If you work within the software or web industries, you have probably seen or read something that mentions the importance of UI or UX. But what are these and why are they so important?
What does UI and UX stand for?
UI stands for User Interface Design and, in Information Technology, refers to the way an application or website visually looks and feels. The core purpose of User Interface Design is to facilitate usability of a product and improve user experience.
UX stands for User Experience and its core purpose is to analyse the interaction between a user and a particular brand, product or service, with the aim of finding gaps in which to improve the user’s overall experience.
The relationship between UI & UX
User experience and User interface are two interdependent activities. One supports the other in the same direction, improving usability and likeability. To create an impactful and long lasting product, you need to apply both.
According to Forbes, a good User Interface raises the site’s conversion rate by 200%, and a well thought out user experience can increase them up to 400%. Neither can succeed without the other, and one must implement the right strategies to achieve the best quality design output.
What encompasses a user interface?
User Interfaces come in three different formats:
- Graphics interfaces or GUIs - these include graphics for computer softwares, phone screens, websites and in this case the user interacts with the visual representation of the design, what they see on screen.
- Voice controlled interfaces or VUIs - these include smart assistants like Alexa and Siri. Users interact with the sound representation of the design.
- Gesture based interfaces - these include interfaces created for 3D spaces, Virtual Reality games and the users interact with the design through their movements.
Every feature of an app, device or website that allows the user to interact with the design falls under the user interface. It’s the designer’s job to make sure the user interface is easy to use, comprehensive and of high quality.
Some of the key elements of UI design include navigation components, layout , input controls, buttons and information components; Things like colours, fonts, icons, tags, lists and so on.
When you scratch beneath the surface you realise that UI is quite an intricate field that involves anticipating the user preferences and then creating a visual interface that understands and fulfils those preferences.
What makes a good user interface?
It’s important to point out that a good user interface will blend three key design elements: visual design, interaction design and information architecture.
- Visual design - covers the appearance and it creates the ease, familiarity and satisfaction of using the product;
- Interaction design - refers to all interactions envisaged while users are using the system (eg. When they click a button, something happens);
- Information architecture - relates to the structure of the information presented, how you categorise pages, present data or display your main navigation.
A good UI designer will be familiar with all three disciplines.
When designing a UI, it’s recommended that the interface is predictable, concise and consistent. It improves efficiency in completing tasks and reinforces user satisfaction.
Reusing elements on different screens, creating visual order, consistent colour schemes as well as adopting predictable patterns will help users navigate around the product with ease.
UI best practices
It’s good to remember the following practices to create a good user interface:
- The user comes first - everything you put, or not, on each screen needs to fulfil the user’s needs.
- Keep it simple - use clear language and essential elements on screen. Don’t clutter.
- Adopt expected patterns - If a user expects to see a button, make sure that button looks and behaves like a button would.
- Consistency - Keeping a consistent visual structure creates familiarity and relieves user anxiety by making them feel at home.
- Use purposeful layouts - display the information in an ordered way and that the layout draws attention to the most important aspects on the screen.
- Communicate - When the user presses something, they expect something to happen. If something goes wrong, they should be able to see feedback on screen.
- Use colours mindfully - Use the same colour palette across the different screens. Use accent colours to draw attention of the user to a particular or given component.
- Adopt good typography practices - make sure the typography is readable and the text information is presented in a clear and hierarchical way.
There is more to user interface design than you might realise. Don’t assume User Interface designers only care about aesthetics; though that’s an important aspect, there is much more thought and reflection than what meets the eye.
User interface works its best together with good user experience practices. Put strategies in place to understand your users needs and think about the whole journey rather than silos of experiences. Make sure the creative team has access to research data about your users, and encourage them to work with different stakeholders to fully understand the problem that needs to be solved.
Embrace user centred design approaches on whatever design you create. The core aim of any design project is to solve a problem, and more often than not, there will be humans, or users, involved. Make sure your design solution is taking into account the needs, preferences and problems the target audience has.
Get in touch
Here at Circle we work closely with our customers to understand their needs, making sure any user interface idea we put forward has the user’s experience in mind first. We take a holistic approach on our projects and work in a collaborative manner with all stakeholders.