy graphics or distracting background noise.
- Remember too that people are visual learners. If the information needed is in text, then show that. If they can find the information in pictures, then use images. This helps the information stand out, so they can easily understand it. If you need to show multiple pieces of information, use icons or shapes to group them.
- Make your buttons big. This makes the information on the screen easier to read and less likely to get lost. If you need to use smaller buttons, then make them bold, stand out from the background and have some visual indication of the task being performed by each button.
- Show the user where they are. If you need to present a series of steps, display a guide next to the button. Use colour, size and position to help your users understand the page. Avoid too much white space. It’s a good idea to add a border around the edges of the page to make it easier to distinguish. And make sure that there’s enough room on the page for the user to read and understand the instructions.
Designing for Efficiency
Good UI design isn’t just about using fewer things to do the same job. It’s about doing the same job in the most efficient way possible.
We’re always looking for ways to improve the way we design. But before we start, here are some general guidelines for designing for efficiency.
Think about what people will be doing.
Before you begin designing, think about the tasks people will be doing. What do they want to achieve? Do they need to find out more information? Search for a product? Pay a bill? Or will they use the app for a specific task?
In short, before you design, you need to ask yourself what you want your users to do. And then decide what actions will make that happen.
Try to get a sense of the whole picture.
When you’re designing a new interface, try to imagine the whole scene. Think about how you want it to work, what people will be doing and what information they will be collecting.
Then break it down into parts and design for each one separately. Once you’ve finished, try to put it back together again and see how well it works.
Keep the design simple.
We’re often tempted to complicate things. But, simplicity does make a difference for a web or mobile app.
A complicated interface might be visually attractive and be designed well. But it might also be a real hassle. So the simple solution is often the best.
You’ve heard it before. It’s like a car: If you want to drive safely, you need to know how to turn the key, shift gears and steer, and check the oil levels and air pressure. It’s no different with the website: if your site looks confusing to navigate, it will be hard to use, get visitors and retain customers.
The problem is that many websites are poorly designed. They can look complex, be slow to load and take forever to navigate. So, how can you redesign your site to ensure a quick, easy, intuitive user experience?
Here are five steps you can take to achieve a user-friendly site design.
Keep it simple and clutter-free
A cluttered website is one of the biggest hurdles to a successful design. This is because the more you add to the page, the harder it becomes for users to find what they’re looking for.
Instead, ensure all pages have only two sections: the content and navigation.
Content is what you put on the website. Navigation is what helps users move around your site. The content of your site should be relevant, clear and consistent. If the content is relevant, then there is less need for users to go to the navigation. If it’s clear and consistent, users will have less of a challenge finding their way around it. If you’ve already got much content, the navigation will need to be much more straightforward, so users can quickly find the information they want.
Use a clear call to action
Call to action are the words or images that let users know exactly what you want them to do. For example, “click here” or “press this button”. A clear call to action will help users navigate your site quickly. If you don’t have a call to action on your site, ask your designer to create one.
Keep it consistent
If you’ve got a new website, the easiest way to improve the user experience is to ensure it is consistently designed and has the same look and feel. Consistency gives users a feeling of familiarity, making them more likely to stay on your site.
Feedback can make a massive difference to the user experience of your website. When users make a mistake, they get a message telling them what they’ve done wrong.
For example, if you’re entering your address into a form, a simple message telling users if they’ve typed the street name correctly would make them more likely to complete the form successfully.
User testing is an excellent way to ensure that your design is intuitive, easy to navigate, and has the right call to action. By testing your site, you’ll know if users are getting lost or confused and will be able to make any changes needed.
4 – Be Consistent Across Platforms
Consistency across platforms is a crucial design requirement for applications and websites. Users don’t want to learn a new look, different functions, or see changes to how they interact with a site. To achieve this consistency, developers must use similar platform tools and techniques.
Developers often have a clear idea of the end goal and how they want users to interact with their applications. But they may not know the best tools to achieve that.
