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female colleagues discussing user interface design

User Interface design – what is it, importance, how to do it and what to avoid

 

Mobile devices are an integral part of our lives today with apps fulfilling diverse needs with a few taps on a screen. These taps, however, are important as it is through these that the user experiences and forms an opinion about your app. Any app development must therefore first focus on design and creating a user interface (UI) that will allow the user to achieve his end goals in as few steps as possible. This UI, in essence, is the link between users and the application, helping users navigate, make decisions and goes a long way towards the success of your product by achieving the below. 

1. Creates a good impression – The first impression of an app is the most important as anything less than the user’s expectations of your app can have it being uninstalled minutes after its download. This is one reason why we seek inspiration from the best performing apps and ensure our UI designs match Android’s Material Design and iOS’s Human Interface Design.

2. Attracts users – Apps with great UIs tend to become a hit with its users and can gain traction fast via reviews on the App/Play store and even word of mouth. Think about how many times Google Maps has helped you find your way. Would you not recommend it to a friend who might be travelling soon?

Highly rated apps are also pushed up in the App/Play store listings and can have you earning more users organically, thereby saving you money in marketing.

3. Cuts on update time and cost – Well-designed applications will have fewer bugs, saving time and costs associated with the introduction of the new version to the market. Not sure if your app needs an update? Find out here.

4. Increases usability and loyalty – A well-designed layout, in which each function has its place, affect the quality and overall user experience of an application. Such apps are adept at not only attracting but also retaining its users.

Google maps carplay
Is a good UI something you’d expect from your navigation software?

But, what makes a great UI?

1. Intuitive and consistent design – the design elements of any great app is consistent and helps the user navigate intuitively. We at Mood Up ensure this consistency in our designs by creating a style guide and using this as the blueprint for all the designs we do. 

2. Clarity – great UI’s tend to be logical, clean and simplistic, without the need for unnecessary elements. A quality user interface is made up of design elements that are necessary so that the user can focus on achieving the outcome the app is promising to deliver. 

3. High responsivity – a great UI should keep up with the demands of its users and be responsive to the input fed from taps and clicks. Failure to do this can create a frustrating experience for the user and garner you a negative review on the App/Play Store.

4. Paying attention to the visual hierarchy – one attribute that is often overlooked but is important to a quality UI is designing your interface so that it allows users to focus on what is important. The contrast between the different sizes, colours and placement of elements should work together to give a clear understanding of the interface and what a user should do. This will, in turn, reduce the complexity of the visuals and make navigation more intuitive.

5. Consistency – screen elements should not appear consistent with each other unless they behave as such. Elements that behave the same, however, should look the same.

Bad volume UI example 3
A great example of what a UI should not be from uxdesign.cc

How to create a great UI?

1. Sketches and mood boards – designers are a creative lot and need to leave the computers aside, do some research and follow it up with some simple sketching to get an understanding of what the end design of the app could look like. The focus here is to ponder on the requirements of the client, the designs of the direct and indirect competition so that the designers can combine their creativity with what is on the market right now.

2. Wireframing – is the term given to the process in which we draw the UX of the app using tools such as Figma or Invision. This is essentially a diagram that allows our clients to observe how the app will work by capturing the user’s journey from screen to screen. Such a wireframe is akin to a blueprint for the app and shows how many taps it would take a user to go from opening the app to achieve a certain desired output.

3. Design Exploration – the preparation of sample application screens in 2-3 different styles (based on the aforementioned creative thinking in #1), so that the client can pick one that fits them best.

4. Creating a style guide – created based on client feedback in #3, the style guide is the definitive document we use to ensure there is a sense of coherence throughout the design of an app. The design standards included in the style guide should be enforced throughout the app to provide the user with a sense of familiarity and intuitiveness when navigating. It consists of elements such as typography schemes, colour palettes, responsive layouts, buttons and many others. 

5. High Fidelity Design with Dynamic Prototype – the design guidelines are now established and the only thing that is left to do now is to flesh out the wireframes with the designs that were approved by the client. This prototype is usually developed on Invision and is very useful for when meeting investors as they provide an idea of the visual interface and experience expected of the finalised product.

UI Stencil 1
Sometimes, you have to leave the computers aside and go back to the roots

What common UI mistakes should you avoid?

1. Messy interface – every screen we design is geared toward creating value and ease of use for the end-user. A sizable number of elements, Call To Actions (CTAs), lack of coherence or even different margins on each screen sabotages this and makes any app impossible to use and easier to uninstall.

2. Lack of uniformity across different platforms – how many times have you used Facebook from a laptop before switching to scrolling on mobile? Is it not a seamless transition from one device to another?

That’s exactly how your app should function across all the devices it supports and is the reason we place a huge emphasis on sticking to the agreed design guidelines. Any break in this disrupts the experience a user will have on your app and impacts the success of your app.

3. Not inserting conventional elements – Recognizing something is much easier than recall as recognition involves more cues in a users mind. UI designers should know this and promote recognition by making information visible and easily accessible via visual aids such as tooltips and context-sensitive details.

4. Not taking hand gestures into account – how frustrating would it be if you kept deleting your social media posts by mistake? It’s to avoid such incidents that good UI designers take special care to insert the features a user would use often in easily accessible areas whilst buttons such as delete are harder to reach.

5. Not showing state – the interface of your app should move in pace with the user and produce the state of the screen to stop them from feeling “disconnected”. This is vital as feedback is typically associated with points of action — for every user action, the system should show a meaningful, clear reaction. 

A button when pressed should ideally change colour to show the acknowledgement of the users tap on it. The lack of such feedback forces users to tap again and again in an increasingly frustrating manner. 

Don’t Make me think twice UI
Sourced from Don’t Make Me Think Twice by Steve Krug. A must-read for every designer out there

Conclusion

A good UI shouldn’t be complicated. It’s meant to be used and should look good, be familiar and intuitive. Failing to take these into account will result in a confusing interface where the user is forced to search around the screen for buttons that are relevant to them. Such an experience as you can imagine is not good news for your app and will have it being uninstalled right after. 

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