We interact with numerous designs each day. Whether it is a restaurant's website, a bank’s mobile application, or a physical water bottle, the usefulness of a design – or its lack thereof – relies on the way it appears, the way users interact with it, and the extent to which they can complete their tasks. It is impossible to imagine our lives without well-designed products and services. The importance and value of good design are what make the tasks of a UI/UX designer complicated as well as exciting.
User Interface (UI) is an important aspect of all designs. UI, according to Usability.gov, focuses on making the users’ interaction with a design more easy, understandable, and more useful. This particular area demands knowledge of and expertise in visual design principles, information architecture, and interaction design. The primary aim of a good UI is to make the life of users easier along with a better presentation of a product or service.
The world of design is one where innovation and out-of-the-box thinking are always appreciated. The designers who create useful products with a touch of uniqueness are always successful. However, there are certain rules and standards that can never be forgotten. Experienced professionals have always shared UI tips for aspiring designers to make the learning process easier and more fruitful. In this article, we discuss the best user interface design tips to help you add value to your design projects.
UI Design Tips
- Put the users in control
- Apply the principles of visual design
- Provide feedback with a way out
- Use the screen efficiently
- Focus on the learning curve
- Seek help from research and analysis
- Consider platform-specific factors
- Localize the design elements
- Make the UI accessible
- Create a comprehensive UI design kit
If you want to know how to become a UX/UI designer, we’ve got you covered. Read along as we reveal some of the best UI design tips with suggestions and examples to help you become a successful professional.
1. Put the users in control
A product or a service is of no use if it does not meet the needs and expectations of the audience. Any design that does not put the users’ needs at the heart of it is bound to fail. If the users are comfortable with a design and they feel that a majority of their needs are being met, then the design will gain popularity and trust, resulting in profitability. For example, with a number of text and voice messaging applications in the market, WhatsApp is still way ahead of the competition. One of the reasons is its impressive UI, focusing on the needs of the users. It is, therefore, important for any designer to understand and attempt to meet the needs of the audience.
Another thing to note is that the users love to be in control. Whether it is by the customization of a mobile application or sorting the search results, the users want to interact with a design the way they prefer, without the design dictating all the time.
By putting the users in control, the designers also make the process more interactive. It is always emphasized that the users – or the audience – should be made an active part of the design process. One way to achieve this is by giving them more options to interact with a design and to use it the way they would prefer.
Handing the control over to users is also important as it is virtually impossible to meet the needs of each and every type of user and to do so satisfactorily. With products and services available to a wide range of audiences in today’s digital world, it is not easy to imagine every single use case of a design. In such instances, when the users can create their own experiences and solve their problems with more authority, they feel more satisfied. Their entire experience, during and after the interaction, is thus pleasing and fruitful.
2. Apply the principles of visual design
No list of user interface tips can be regarded as complete without mentioning the aspects of visual design. The presentation and aesthetics are crucial when it comes to the design of any product or service, whether in the digital or the physical world. The appearance is, arguably, the first thing that a user notices when interacting with a design. It makes sense to put some effort into this aspect so as to ensure that the users actually get to use the product instead of leaving it at first sight. There are three golden principles of visual design.
One of the most important checks in any design is to make sure that everything in the finished product is consistent. From the use of colors to the size of buttons, everything should tell a unified story. Some of the areas to consider for a consistent design are as follows.
- The choice and selection of fonts for different types of text elements
- The selection and implementation of a color palette
- The size, color, and animation applied to various design elements (e.g. buttons)
- The organization of content on the screen
When it comes to UI design, it is often said that “less is more”. This can be understood in a number of ways, one of which is to make a design simple yet comprehensive. The users want their complicated problems to be solved but they also want it to be done in a seamless manner. This is what makes the job of a designer challenging. UI/UX designers have to ensure that the needs of the users are met but they cannot make too complicated designs.
It is often seen that simple designs with little or no clutter get popularity. For instance, if the navigation on a web page is overly complicated, the users will have to spend a lot of time understanding the flow of information, and they may also get lost in the web of information. This results in the users leaving the website, leaving a bad impact on the organization. It is important to make things simple and easy to understand so the users can accomplish their tasks with little effort and less time.
The field of design is open to innovation but that aspect is limited by the principle of familiarity. No user wants to take a crash course on using every new application or website. People, simply, do not have enough time. A designer, therefore, must use the past experiences of users and present a design that is familiar but more useful.
When making a design unique, UI/UX designers must ensure that they’re not sacrificing its usefulness. This can be achieved if the users are given an experience they are already familiar with. For example, organizing folders of documents in a drawer, for instance, makes sense to most users. If a mobile application gives the same functionality with a familiar experience, the users will be more likely to stick to it.
