User interface design aka UI design is the process of designing a user-friendly and intuitive interface that will help users to interact with your product or service in an efficient manner.
If you are in the business of building apps of any kind you should have a good grasp of what a good interface is and how to achieve it. This guide will teach you everything you have to know to get started.
In conclusion, this guide will give you a solid foundation to start creating great interfaces for your next app project.
Is UI & UX design the same?
In smaller teams, the UX and UI design role is often assigned to one person, which is fine. But as the product gets bigger, it's too much for one person to handle and they split into two roles. Some UX designers are also not very good at visual design and vice versa. We do offer both UI and UX design services at Superfounder.io.
UI Design Principles for a great user experience
Creating a user interface can be a daunting task because there’s so much to consider. There are many different aspects to take into account when designing a user interface: color, typography, layout, navigation, etc. The first step toward creating a successful user interface is understanding these principles.
1. As little UI as possible
Don't get caught up or fall in love with the interface itself. It is not there for its own sake but rather to enable your customers to do what they want to achieve with the least amount of friction possible.
Keep your interface simple and clean. Don't overcomplicate things. If you need more than 3 buttons on the screen at once then maybe you're doing too much.
2. Use white space
White space is one of the most important parts of any UI. White space helps to break up large amounts of information and gives the user a sense of order and organization and gives the content room to breathe. It can also be used to separate groups of content and create a visual hierarchy.
3. Be consistent
The most confusing thing for a user is if things keep changing all the time. Make sure to establish consistent elements to use throughout your product.
Consistent user interfaces mean consistently following the same design patterns, having identical language used in prompts, having homogeneous menu options, and having consistent commands throughout the user experience.
So make sure you establish those elements and document everything with a style guide so other people in your team or company can refer to it as well.
4. Design for Clarity
Your interface design should be clear at any time to the user. This means that your users shouldn't have to spend extra time trying to figure out how to navigate through your application.
Make sure that users understand where they are and what they can do next by using clear labels and icons. Every element on the screen needs to have a clear purpose to earn its right to be there.
5. Provide Feedback
Any interface is composed of elements on the screen that represent a certain state of the app at any given time. This means a screen has many different states depending on what the user is doing.
A good example is when the user is asked to create a secure password. Showing a real-time indicator that shows hwo secure the password is, provides a perfect feedback about the current state. Good UI and UX designers will always try to design for those states.
6. Honor familiarity
Where do you expect a company's logo on a website? Probably somewhere in the top left, right That's because over the years certain patterns have emerged that work well in user interfaces and for specific use cases.
These patterns have been learned by repetition. Your users are familiar with these patterns. Even if they don't know it consciously. We just expect that things work similarly.
Honor these patterns and people will have a much easier time understanding and using your interface. Don't try to reinvent the wheel. Look at successful apps and how they solve similar screens or interactions.
7. Give users control
Have you ever sent an email to the wrong person or discovered an embarrassing typo just seconds after sending it? And how relieved were you when you saw the little "undo" button that made it possible to correct your error? See, this is exactly the feeling of being in control that you want to give users.
Think about the actions in your app that are destructive or interrupt the user and make sure you provide clear options to correct course or get rid of the interruption (like modals or overlays).
8. Create visual hierarchy
Visual hierarchy is the concept of structuring elements on a screen to create levels of priority that guide users and help them make the right decisions. To do this, UI designers can use colors, proportions, and different fonts as well as the spacing between elements.
Having a great visual hierarchy will make your users feel at home immediately while not having it will make them feel lost and frustrated.
6. Reward with Closure
As humans, we like to complete things and feel a sense of accomplishment. Design your app in such a way, that people go through a sequence of grouped actions that has a clear beginning and end. Reward them with positive feedback for completing the sequence and make it clear what to do next. Congratulate your users. Give them a sense of accomplishment.
7. Make it flexible
Every user is different. Some are newbies, others are experts. Some might have a little screen, others a huge display. Some have lots of computing power, some less, and so forth. These are all things you should consider when designing your interface.
Think about how users can modify your interface to help them achieve what they need to do (like filters or customizable views). but make sure they don't get in the way of the people who just want to keep it simple. You get the ideas, right?
8. Design for accessibility
Making sure your website or product works well for everyone is important. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are approximately 285 million blind individuals, between 110 million and 191 million adults who have significant disabilities, and 360 million deaf individuals worldwide.
Make sure that when you design web pages and applications, you follow the guidelines set by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
Respect the platform user experience
These guidelines show you all the native user interface design patterns that you should use to design an app that will work well on the respective devices (but also make sure will get approved by the app store review teams).
Believe me, getting your app rejected from the app store for some design sins is common and not fun. So stick design guidelines as best as you can and only diverge with intent and reason.
Apple and Google are pretty good at creating user-friendly interfaces, you will learn a great deal about UI and UX design in general and hone your design skills in the process while studying these design systems
Use the right tools for the job
I started my career designing everything in Adobe Photoshop. At the time, it was the best (and only) option. It was cumbersome. Everything was pixel based.
You had to work with different files for each screen and it only layers but no artboards, pages, or design libraries. No real-time collaboration and automatic versioning, auto-save, etc.
Things have changed. Photoshop is no longer the best tool for UI design. It's great for retouching photos and creating artwork. It's not great for UI design. So don't use it.
Fortunately, some excellent tools have been made specifically for screen design:
- Adobe XP
They all do roughly the same, but I recommend Figma because it's the most advanced and flexible. It's also platform agnostic. The community is huge with tons of plugins and free files available to jumpstart your project. Go with Figma and you won't regret it.
Follow a proven UI design process
- Define Why – Understand your goal
- Define Who – Define the target audience
- Define When and where – Understand customer's needs
- Define What – List ideas for solutions
- Prioritize and choose an idea
- Solve and design your chosen solution
- Measure your solution to determine success
For a detailed guide on the UI product design process download my Free Product Design Blueprint PDF
Any digital product or website needs a great user interface. It's not optional anymore. It's expected. Your UI is a crucial part of the overall user experience so make sure that your user interface design is contributing to an overall great user experience design.
This means you also need to look at the visual design, as well as micro-interaction design and not just the overall user flow. So as you can see, there are many layers to this cake.
That's why you need someone with top-notch UI design skills if you want to build usable and remarkable product in today's crowded marketplace. Or you can go with a pre-made UI kit.