It’s often best to choose a tool with many users and then try to adapt it to your application. This is because the same tools used by large numbers of people are usually tried and tested.
User interface designers need to be able to design interfaces in different browsers and operating systems to allow for these variations. To do this, they may have to tweak the existing user interface or build their own solution.
If a designer has no choice but to develop their own user interface, they may want to use a cross-browser solution. But they may find it challenging to achieve the desired look and feel in a single browser.
For consistency, developers should look to adopt standard techniques across platforms. For example, they should use the same fonts, sizes, colours, and patterns. This will result in a consistent user experience.
5 – Keep it Simple
Users need to be able to find, understand, and manage your app. So, a straightforward user interface is a key to the success of your app. If you can provide a clear message and make it simple to navigate, your users will be happy with your app.
Be sure to use visual cues to help users understand and complete tasks
Use visual cues to guide users through your app and make your app easier to use. For example, use arrows or circles to indicate what action to perform next and provide visual cues on how to edit content. Use a visual menu to help users quickly find what they need.
Create an easy-to-read user interface
Use text and other visual elements to help your users understand your app and the tasks they need to complete. Consistent terms, large icons, and simple font styles will help your users quickly learn to use your app. If your app has multiple sections, ensure users understand the relationship between the sections and the available options.
6 – Don’t Make Users Think
Innovative design and development have come a long way, but sometimes we fail to appreciate the importance of intuitive design. User interface (UI) design ensures users can interact with your product or service most effectively and efficiently. We can do this by making the product ‘smooth’ and easy to use and using clear and easy-to-understand visual communication.
So, how do we achieve intuitive UI design? The answer lies in understanding the user’s psychology and ensuring the design reflects the user’s mental model. When a user interacts with a product or service, they are essentially trying to solve a problem, and the process itself is often a series of steps that the user has to perform.
The order of these steps varies from user to user, depending on their preferences and the task at hand. For instance, a user usually starts searching for a product online. They will then be presented with several options, such as choosing between different brands and one particular item.
This process happens in our minds subconsciously. The brain is incredibly efficient at performing tasks it has been trained to do. In this case, the user is using a website, so the steps will likely be ingrained in their memory.
For the user, buying a product online is much simpler than buying a physical product because they already know the basics of the product or service and are confident that they can navigate the web pages effectively. However, when using a physical product, the user has no knowledge of the product and is likely to have to search the instructions, read the packaging, and then eventually carry out the task.
A well-designed UI will help the user complete a task as quickly as possible and allow them to do so without needing to stop and think. By following the user’s mental model, the product will be designed in such a way as to ensure that the user can quickly understand what needs to be done and how to do it.
For example, if a user is attempting to make a cup of coffee, the order of events is pretty straightforward, and the user will only need to follow a few steps to complete the task. However, if they use an unfamiliar device or service, they may not know what to expect and struggle to find their way around the interface.
Intuitive design provides a smooth experience that follows the user’s mental model. This means the product or service will work in the same way for everyone, regardless of their previous experience of the product or service. An excellent example of this would be a user interface on a tablet computer.
If a tablet is used for the first time, the user will not understand what to expect. If they open the home screen and try to access a specific app, the user will not know how to find the app because there are so many icons on the screen. They will need to familiarise themselves with the product and its design before understanding how to interact with the interface.
If, on the other hand, the tablet’s interface is designed with the user’s mental model in mind, the user can pick up the tablet and start interacting with the interface the same way as they would with their smartphone. They can easily navigate the interface, find the apps they want, and even delete them. In both of these examples, the product or service is intuitive.
This is why an outstanding user interface design is so important. Intuitive design ensures that the user can complete tasks efficiently and without any unnecessary confusion while also ensuring that the user can understand the product or service in the first place. It will help the user to become familiar with the product, and it will help you to reach your target audience.
