User interface (UI) design refers the practice of designing software and machine interfaces focused on maximizing user experience (UX). It covers everything from computers, to home and office appliances, to mobile devices, to various other electronic devices. The objective is to design products that are intuitive, easy to use, and simple to interact with. Yet users of many solutions only use 10, 20, or 30 percent of product capabilities—hardware and software—something that often can be attributed to poor UI/UX design.
When it comes to software, UI/UX design is an essential aspect of its success. Poor design adversely impacts how the software is used, user adoption, and sales. A poor UI/UX design may even cause the product to fail in the market. However, with a handful of key insights, organizations put themselves in a position to design software solutions that deliver great user experiences and thrive in the marketplace. We compiled eight of the most important tips in the following list.
- Double Your Whitespace
One of the biggest mistakes in UI/UX design is excessive complexity. Some might call such a design too busy, too noisy, or cluttered. The problem with an overly complicated design is that users get frustrated or confused with too much information to process and too many choices to make. The objective is to make the user experience as easy as possible. This necessitates that you include sufficient white space to ensure that the design is clean and easy to navigate as well as visually appealing.
- Light from Above
For anyone who knows about vitamin D and its importance to sustaining the human body, sunlight is a requisite. In UI/UX design, the same requirement exists. Design principles dictate lighter areas on top and shaded ones underneath. For example, to add a 3-D effect to a rectangular button, you would add a slight layer of shading below it. In other words, think of your main light source as always coming from above. Designs that omit this practice or those created using an inverse methodology (shaded areas above and lighter areas beneath) are subconsciously counterintuitive and can lead to poor user interaction and adoption.
- Use Black and White before Color
Before adding any colors to a design, consider using only black and white. Doing so helps keep designs simple, allowing you to focus on what matters most such as critical elements and their behaviors and how they fit the context you created. Using a black-and-white design permits you to work out the critically important details and colors later in the design process. You may even find that you do not need as many colors as you may have originally planned, thereby ensuring the layout and design remain lightweight and uncluttered.
- Use White Text for Image Overlays
If you are going to place text over images, the best-practice recommendation is white text. Using other colors often makes it difficult to read the text, and the colors may not blend with other colors in the design. Specifically, white is typically easier to read when placed over darker-colored images, in addition to blending well with other colors.
- Choose Fonts Wisely
Have you ever seen a good design that was ruined by inappropriate font selection? After doing the hard work of creating a design, font selection might seem like an afterthought. The wrong font can distract users and even make the text within your application difficult to read. Fonts should not be overly ornate, drawing too much attention to themselves and taking away from the rest of the text or information in the design. The right font selection will have direct user impact and ultimately increase user adoption.
- Break Complex Actions into Small Steps
Users would rather complete a series of small actions rather than be overwhelmed with a very large task such as completing a very lengthy screen or process flow. Creating a sequence of small actions helps users get through a process in an easy and fluid manner. Be cognizant of overly complicated user interactions and make them as simple as possible when designing a user interface.
- Map the Happy Path to Quick Success
Users tend to follow a path based on what they perceive is expected of them, so be clear about what you want them to do. A good user design will help them navigate between different tasks. It needs to provide users with visual cues like highlighting, bolding, and the placement of elements such as a button or search box. Creating a visual hierarchy can also aid users in their navigation. The preferred action for each sequence of the user experience needs to be conveyed clearly and effectively.
- Guide through the Call to Action
The logical presentation of the call to action is rooted in psychology. Human brains are trained to look for sequential patterns and anticipate certain predictable actions. For example, we expect a traffic light to change from yellow to red and not yellow to green. Alternatively, we expect a “Save” or “Cancel” button to appear at the end of a page or process flow and not in the middle or beginning. Design interfaces thus need to anticipate the logical thought patterns of our trained and conditioned brains. Adoption of an application often is tied to the emotive feelings elicited from positive, engaging experiences.
As software designers and engineers, we strive to serve the needs of our end users to allow them to be as efficient and satisfied with our solutions as possible. An uncomplicated and well-directed user experience results in efficient usage and ultimately an engaged user who becomes a champion of your products and solutions. By applying these eight simple design principles and using them as guardrails for effective user interface and user experience design, you can create application UI/UX designs rooted in psychology that lead to positive emotional experiences and greater user adoption.
Alex Devero, “UX Design and the 10 Mistakes to Avoid,” Blog, April 2015
Erik D. Kennedy, “7 Rules for Creating Gorgeous UI (Part 1),” Medium.com, November 2014
“6 Rules for Creating Beautiful Design,” Jixee, March 2016
Peter Vukovic, “7 Unbreakable Laws of User Interface Design,” 99designs, January 2014
Jeremy Smith, “How to Use the Psychology of Color to Increase Website Conversions,” Kissmetrics Blog, April 2014
“Everything You Need to Know About the Psychology of the Call to Action,” Kissmetrics Blog, October 2014
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About the Author
As co-founder of Reverbant, Randy C. Kincaid possesses more than 20 years of software application design and business experience. He focuses on business development, operational planning, and setting the creative direction for the company. Leveraging his expertise in information architecture, conceptual development, prototyping, product management, usability, service design, user experience, and software development, Randy works with Reverbant customers to develop compelling, best-in-class software designs that are intuitive and easy to use and produce greater user adoption.
Reverbant enables businesses to become more competitive and deliver better customer experiences by crafting digital solutions with integrity. A trusted technology, consultancy, and staffing partner for companies that range from small businesses to Fortune 200 enterprises spanning various industry segments. Reverbant collaborates with customers to identify, design, and implement solutions that improve operational efficiencies and reduce costs. Digital craftsmanship with integrity: “Good stuff built the right way.”
Visit us at Reverbant.com to contact us today.