I have invested many years in designing beautiful interactive User Interfaces (UI) for my end customers both working as an Architect and Full Stack Engineer. It was during my stint at one of the top five gaming companies that made me realise the true discipline of work and its importance when it comes to User Experience. While I was a part of product’s player experience team, a thought came to my mind. I asked myself, how can a business goal facilitate enriching the User Experience making the user journey a joyous one?’
I think the best way to start is by looking at some of the examples involving ‘bad’ design and compare them with the principles of 'good' design and later build up our learning.
"Good design, when it’s done well, becomes invisible. It’s only when it’s done poorly that we notice it.”
— Jared Spool
Looking for mistakes in UI designs is not the most brilliant method, but it has worked for me. These common mistakes led me to underline the ten principles that helped shape and revamp my approach towards UI design. The ten principles that I would recommend are as follows:
- Make it easy to use
- Your problems should never become users’ issue
- Users should be in control of the interface
- Good design reduces cognitive load from end user
- Clarity over complexity
- Be human while designing
- The devil is in the detail
- Make UI consistent
- Error prevention is better than error correction
- Progressive disclosure of information
Let’s begin with exploring each design principle.
- Make Your UI Design Easy
The most important thing a designer can focus on is making sure the UI design is fluid and smooth. Users’ expectations are higher than ever, and they don’t appreciate stressful experiences. Keep the interface simple to potentially avoid the users shift towards your competitors.
- Don’t Make Your Problems Users’ Issue
Interface design can be very subjective. Sometimes, the conflict of priorities and hard deadlines can often keep the developers busy in solving their own issues rather than focusing on improving the overall User Experience. A common example is the formatting of ‘form fields’. There are many e-commerce websites that ask users to format telephone numbers or postcodes while filling out their delivery details. From experience, this sort of issue often transpires because reformatting information and putting it into a database takes effort and time and it seems ‘easier’ to make the user do it. So, don’t add complexity to User Experience
- Put Users in Control of Interface
A UI, if designed well, instils a sense of control in the users. Comfort comes from control. Placing users in charge of the interface gives them a sense of control and power.
A thoughtless design will force users into unplanned interactions, complicated journeys and disappointing outcomes. Make the UI obvious. Obvious UI is often the best UI.
- Reduce Cognitive Load
Cognitive Load is the learning curve, the mental effort needed for a user to learn and use a product. Providing users too much information will eventually lead to performance failures. Users will miss on the vital important details, get overwhelmed or even abandon the task.
User attention span is getting shorter and expectations are rising higher. It is important to enhance the usability and legibility through a good visual representation and element ordering. We must follow the standard UI guideline principles — from optimizing network load via content to optimising response times — they all are aimed at reducing cognitive load.
In short, avoid showing too much information at a time on screen, old anchor links, irrelevant images, not so meaningful texts, etc. Instead, apply the standard principles of the content such as grouping related items, bullet points, clear headings and obvious call to actions. It’s better to avoid making users think too much or making them work really hard on how to use your product.
- Clarity Over Complexity
One of the bugbears associated with UI design is sites trying to be clever or edgy.
Don’t misunderstand me but some companies do this exceptionally well. However, when it comes to fast fashion, I am not a huge fan of it.
“Did you cop or drop?”
“Wanna’ add a throwback edge to your fits?”
“Shop the gram”
Most often, marketing teams play clever and try to engage with users by supplying emotionally charged copy. It becomes unclear what it is they are selling. So, we must focus on the simplicity of content.
“The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother. Next come simplicity and elegance that produce products that are a joy to own, a joy to use.” — NN Group
- Be Human
This may sound crazy, but I am seeing more and more people turning into robots. As UX designers, we want to prevent users from committing mistakes. In many observed cases, when the internal design teams work together to draft some wireframe, design or a UI, they stop thinking like humans.
Don’t use complex corporate jargons. Use simple and lucid language that a normal person understands.
“On the average web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit, 20% is more likely.” — Jakob Nielsen
Above is a great example. There are only a handful of people that know what an ‘IP address’ is. This could have been simplified and written to help users understand the error better.
- The Devil is in the Detail
Designing something good doesn’t always correlate with the seamless User Experience you desire to provide. Small glitches in the interface are minor problems, which when ignored, can quickly accumulate and create a very bad User Experience for a user.
“A bad User Interface design can drive customers away” — Becky Birch
Let’s take a banking app as an example. A user is likely to interact with this app daily and those small annoyances will soon become a large problem. It may even cause a user shift to your competitor.
- Make User Interfaces Consistent
Consistency is one of the most basic requisites for a UI design. Without consistency, a website will turn into an unmanageable HTML scrap. Many companies introduce new features without paying attention to the essential style guidelines. Without consistency in design, the site will soon become convoluted. As per a popular adage, don’t reinvent the wheel. Consistency makes users feel comfortable whilst interacting with multiple apps. We should not expect users to first learn to use an app that they’ve opened.
- Error Prevention
A UX designer constantly creates improved user flows by developing new and improved existing features, thereby enhancing the User Experience. A website is a work-in-progress. A good UI design should have the capacity of adapting to the unexpected. One should avoid obscure error messages, which blame the users for the problem or either fail to explain what the error is. Simple tone and language will help users relate better to the situation and subsequently help improve the User Experience.
- Progressive Disclosure
It’s not a good UI design when websites try to show information all at once. Rather, they should show only what is necessary on each screen as the user might not land on the homepage directly. They might land on any site page. Moreover, they come from various marketing, social media or other shared links. An ideal interface will always furnish enough information leading to secondary screen or call to action screen by gradually disclosing the required information.
When designing a UI, always keep in mind to showcase enough information that help users come up to a conclusion. Later, one may display additional information on the subsequent screen.
The above list covers some of the core problems we face with UI designs on a regular basis. This inspired me to come up with a solid design strategy. The goal of an interface design is to help the user to easily explore the interface without fear of any negative consequences. Websites are constantly evolving and users are becoming increasingly tech savvy about the way interfaces should function. Over a period of time, interfaces will become more intuitive and predictable.
Innominds is a leading Digital Transformation and Product Engineering company headquartered in San Jose, CA. It offers co-creation services to enterprises for building solutions utilizing digital technologies focused on Devices, Apps, and Analytics. Innominds builds better outcomes securely for its clients through reliable advanced technologies like IoT, Blockchain, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, DevOps and Enterprise Mobility among others. From idea to commercialization, we strive to build convergent solutions that help our clients grow their business and realize their market vision.
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