7 – Minimise the Number of Required Clicks
We live in the Internet of Things era, where technology has penetrated everywhere. It is not surprising that one of the essential features of this type of device is the number of required clicks.
With more than a billion connected devices in use, designers need to optimise the user experience by minimising the number of clicks.
According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), people often make errors when interacting with touchscreens. For example, they often unintentionally tap the wrong part of the screen or move too fast and accidentally skip a step. To solve these problems, designers are creating better interfaces by providing visual clues, changing the order of actions, and removing unnecessary clicks.
A typical scenario is a user sees a list of items, scrolls down to the bottom, and then tries to select a particular item, only to discover that the list is empty. In this case, the number of required clicks is two: scroll down to the bottom and select an item.
In contrast, some designs eliminate the second step. When a user sees a list, she can scroll to the bottom and click on the last item. Thus, the number of required clicks is zero. This approach makes it much easier for users to interact with the device.
Minimising the number of required clicks is especially useful for children and older people. According to a study by the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), the average number of clicks for children aged seven to nine was 16 per task, while for adults, it was eight. With fewer clicks, children spend less time figuring out the correct procedure and more time enjoying the process.
For the elderly, minimising the number of required clicks is beneficial because they often have impaired vision, dexterity, or cognitive ability.
Minimising the number of required clicks can also save users time and money. The National Safety Council reported that between 2006 and 2011, the cost of smartphone accidents increased threefold. Most accidents happen because users unintentionally touch the wrong part of the screen or the phone slips from their hands. By reducing the number of required clicks, users can avoid these accidents.
To summarise, we should minimise the number of required clicks to improve the user experience. However, we should ensure that the minimum number of required clicks is not too low. A good rule of thumb is to have five to six required clicks for an average adult and ten to twelve for children.
8 – Use Clear Hierarchy
We must understand its importance in our lives to design a clear information hierarchy. We have to understand each element’s purpose and what information it communicates.
In a hierarchy, the information contained in each item has meaning to the consumer. For example, the information about the price of a product is valuable to a consumer because it helps the consumer decide whether or not to buy the product.
An effective hierarchy should have a strong foundation. The elements of a strong hierarchy are:
- A clear definition of the purpose of each element
- The relationship between the elements of the hierarchy
- The order in which the elements appear
- The clarity of the text describing each element
The first step is to understand the purpose of each element. What information does this element contain? Is it a name, a description, a number, a link to a webpage, etc.? If the element contains too much information, the information isn’t needed. If the information is needed, it should be relevant and communicated.
The next step is to define the relationship between each element. Are there links to other elements within the same hierarchy? Or do they refer to different hierarchies altogether? If the elements refer to the same hierarchy, how does the consumer find the information they want? By scrolling down the page? By using a search box?
The final step is to ensure the hierarchy is clear and concise. Is the text easy to read and understand? Does it follow a logical progression? If the text is too confusing, it could be confusing to the reader.
The purpose of a hierarchy is to provide the consumer with the information they need in a clear, logical way. By understanding the purpose of each element, you will be able to create an effective hierarchy.
Navigation is the process of finding a particular object within a complex UI. The term “navigation” encompasses a user’s entire journey in a specific context.
A user’s experience starts with a decision to use a UI in the first place. The next step is deciding what object to use. The final step involves taking a desired action within the application. A user must navigate to find and interact with the desired object. This requires multiple tools, including menus, icons, buttons, and dropdown lists.
Navigating a UI can be complicated by the many different actions, objects, and functions that the UI offers. The process of navigating is a complex task involving several different elements.
We will begin by explaining how users perceive navigation and then focus on how they interact. We will discuss why navigation is essential to consider and how it affects the overall experience.
User perception of navigation
A UI can be made to feel confusing or confusing. For instance, if a user has not used a system in a long time, the menus and tools might not immediately appear. A new UI can cause confusion and frustration if users cannot understand each tool’s intended purpose. If a UI is not designed correctly, users may spend more time looking for the function they want than they spend using it.
