user interface design

User Interface Design Basics: All You Need To Know As A Beginner

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19.11.2021

You might have seen them appear on your newsfeed, and designers and non-designers are frantically sharing their opinion. Why’s that?

We’re all working within some kind of interface, most of our days. When we open our phone, start our laptop at work, interact with friends through social media or shop online: all of them have a—hopefully—well-thought-out interface.

User interface design affects us all. That’s why we all have an opinion on it, consciously or not. Luckily, more brands are picking up on the importance of good UI, and our online experiences are getting more pleasant.

Because great design doesn’t just look good—it works well. It’s part of marketing, and fueled by knowledge of user behavior and consumer psychology.

So, whether you are a beginning designer or an entrepreneur or manager who is looking to hire their next great designer, you will want to know some basics. To create more than just a pretty picture, to provide better feedback, and to make users happier and help them better.

So, let’s start at the basics. What we’ll cover is:

  • What user interface design is, and how it’s different from user experience design
  • Why user interface design is so important
  • What elements in design form the foundation
  • How to start designing efficiently using Design Thinking

What are UI design And UX Design?

You might be confused by the terms UI and UX design: user interface, and user experience. Let’s start by getting that right. What is UI design, and what is it not?

Imagine laying a soccer field on a hill with rocks. It might look impressive, but it’s far from practical.

The interface is the foundation on which you can build the experience.

The two should work together. Of course, there is some overlap there, but let’s focus on UI design for now.

UI stands for the user interface: this is the place a user moves around in a website, an app, or any type of software. Designing user interfaces is, therefore, less about looks, and more about designing for actions.

Sure, it has to look great and match a brand’s style guide, but user interface design is about creating a platform or page that users can perform desired actions as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Add to cart, book an appointment, download an e-book: UI design is there to put all these call-to-actions in the spotlight. With little distractions, preferably.

So, if you’re going to be a good UI designer, you should know that people won’t necessarily notice your design. Harsh, yes, But the best UIs are the ones you can barely tell they’re there—there are no roadblocks, no hiccups. It’s all smooth sailing.

Why Is A Solid User Interface Important?

If you ever need defense as to why you charge a certain rate as a UI designer, here’s one: 70% of online businesses that fail, go down because of bad usability on their website or app.

Some designs simply aren’t a matter of taste, they are a matter of psychology. Good user interface design directly affects conversion rates and user satisfaction.

You want someone to buy, book, or any other action as quickly as possible—before you lose their attention.

You want to facilitate these interactions, by designing an interface that is responsive, logical, and efficient.

Users have high expectations: just look at the number of perfectly designed apps we all use on a daily basis.

Frustration and bad experience are what you want to avoid: word travels fast, and negative words even faster: 44% of shoppers will tell their friends about a bad online experience. 88% of online shoppers say they wouldn’t come back after such an experience.

The Most Important Elements In A User Interface

Before you start designing your very first web page or app, let’s go through a checklist of all the important elements you can find in an interface, and what you should know about them.

We can divide the elements of any user interface into roughly four categories.

  1. Input Controls
  1. Navigation Components
  2. Informational Components
  3. Containers

Here’s what elements you can find in these four categories.

Input Controls

This is anything that enables a user to put information into a system. Think of a box where they can leave their email address, a checkbox where they consent to cookies or a calendar where they can choose a date for an appointment.

It’s important to keep it balanced. You want to avoid building an interface that asks for too much information and requires too many actions.

Try keeping it to a minimum and only collect the input you really need. Plus, make sure it’s easy enough to give the information, both on mobile phones and on desktops. A fold-down menu might work on a big screen, but not on a smartphone.

Navigational Components

These elements are what help users move around in an app or webpage. The three dots on the top right of a page in chrome, for instance. Or the three lines on the left of a website that indicate that there’s a menu hiding under there.

When designing with these elements, choose icons and shapes that people recognize. A house indicates home. A triangle means ‘play’. This is not the part where you should get too creative, you want to keep it simple and understandable for the masses.

Informational Components

Informational elements are where you share information with users. Think of a progress bar that shows how long it’ll take to load something. Or tooltips that show up when you hover over a button, or even a message box that shows information.

The trick here is to know what needs an explanation, and what doesn’t. Don’t over-explain simple things, but if you introduce something ‘’new’’, make sure users know how to use it.

Containers

Make it fit, and make it match. Containers are used to keep related content close together, and to make sure it matches the size of a user’s screen.

You can only have so many actions on one screen at the same time. This is what containers will teach you. Don’t try to show everything all at once.

Also Check Out: Web Design And Development – All You Need To Know

How To Start Designing: Use The Design Thinking Method

Excited to start designing yet? You might be able to envision a great design, but don’t know where to start.

To round up, we’ll show you what Design Thinking is and how it gives you a great framework in which you’ll create awesome designs—that work well.

Design Thinking is a process of designing that revolves around how a user will understand, use and adopt a design, and behave in it.

Will people have to learn to use your design? Or will it come naturally to them, leading to faster and more conversions?

Design Thinking helps you create something that fulfills the users’ needs, and prevents you from focusing too much on wild design ideas—either yours or your client’s.

Because one thing to keep in mind when you start designing: you’re doing it for the user.

Design Thinking happens in five phases. We’ll walk you through them.

Step 1: Empathize

Time to get to know future users. What are they looking for when opening your app or clicking on your webpage? What motivates them to be there, what experience are they looking for, and how do they behave? This information is paramount to continuing the process.

Step 2: Define

What problem will your design solve? This is how you should approach designs that are meant to be used. Define the key problems and challenges your users face, and which ones you need to prioritize in the designing process.

Step 3: Ideate

Time to throw all your ideas—related to the previously defined challenges and problems—on the table. Find solutions for these problems and start thinking about what this will look like on-screen. Brainstorm, mind map, sketch—use any technique that will get your creative juices flowing, but doesn’t lose sight of your real goals.

Step 4: Prototype

Put the ideas that look best on paper together and create a prototype. This can be a simplified and scaled-down version, and it certainly doesn’t need to be clickable yet. Give every solution a place on the page and check if you’ve tackled all the problems.

Step 5: Testing

You’ll be moving back and forth between steps four and five several times because you’ll actively need to test your interface. Preferably with real users. Collect feedback and watch how people react to an interface to find and eliminate any roadblocks.

Are You Ready To Create Your First UI Design?

If you’re enthusiastic about user interface design, start by putting yourself in the shoes of the user. Visit websites and apps and actively try to find points of improvement, and try to understand why certain choices were made. Always having this in the back of your mind will make you a great UI designer in the long run.

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Tags UI design UI design app UX Design Web UI design
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Mashum Mollah is an entrepreneur, founder and CEO at Viacon, a digital marketing agency that drive visibility, engagement, and proven results. He blogs at BloggerOutreach.io.

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