In today’s world most people spend a lot of time interacting with graphical user interfaces. Whether it be ordering groceries online, sending a message to a friend on your phone, or spending too much time on social media.
To create these user interfaces, designers who specialize in them have the ability to design apps or websites that are appealing to the users, and enjoyable to use. These people are known as UI designers, who follow a carefully thought-out process, based on best practices drawn from the whole tech industry.
UI stands for ‘user interface’, and a UI designer is therefore someone who focuses on designing an interface. Anything a user interacts with is a user interface, which has been created by a UI designer.
UI design is often described as all the visual aspects of a design. A UI designer relies on experience and research, to design an interface that is both practical, and that users will enjoy interacting with.
UI design is a specialization and sub-category of graphic design. Unlike with graphic design, which is a very broad field, UI design allows us to focus on creating designs that are specifically suited for user interfaces.
When creating an application that users will interact with in their daily lives, it makes sense for it to reflect their expectations in terms of visual style, and the brand of the company behind the app.
It can be off putting to many users if the design of a user interface doesn’t represent the positive impression they have of a brand. The interaction with an interface, should seem consistent with the rest of a company’s brand.
The terms UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) are often used interchangeably, even though they are fundamentally different.
UI design is all about the visual part of a design, while UX design consists of researching what users want to see in a product. And then planning out the features of the product, based on the research findings.
Although UI and UX design are different, they still complement each other. Where UI designers draw upon the research findings from a UX designer, and then improve the products through iterations of research and design.
Good UI design should almost be invisible to the user. Avoiding any sort of confusion, and reducing the likelihood of something going wrong. The UI should feel fluid and intuitive to the user, without unnecessary interruptions.
The following UI design principles should be considered in every project, to make an interface straight forward to use.
There should be a clear purpose behind every design decision. It’s easy for a designer to make assumptions, and add elements when they are actually not needed.
Every part of a design that cannot be justified, or that can be designed in a better way, should be removed. It’s common for UI designers to challenge their own creativity, which is great for initial concepts, but it’s a good idea to eventually prune the design down to the essentials.
Users should feel a sense of control when using an interface. Even though the UI might make certain decisions for the user in the background, it should be intuitive for the user to reverse actions, navigate the interface, modify information, and get feedback from the system when performing an action.
Across your whole product, it makes sense to design elements that have the same functionality, in similar ways. Doing so makes it easy for the user to intuitively understand what outcome an action will lead to.
The design of elements with equal functionality, can deviate slightly depending on the context. Such as when you are designing the same buttons for light and dark mode.
Creating a good visual hierarchy for a UI, is all about making it easier for the user to process information in the order of importance. There are several well researched laws of how human beings categorize information.
The world is full of diversity, with people who have different needs. Information presented in an interface, should be clear for most people to consume. Even if your users are young, you should still follow common web accessibility best practices to ensure text is big enough, and with adequate color contrast.