The first decision we make about something new is based on how it looks, smells or sounds. In the context of digital products, the first judgment users make on the product is focused on its design and visual properties. Creating content is not enough anymore.
A great user interface design should be not only aesthetically pleasing but also help users accomplish any task in the most efficient and predictable way. In this article we’re going to shed some light on the UI process and why it matters for your business.
What is UI Design - Overview
An interface is an interaction point between the user and the software which they use. Good user interface design means that your product is intuitive to use without any manual. Clear design patterns can be formed by understanding the user's perceptions, behavior, interpretation and visual perception. When done well, the UI team eventually establishes an attentive, insightful, and user-centric interface that is matching business needs and customers' expectations.
UI encompasses a product’s aesthetics, look, responsiveness and interactivity. UI designers are responsible for defining a layout, choosing the design language, and working on visual components, animation, and even micro-interactions.
The outcome of the UI process is the product design which can vary from a static mockup without functionality to a full-interactive visual representation of the ready product (website, app, software). The same with deliverables - they can range from the design recommendations to high fidelity prototypes which are later used for testing and sharing.
Why is UI important?
When we talk about a convenient and easy-to-use landing page, mobile app or PC software, we often mean the way how it looks or as designers name it, its visuals. UI makes apps approachable as it connects the functionality with aesthetics. It ensures higher user engagement and conversion rates, as a result. UI can be compared to a bridge between a user and a company. In other words, you allow potential customers to interact with the product and the overall brand by presenting your app/website information in a well-formulated and aesthetically pleasant layout.
It’s not a secret that customers want to understand things easily. For example, they want to figure out how to purchase the food in the app without digging through a multi-page manual. Keeping the UI Design of your app clear and predictable is the difference between total success for your business and potentially deterrent failure.
The other reason is that the UI design can attract more visitors. It draws new users in and keeps them. A pleasant UI layout and user flow makes users recommend your app or software to others and become loyal customers.
What does UI design include?
UI design refers to a vast array of applications, from one-page websites to complex multi-platform software. Branding, design patterns, illustration, typography, and style guides are the key сomponents of the UI design process. We’ve already mentioned that great UI aims to maximize ease of product use whilst also simplifying the onboarding process and return visits. That’s why it’s recommended to design the interface predictable and consistent. This principle improves product performance in completing tasks and ultimately enhances customer satisfaction. A well-functioned UI includes various elements, such as navigation components (search fields, icons), call to action elements (buttons), content, graphics.
The UI design process depends on a lot of factors, such as the complexity of the project, the size of the company, its budget, etc. Below we would like to show a step-by-step description of what a Ui design process looks like in companies that have UX, UI, and front-end development teams separately:
Get requirements from the UX team and the product owner before starting the design process. If needed, UI designers can also discuss all of the important details with potential customers directly in order to better understand the product's purpose, the problems it can solve, and the overall vision.
Choose the style that represents the idea of the end product and matches user expectations. Before a project's design gets its shape, it will go through a solid process of experimentation where the first thing to discuss is who we are designing for and why. It’s crucial not to start designing before we know who is going to use the product and what are the preferences of our target audience.
Create a few mockups based on the requirements received and then choose the best one for UI prototyping. The prototype should be created in one of the dedicated software tools, such as Adobe XD, Sketch, Figma.
Deliver all the design files to the development team. When developing an app or other software product, all visual attributes (icons, images) need to be collected and shared with the front-end team for product development. The same is with the prototype itself. Important note: UI team is also responsible for the responsive design, so colors and font sizes should be adjusted to get fit for different displays. This would ensure that frontend developers launch the application without modifying the UI concept.
Analyze the final feedback and consider all recommendations received from the UX, development team or customers for the next versions of the product.
What are the benefits of UI design?
Better navigation that leads to a higher conversion rate
Well-designed UI can contribute to strong brand awareness for an emerging company, and leave a positive impression of the company in the customer's mind.
Association with the entire brand
The branding itself promotes the recognizability and awareness and of your product/service on the market. In terms of UI, branding can be realized through the set of visual elements, such as logo, brand colors, unique typography.
Lower development costs
UI prototypes are known to minimize costs by uncovering errors and weak points in the interface layout and functionality before the project is transferred to the development team.