One of the main reasons why UI design is important is to ensure a user’s experience is as smooth and efficient as possible. People are more likely to continue using a UI if it is easy to use and the options are clear and easily understood. Remember that a UI must not be complex to be easy to use. When you design a UI, you should always consider the needs and preferences of the target audience. You must be aware of how your users perceive and use a UI.
Navigation and interaction
Navigation in a UI is an essential part of the user’s journey. Navigation occurs before, during, and after an interaction between a user and the UI. Before the interaction, a user decides what object they want to use. For example, if the user chooses an icon, it must appear in a place that allows them to identify it quickly.
Once the user chooses an object, the tool they use will affect the type of action they perform. The tools that move the user to the next step, such as a menu item, a button, or a dropdown list, also significantly impact the user’s journey. The final user journey stage is when they use the object. The user will be presented with options during their interaction with the object. These options may influence the next step in the user’s journey.
It is essential to consider a user’s experience in the design process. Working out what a user can achieve by interacting with a specific UI is essential.
10 – Strategically use colour and texture
Strategically using colour and texture to influence user experience has been around for decades. Whether using patterned fabrics in fashion, incorporating colour into brand identities, or using colour to influence our emotions, we are constantly surrounded by the power of colour and texture. In user interface design, colour and texture influence user experience.
There is growing evidence that colour and texture can affect how we perceive and interact with various systems. The use of colour and texture in UI design can help improve how we use these devices by providing information, context, and aesthetic value. By understanding the effects of colour and texture, designers can leverage their knowledge to create more pleasant and engaging user interfaces.
How colour and texture impact user experience
We are all familiar with the colour of the rainbow, but are you aware of how colours impact your experience? Colour plays a significant role in our perception and experience of visual stimuli. In the same way that our ears can hear different frequencies, colour is perceived by our eyes, and our brains respond accordingly. We are so accustomed to certain shades that we often fail to notice them, yet they affect us.
Colour affects your emotions, attention span, judgement, and memory. Research shows that colour can influence the following:
- Attention: colours affect where your brain focuses. Light red will focus the mind on objects, while dark red will draw attention to danger.
- Judgement: red makes us less likely to trust someone. We are more likely to trust people wearing dark colours (like black and navy blue), especially if they are smiling.
- Emotion: blue tends to elicit a calm response. Red has been associated with anger, violence, and aggression.
- Memory: red is linked to the formation of long-term memories.
What are the effects of colour on user interface design?
The use of colour in user interface design can help to provide information, context, and aesthetic value. By understanding the effects of colour and texture on user experience, designers can leverage their knowledge to create more pleasant and engaging interfaces for users.
The effects of colour and texture are particularly evident in the interaction between the user and a computer and within the design of apps.
- Information: Understanding the effects of colour can help inform users about the information they are viewing. In addition, we can use it to highlight essential items, for example, the search box or the ‘more’ button.
- Context: colours can provide context, helping to make sense of the information. For example, the background colour of a search box can change when a word filter is selected, and the font size of the search box can be increased to indicate when a term has been entered.
- Aesthetics: colour can be used to create the aesthetic value of an app or website. It can also convey meaning, such as mood and tone. For example, the colour of the background in a website can change when there are updates.
We can use colour to make a user interface feel more approachable. If users feel they can use the system easily, they are more likely to learn how to use it. Users will be less willing to learn if the colour scheme is too intimidating or complicated. This is particularly important for novice users who need to learn quickly.
User interface design is not just a matter of aesthetics. It’s a strategic decision that affects user experience, conversion rates, and the product’s overall success. User interface designers should use empathy to identify the target audience’s needs and understand what people expect from a product.
In addition, user interface designers should pay attention to usability, accessibility, and performance, which affect people’s ability to use the product effectively.
Don’t let lousy UI design get you down. Use these ten tips to improve the user experience design today.