3. Provide feedback with a way out
When a user is interacting with a design, he/she is in need of instant feedback. This need is justified given the fast-paced nature of everyday life and the frustration that the users feel if a product is not responsive for some time. The job of a designer, therefore, is not just to give some feedback but to ensure that the information provided to the users is helpful and that it is delivered in little time.
Feedback is one of those UI design tips that a lot of professionals talk about. Whether it is a leading organization or a UI design agency, they all rely and emphasize on the importance of feedback. One such example is that of Safari on iPhone. The moment a user starts typing something in the address bar, the browser starts showing suggested search results, ensuring helpful feedback. If a user is able to find his/her desired result in the suggestions, it’ll make the task easy to accomplish. If not, the suggested results keep on altering to get closer to the users’ needs.
Another important aspect linked to feedback is the presence of a way out. It is not unusual for users to land on a web page they don’t want to visit. In such cases, they would, indeed, want to be back on the right track, without getting stuck in the design. If a product or service is unable to provide a way back or out, the users will be frustrated and may end up leaving the service altogether.
Breadcrumbs such as instant feedback and a way back or out are also important to assure the users that they are on the right track. Additionally, if a user has made an error, such aspects will help them quickly rectify the mistake and be on the right track.
4. Use the screen efficiently
When it comes to digital products, there are certain user interface design tips that can be of great value to any design. One of these aspects, specific to digital products and services, is the efficient use of a screen. Each day, we consume a lot of information through the screens of our mobile phones, desktop computers, and smartwatches. We have, in a way, developed a habit of the screen. The significance of digital devices in our lives makes it essential for designers to use the screens efficiently.
A mix of text and media
Images, infographics, and videos are as important as textual content on digital platforms. When the users visit a website, for instance, they’re going to find it more attractive if it provides an attractive and interactive experience, using a mix of text and media. It must, however, be noted that adding media to a page doesn’t mean stuffing unnecessary photos. If an image is not adding value to the text by illustrating a concept and/or providing an example, a designer needs to think whether it should be there in the first place.
Another important, and often neglected, aspect of screens is the provision of white space. Empty blocks on the screen with no information serve as breathing spaces for users. These are important to highlight the significance of a concept and also to give the users some room to understand the UI. In the absence of white space, the screen will be too cluttered and the value of information, irrespective of its quality, will be lowered.
In today’s world, where a product or service is used on different screens simultaneously, it comes as a challenge for designers to ensure the same type of experience on different screens.
5. Focus on the learning curve
When the users interact with a new design, they are signing up for a new experience. Given the purpose of the product or service, the users also want to accomplish certain tasks instead of spending a lot of time learning the new design. It is for this reason that designers need to give a unique experience but also ensure that the users familiarize themselves with the design easily.
It can be seen that the way a text message is sent and read on smartphones, irrespective of the application being used, is pretty much standard. There is a keyboard at the bottom of the screen, conversation bubbles, an option to “send” the text, and other similar aspects. Even in third-party applications, such as WhatsApp and Telegram, there is a lot in common. The reason for these commonalities is to demand little effort from the users when they’re interacting with the design.
A design must take into account the amount of effort the users are willing to spend in comparison with the value the design can add to their lives. In today’s market, there are a number of alternatives for one task that the users do not hesitate in switching services. Along with other UI tips, therefore, aspiring designers need to give due attention to the learning curve of users.
In the case of mobile and web applications, this can be achieved by providing a quick guided tour. Here, again, it must be noted that the tutorial should be interactive and not overwhelming. When it comes to products in the physical world, familiarity is always the key. Additionally, user manuals and updated documentation can add immense value to any design. This is where UI/UX designers have to collaborate with communication and documentation teams to make sure that the users get the best experience.
6. Seek help from research and analysis
A designer, along with wearing other hats, has to act as a researcher in numerous instances. The importance of data collection and analysis for designers can never be overstated. The life cycle of any design begins and ends with research. It starts with designers going into the market and talking to users to understand their needs. Once a design is launched, it is important for those same designers to gather feedback from users and see what can be improved. This entire process, essentially, relies on good research and analysis skills.
Before actually starting a design project, a UI/UX designer needs to conduct a thorough analysis of the market. This includes a study of the trends, the features provided by competitors, and the vacancy in the existing products. The data gathered from this phase is extremely valuable in making a product or service more user-centered.
Along with a study of the market, designers also tend to gather data from real users. If the goal is to introduce a new product, the feedback of users can help in identifying the gaps that need to be addressed. On the other hand, if the goal is to improve a certain design, users can help identify the issues with the existing product or service, leading to a quality design.
