What is User Interface (UI): definition, elements, and tips

Over the last years, user interface design has turned into one of the most innovative and creative fields. And knowing the main principles of an effective and attractive user interface, you can use it as a powerful tool for user generation and retention.

What is a user interface?

User interface (UI) is the space where users interact with a website, program, app, etc. This can include display screens, a mouse, keyboards, and the appearance of a desktop.

User interface design should be as user-friendly and disability-friendly as possible. The goal is to design a smooth, intuitive, and visually pleasing interface. People may not even actively notice how easy-to-use a good UI is, but they will feel it, which will have them come back.

What are user interface elements?

UI elements help people navigate their way around. They usually fall into one of the four categories: 

  • Input Controls. These interactive UI elements allow users to enter the data into the system. You can use a wide variety of input controls, such as buttons, text fields, toggles, checkboxes, and more. 
  • Navigational Components. Such elements as slider, breadcrumbs, search field, pagination, tags, and icons help people move around a website or product. 
  • Informational Components. UI elements that help share information with users include but are not limited to notifications, progress bars, tooltips, message boxes, and pop-up windows.
  • Containers. They hold page elements together.

What are the tenants of a good user interface design?

UI is a part of user experience (UX), which also must be well thought out and well designed, or else no amount of effort towards excellent UI will fix it, and vice versa. Here are some guidelines for UI design:

Know your users

Everything stems from knowing their demographic data, pain points, what they want, and what stands in the way of them achieving their goals. Once you know that, you can come up with a solution and address your users’ needs. 

Keep interfaces simple and organized

Label all icons and list how to interact with all objects. For example, a small magnifying glass icon labeled “hover to zoom” will lead the user to know how to view the product at a larger size. 

Amazon is a good example of an effective UI design, especially given there is so much to show on each page. The homepage is labeled well, search pages have all pertinent information under the product picture, and product pages are visually organized so that your eye is led naturally to what you want to look at. Amazon could easily be a mess, but a good UI design makes it not.

User interface example
(Source)

Keep every action consistent

If hovering over a product picture magnifies it on one page, do that on all product pages. It takes all the guesswork out for users. You want them to glide through your website or program, not be confused by incongruent design.

Be purposeful in page layout

Structure your site or program based on importance. Consider spatial relationships between items on the page and draw attention to the most important pieces of information.

Ensure readability

Focus on text and color design, or else your site or program can become a jumbled mess. Font choice, font-weight, colors, alignment, hierarchy, and many other aspects of text design can send a strong message with just a few words if used correctly. Having a graphic designer for this aspect of UI is a good idea.

Have one chief function per page

A page can become way too cluttered if there are too many performing tasks. Pick one to focus on and guide users by showing them preferred actions. 

Focus on brand consistency

Does your brand have colors associated with it? Starbucks does, Target does, Snov.io does! Use those colors consistently on your site, app, or program. Use your logo consistently, too. 

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Disability and user interface

Visually, physically, cognitively, and hearing-impaired people might be using your site or program. That is why accommodating them is important to their UX, and your UI design should be easy-to-use for them. An inaccessible interface is a sure way to lose disabled customers. 

Visual impairment

Color blindness, legal blindness, myopia, cataracts – the list is endless for visual impairments. When it comes down to it, two things can make a huge difference: make it larger and use high contrast. 

Physical impairment

Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and age-related motor impairment are just some of the physical impairments that can make using a desktop, tablet, and smartphone difficult. Ways to help such users include making buttons big and easy to click on, implementing a keyboard control option for those who can’t use a mouse or trackpad, and allowing for voice and other forms of control technology.

Cognitive impairment 

Dyslexia is a common cognitive impairment, but unfortunately, it is not very catered to. There are dyslexia-friendly fonts that you can use on your site. For example, such popular fonts as Arial, Century Gothic, Comic Sans, Verdana, Tahoma, and Trebuchet are all commonly agreed to be dyslexia-friendly.

Hearing impairment 

There are many reasons a person can be deaf, as well as many levels of deafness, but it all comes down to one thing – if you have videos on your site, you need to use captions.

Wrapping it up

Effective UI equals an attractive, clear, and consistent design that makes people want to continue to experience it. User-oriented design leads to good UX, resulting in more conversions and higher revenue.

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