Higher user engagement and product understanding
UI ensures that the content and product information is delivered in an aesthetically pleasing way that makes customers to use the product again.
Good UI reduces confusion
UI designers are responsible for making the interface that behaves in the way users expect it to. Consistency of behavior, in this case, means the whole app should work in the same way throughout all pages and don’t cause any confusion.
What are the responsibilities of UI designers?
UI Designer’s job includes the following activities: customer analysis, design research, graphic development, writing user guides and UI prototyping.
User interface designers make technology user friendly and intuitive. They work in those areas where users communicate directly with a product. That's why experienced UI designers must have a solid understanding of both UX and UI techniques and processes.
As we mentioned above, the UI team is designing each page on a website/app in accordance with UX recommendations. In other words, when a final layout is ready, a designer starts working with graphics. It includes drawing icons, choosing color palettes, illustration, typography, as well as setting UI guidelines. No digital wireframe or prototype can be developed without dedicated software tools. Photoshop, Illustrator, InVision, Sketch are examples of programs used by the UI team on a daily basis. Besides creative tasks, experienced UI designers should closely work with data, analyze trends and define best visual concepts. For example, they can decide to move the more important part of the content to the top of the page, emphasize elements with a different color or add visual tips to make the interface better.
All design decisions and recommendations are recorded in the UI style guide. The main goal of this file is to maintain consistent design and facilitate the work of front-end developers and designers. A style guide standardizes the grid structure, layout, color palette, typography, logos, imagery and takes into account the criteria of accessibility and responsiveness.
UI best practices
Create an easy-to-navigate interface
Even complicated feature-laden digital products shouldn't scare consumers so they're afraid to fill in the form or push a button. An effective user interface leaves users in their comfort zone. Enable users to move through the interface quickly by providing navigation tips while they are going through a flow. For example, highlighted page titles and visual tips about the next possible actions provide users with a clear view of their 'location' in the app.
Develop illustrative tutorials for easy onboarding and further interactions
Tutorials and tooltip illustrations present the visual reminders. This form activates the explanatory capacity and clarify or promote specific actions, especially if the customer interacts with software/app for the first time. Onboarding tips in the form of graphic or cartoon illustrations make UI much more engaging for people who don’t want to read manuals. It works especially well in mobile interfaces where the screen space is limited.
Offer informative feedback
You need to keep customers updated at every point of their cycle about what's happening. This may be as easy as changing the color of a button when it's pressed. The adjustment notifies the user of the interaction. The lack of such feedback causes users to double-check whether they have performed their intended actions.
Eliminate all useless elements
Irrelevant information creates noise in the UI - it competes with the main content and reduces its relative visibility. Simplify interfaces by eliminating redundant components or contents that don't help user activities directly. Simplicity here is more of a set of design concepts than a single action. Try different typography and color palettes to choose the best one and don't forget about whitespaces to separate blocks of information.
Don’t forget about unique micro-interactions
Microinteractions are an important element in the design of every good digital product. And yet, many UI designers and stakeholders still neglect them. Microinteractions offer users more perspective and feedback. They can include things like animations for interactions, changes in color to represent various states and haptic feedback in mobile apps. Microinteractions can lift a design from just functional to outstanding.
Use colors and texture wisely
Designers can concentrate attention on or, on the contrary, divert attention away from objects by using different colors, light, contrast, and texture. Here you can read more about the role of colors in UX and UI design
Design accessible interfaces
While developing a product it’s important to remember that a well-designed interface is accessible to users of all abilities, including people with low vision, or cognitive, hearing and motor impairments. Taking this into account, a good user interface has to improve your product’s accessibility and enhance usability for all groups of people.
Make UI consistent
Customers have already certain expectations as to the apps/websites they are using. Consistent UI means using the same design patterns and the same action sequences with identical scenarios. It involves, generally, the correct use of color, fonts, menu elements, text and image placement when interacting with the interface.
Digital products with a good user interface provide you with a competitive edge in a fast-growing environment where businesses have already realized the value of good user experience. As a result, they create practical and elegant solutions while enhancing consumers’ everyday lives.
The UI goal here is to build user-friendly interfaces that promote interacting with your product or service without making customers confused. So, if you want customers to use your product in the first place and enjoy it, you need to make it visually appealing and follow the latest UI trends