The user interface is an application program that connects the user and the computer. A user’s first impression of an application is its user interface design.
Therefore, an app developer’s priority should be to make it user-friendly and convenient.
Primarily, there are three types of UI design in software engineering:
- Command Line Interface
- Menu-driven Interface
- Graphical User Interface
In this article, we will discuss the golden rules a designer should keep in mind while designing an application interface. These rules explain how a designer can create an optimized user interface that will help drive growth for a business.
6 Golden Rules of User-Interface Design
1. Research your users
A great user experience comes from in-depth user research. Before designing, a UI designer should know a few critical details:
- Who the target audience is,
- What are their behaviors and preferences like
- What needs to be done to help them achieve their purpose on your app
UI design is an ongoing process, so it involves conducting research at every stage of the development process to design an app that caters to your audience optimally.
Here are some efficient research techniques to find out as must as you can about who will use your app:
- Focus group discussions – To determine the popular viewpoints regarding user experience
- Interviews – To collect detailed data on what their purchase behaviors are like, and what their goals are while accessing the interface
- Online surveys – To collect quantitative data and categorize users
- Creating a user persona – To determine your ideal target audience
- Usability testing – To collect qualitative data, determine the user’s overall experience with the interface, and identify accessibility problems
In a nutshell, research is mainly conducted to determine a user’s point of view. For instance, an office-goer may prefer a keyboard or mouse command, while a homemaker will prefer a touchscreen. Categorize and select your user base based on your research data and then use design mechanisms that are user-centric.
2. Focus on making navigation easy
A clean and intuitive user interface is one of the trademark qualities of a successful app. It’s important for users to navigate your site easily. If the user interface is cluttered and complicated, it only confuses customers who might end up abandoning your page without completing their purpose.
Create a user interface that is self-evident, and where it is not, offer visual cues to help your customers navigate your site. Your focus should be on providing a convenient and enjoyable user experience. Concise titles, crisp buttons, and highlights can help provide a comprehensive view of your site. It gives users an idea of where they currently are on your page and where they should go next.
3. Use minimal and intuitive design
The visual layout of the interface should be effortless to navigate and comfortable to the eyes. The interface should be clear, free of clutter, and intuitive to the user.
It should consist of contrasting colors, subtle typography, and proper usage of space and elements to construct a concise command chain. It is always a good idea to use real-world icons and components that users are familiar with or other successful companies are already using.
An effective UI design example here is Twitter’s mobile application. Here, minimalism does not equate to simplicity. There is multi-platform functionality but the application format is still easy-going.
From providing information on all trending tweets to offering feedback on the go, Twitter’s interface hits the mark with its user experience.
Apart from this, there’s a toolbar below consisting of simple icons like a “house” for the home page, a magnifying glass above for search, a bell button for notifications, and an envelope for direct messages, among others.
You can also find a quill pen icon that tells users they can begin writing a tweet anytime while scrolling their feed. Such real-world elements are used on various other social media platforms, making them clear and intuitive.
4. Consistency is key
A lack of consistency confuses and irritates users leading to the failure of a promising service. Consistency allows users to learn faster, eliminate unnecessary confusion, and save time.
Companies often redesign their user interface to better serve users or to make up for poor quality inexperience. For example, an e-commerce website might reposition its shopping cart icon, or change the color palette of its messaging app. This is bound to create confusion among users.
Relevant article: Select the technology stack for an eCommerce website.
When adding new features to an app, a UI designer should avoid interrupting its standard elements.
You can ensure this by properly planning every step of the process. A designer should create a layout that complies with user interface standards in software engineering to avoid any significant future changes. Usability testing also plays a prominent role in measuring user experience and designing an interface that will strive to adhere to the set standards.
5. Design conscientiously
A user is not the designer of the interface. It’s possible that they commit mistakes while performing a task. It is important to ensure there are error prevention techniques in place that serve as warning bells. A fundamental example of this is the warning/confirmation message that is prompted on your screen before you permanently delete a photo.
Some effective UI design strategies for error prevention would be:
- Offering suggestions to prevent unknown errors
- Displaying warning popups to encourage users to double-check their work
- Allowing users to preview their work before submitting
- Adding an undo option to prevent experimental mistakes
Design with a conscience to stay one step ahead of your users. Taking care of unintended errors that users are likely to make will help enhance brand empathy.
6. Include significant defaults
Default values are smart guesses based on a user’s proposed activity on your app. It takes away the burden from the user as to how they should proceed.
Defaults are powerful tools that users universally adhere to. For example, while logging into an Instagram account, you will find a ‘Login with Facebook’ option. This helps save time and makes way for a hassle-free login.
Here’s what you must take into account while setting defaults:
- Time-efficient: Defaults should help users save time and improve the functionality of the app
- Intuitive: Research-based data can help set thoughtful defaults
- Catering to user needs: They should be based on what the majority of users desire
- Flexibility: Users should be able to change default settings easily. Multiple defaults can be created using the dropdown menu feature. This is ideal when you are unable to categorize your users.
Read more about top app development trends in 2021.
An Effective UI Design to Drive Business Growth
An effective user interface is one that engages with users and enhances their experience. You might be starting from a blank page with a new product or planning to redesign an existing product, but a guidebook is always handy at all stages of design.
These UI design principles will help you design a simple yet solid user interface that builds a brand image in the minds of the target users.
Apart from these guidelines, you can also read Theo Mandel’s The Elements of User Interface Design for tips on designing a user interface that enhances user experience.
For reference, you can visit websites of some of the top service providers like Google, Microsoft, and Apple to understand their design mechanisms and be self-assured in creating designs that are both valuable and eye-catching.
Rajamanickam Rajan is the director at Skein Technologies, a renowned web development & software development company in India. He has expertise in testing, designing, & developing hybrid and native applications. In the past, he was also involved in IBM CastIron.