How To Design a Great User Interface
The goal and only purpose of a user interface (UI), as the name implies, is to create an experience for the user. Many automated solutions exist to make UI design simpler and faster; however, the designer must understand some basic rules of how to design a user interface. Because the focus is centered on the potential user, the user’s needs must primarily drive all design choices.
Think about your user
This is very much an understatement of what really needs to happen. Constantly think of the user and his needs. Think of nothing else! It is very important that you do not assume anything about this part. Pretend that you have no prior knowledge of the task at hand and approach your research from this angle. Truly and fully understanding the desired user experience is critical and all other aspects will depend on it.
Keep It Simple
When beginning your UI design, start with a bare-bones approach. Build the skeleton of absolutely, fundamentally necessary elements and features. To go beyond this and add any additional features, stop and question your own motivation. You are not improving the client’s quality of life by requiring them to read numerous, lengthy explanations of features in an effort to bring clarity. Self-explanatory tools are much more helpful than endless documentation. If there is a need for excessive documentation, then you have not achieved your goal of an efficient, quick, and simple user interaction and your efforts are counterproductive.
Make the design familiar to the user
This is not the time or place to reinvent the wheel or to teach new skills and patterns. The reality is that users spend a major part of their lives using an interface that is not the one you are creating. Keeping certain elements similar to other frequently used applications will give the user a feeling of deja vu. If you give the user the feeling that they have used this application before and understand how it will react to certain actions, then you have achieved the creation of an intuitive product.
Use a visual hierarchy
When considering the UI design, a strong visual hierarchy is crucial to the look and feel of the interface as well as to ease-of-use. Each screen and menu should be similar with options consistently placed. Once users have become acquainted with the opening or home page, the design should already seem familiar as they move through subsequent screens. Overuse of fonts and other features intended to highlight important areas will result in an opposite effect. If everything is highlighted, nothing really stands out.
Be consistent in your design
The comfort and confidence of the user and will continue. The user interface design is all about the user experience. If you keep your design steady and familiar the client will feel at home as they progress through the sequence. A consistent design helps the user to feel comfortable and confident. Every new phase of the program cannot require learning completely new skills. Similar tasks will look familiar and respond predictably.
Make it look good
We’ve repeatedly stressed that design is secondary to functionality. If a program doesn’t function well and predictably, it won’t matter how it looks. However, if you have created a fantastic product, go the extra mile and put on the finishing touches. The UI needs to look good to the target audience, so the personal preferences of the developer may not be important. What is visually pleasing to one person may be irritating to the next.
Your design must be efficient
The primary goal of the user interface must be kept in mind here. The sole purpose of the UI is to accomplish tasks quickly and effectively, providing benefit and enjoyment to the user. Take the same care to evaluate the efficiency of the UI that you took to discover the client’s needs. After you’ve asked what the needs are, created an interface designed to meet those needs, and provided a comfortable vehicle that meets those needs, the job is not done.
This discussion is intended to serve as general guidelines to follow when creating any type of user interface. Every solution will be different in and of course, no hard and fast rules will apply to each situation. Some of the suggestions may seem to interfere with others. Even as ideas appear to conflict, none can be ignored. Design features must be chosen only if they do not interfere with functionality; however, color schemes and other aesthetics are also important to the user experience and should not be ignored.