Testing a product or service is extremely important before it hits the market. This is where the highly reliable practice of usability testing comes into play. A usability test helps in highlighting the issues faced by the target audience in real-world situations. This can then guide the designers to take action to meet the needs of the users and resolving their major issues.
It must also be noted that the data gathered via research is useless unless it is analyzed in context. Mere reporting of data does not add value to the design of a product or service. All aspiring professionals need to focus on developing good research skills if they want to succeed in the world of design. Of all the user interface tips, research and analysis are probably the most demanding. It is because this practice needs a lot of care and a diverse set of skills.
7. Consider platform-specific factors
As previously mentioned, with a lot of products being designed for and used by the digital world, it is important to bring the platform into consideration. This includes the production and distribution environments of a design and also the platforms used by users to interact with the product or service.
When laying the foundations for a design project, product managers, UI/UX designers, marketing specialists, and development experts go through rigorous planning. It is in these initial discussions that the decision is made for a suitable platform to deploy the design. Although designers have a say in the choice, they’re not the only ones. However, once a platform is chosen, considering the goals and limitations of the product or service, the designers then have to make sure that the end product meets all the requirements.
Responsiveness of the UI
Another important aspect to consider is that the users can interact with the design in a number of ways. Android smartphones, iOS smartphones, bigger screens, smaller screens, and iPads and tablets, are some such examples. A designer must make the design is responsive and equally useful on all these devices. One reason for a similar experience is to make sure that the design presents a unified picture and retains its identity in the digital reals. The other, and equally important, reason is to give a single user the same experience irrespective of his/her device.
Consistency is the key to good UI design. It means that all the visual and textual elements are presented in the same way on all devices, ensuring a familiar experience for the audience. The nature of the tech and the size of a screen should not determine the usefulness of a design. Instead, it should be the responsiveness of the UI on all platforms.
8. Localize the design elements
Localization is a new but extremely important concept in the design industry. The value of localization gets more pronounced when products and services are designed for a global market – or the worldwide web. The primary reason is that individuals from all regions of the world, with different values, cultures, and goals, are interacting with a single design. When talking about user interface design tips, it is essential to mention the need and value of localization.
The UI of a product or service, particularly in the digital world, needs to be created in a way that takes into account a global audience. A designer must choose the design elements, such as symbols and colors, in a way that does not contradict the values of any segment of the target audience. For example, if red is considered an offensive color in a particular culture, it will be a good idea to localize the design by using some other color for that particular region.
One way to achieve localization is to create different versions for different regions. This technique works perfectly for shopping websites, for example, Amazon. This not only helps the organizations in attracting local markets but also ensures that the concerns of the primary audience can be catered to easily. Designers must ensure that their products and services appeal to the right audience, providing them with the right information in the right manner.
9. Make the UI accessible
Accessibility, when it comes to UI design tips, is often overlooked. This, however, reflects badly on the entire purpose and process of design. One of the goals of a good design is to make the lives of users easier and free of hassle. If a design is not accessible by all, it is, in no way, helping the users. Accessibility in the design of products and services is crucial and must always be considered right from the start of the project. An accessible design also adds value to the credibility of an organization.
There are a number of tools that people can use to interact with designs. These include, but are not limited to, screen readers, alternative keyboards, screen magnification devices, and search input devices. A designer, when working on any project, needs to consider all these alternative technologies to make the design useful for everyone.
There are certain standards that designers can seek help from when attempting to make their products more accessible. The accessibility standards by W3C, for instance, can both educate and inspire the designers in coming up with a user-friendly design. It is important that designers include people with different needs to gather data for research. This will help in meeting the needs of the target audience in an effective manner.
10. Create a comprehensive UI design kit
A UI design project does not end with the delivery of a final product or service. Once the design hits the market, there are a number of expected and unexpected issues that need to be addressed on a regular basis. It is for this reason that UI/UX professionals need to be proactive when it comes to design projects.
The development of a comprehensive UI design kit is one of the most effective ways to deal with these recurring issues. Professional UI/UX designers, toward the end of a project, create a kit with all the design specifications and useful materials. This kit includes information about the color palette, font family, design considerations, and other project-specific details.
It will not be wrong to say that a UI design kit serves as a design style guide. This may require some effort during a project but it is worth all the time and energy. Such a design style guide goes a long way as it clarifies some standards which need to be considered for any alteration made in the design.
UI/UX designers solve complicated problems day in and day out. It, therefore, makes sense to have a cheat sheet or a list of golden rules which a designer can go back to when needed. Such a collection of rules not only helps in getting inspiration but also reminds designers about the value of their work.
With this goal in mind, we have curated the best UI design tips. These tips, on the one hand, will help you improve your ongoing projects by reminding you of the golden design principles. On the other hand, these UI tips will also ensure that you grow as a designer, making the lives of users easier along the way.