What is User Interface Design?
User interface design (also known as visual design) is the process of creating a web page’s layout and visuals according to a certain style. It is highly important to incorporate user interface design into your website because it provides the most direct interaction between your audience and your website, allowing them to understand how they can use your site.
Without user interface design, your viewers may not understand how to navigate your site effectively. User interface design is also critical because it works with user experience (also known as UX) design to provide a seamless environment for users as they engage with your website.
User Interface (UI) is the design of interactive computer software
A user interface is what people see and interact with to use your product. It can be graphical, like a desktop or mobile app, or it can be text-based, like a website. What’s most important is that the user interface makes it easy for users to understand how they can use your product. For example, a good UI will make it easy for users to find options that they need by staring them out in predictable places where those elements are likely to appear. A poor UI might have those same options scattered around the screen in odd places without any clear sort of patterns — which would create confusion as to how users should use the software.
Thoughtful user interface design will help prevent mistakes and simplify tasks by making them more intuitive. For example, imagine that you are using a website to place an order for something. If the page displays information in a certain way, with clear titles for all of its sections and easy-to-find options, users will be more likely to successfully use it than if all of the information was displayed without any structure or organization.
When designing an interface, consider how it will look on different devices and screen sizes. What appears to work well on a laptop might not appear as good on a phone screen and vice versa — though some websites do make use of responsive design which allows them to adjust their layout based on what device they’re being used on.
If your product needs to be tailored specifically for certain types of hardware (like a desktop, tablet, or phone for example) you might have to design different versions of your interface for each one. For responsive designs, it’s important to consider how the layout will adjust to fit the screen size on whatever device it is being used.
When designing an interface, always keep in mind how it will look and function on different devices and screen sizes.
A good UI will help prevent mistakes and simplify tasks by making them more intuitive
Keep in mind that the most fundamental element of a website is its user interface (UI). While the UI might be overshadowed by flashier design aspects like illustrations and images, it’s the UI that defines how users will interact with your site — and that makes it an integral piece of any web project.
If you’re not familiar with what constitutes a good or bad UI, it can be easy to slip into some bad habits during the design process. What appears to work well on one site may not work as well on yours, so understanding what goes into effective UI design can help you build a better site. Expect an article on best practices and principles for UI in a future blog.
What are user interface design patterns?
User interface design patterns (or UI design patterns) are the way a user moves from one screen to another, or within a single screen of a web application. What design patterns are out there and what makes them beneficial?
User interface design patterns are the ways in which different elements can be organized together on a page, allowing users to understand how they should interact with them. For example, on an eCommerce site, you might find the menu for navigating between product categories is always located at the top left corner of each category page — this would be an example of the “top-left corner” menu pattern.
The most common user interface design pattern is known as F-pattern processing — where the majority of content is displayed in two columns with the most important information appearing in the left column (which is where users will first look) with supplementary content like images or advertisements displayed in the right column. A good way to visualize it would be to imagine you are reading a newspaper, where most of what you need to know is presented in the top half of the page and less important information in the bottom.
Another example of a useful design pattern is the “hamburger menu” — where there is an overlapping group of horizontal lines, as seen in many mobile apps and websites. The overlapping lines usually lead to a dropdown menu containing links or buttons for different features or functions within the app.
Interaction vs. User Input
There’s a difference between user interaction and user input. What is it?
When a user interacts with a screen, they are physically moving through the interface. What they input is just text or data on what they’re doing and why. This distinction can be important when designing an interface because the purpose of some screens may simply be for them to click around without needing any additional explanation or guidance from you. This brings into question the interactive elements of your interface that they will experience when moving through the screen. What are you asking the users to do? What are their goals? What are they already familiar with? How can you make it easier for them to accomplish their tasks?
You want to enable users to accomplish tasks with as little confusion and frustration as possible. What causes user errors and what can you do to prevent them?
A good UI will help prevent mistakes and simplify tasks by making them more intuitive. A common problem area is input fields — especially for mobile devices where keyboard size is limited — which often becomes a challenge because their small size forces designers to condense a form into one or two input fields, making it difficult for a user to know what information should be entered where.
UI Elements and Successful User Interface Design
The success of a user interface will ultimately depend on how easy it is for users to do what they want to do, so it’s important to consider including elements that aren’t only aesthetically pleasing but also functional.
Here are a few examples:
What words or phrases should be used in labels? What do those labels refer to and why would someone need them there? What differentiates one label from another? What action can be performed by clicking or tapping on the label itself? Visible Cursors – Are you hiding the cursor from view? If so, then this might cause confusion as it may be unclear where a click will lead a user if they aren’t able to track the cursor’s current position. What happens when you click? What is your next step? What can you do next?
What are some common things not to do for UI design elements?
Here are a few examples of how certain interface elements can cause more harm than good:
What does it say about my website if I have unnecessary ad units, social media widgets, inline images, all stacked on top of one another? A cluttered layout makes it really difficult to focus on the primary content which affects overall readability. It can also make your site seem like it’s trying too hard to be visually appealing, which is likely not the effect you’re going for. What are the user’s main goals? What if I removed some of these distractions? What would happen to my overall conversion rate and usability score (how quickly someone can accomplish their tasks)?
What makes a button different from another? What does each button do and what is its intended purpose? Are they clear about their action? What happens when you click on those buttons? What will those actions accomplish?
What information am I asking for here and why does it matter? What message or tone am I trying to convey with this form? Is it clear how to fill out this form? What happens if I don’t enter any information here? What is the next step after submitting the form? What does it mean when this or that field is marked as required
What do all these widgets actually do and why would someone need them there, in front of their face at all times (including ads)? What can you accomplish by flipping through these pages? Where are they taking me and where would I end up if I clicked on one of these links?”
In conclusion, it’s important to keep user interface design top of mind when creating your website layout. Appealing to the user’s senses and driving desired behavior can only be achieved via strong UI design.