What makes a website – or for that matter, any digital application – engaging? The answer lies in the way visual elements are laid out and how easy it is for users to find what interests them.
Contemporary websites are much more than a collection of static pages. They serve as a powerful marketing tool that emphasizes the organization’s strengths, representing its values and inspiring customers to stay engaged. They strive to establish and nurture a personal, rewarding experience for users.
The user interface determines how friendly and valuable your site is. Thus, it directly and significantly contributes to the user experience.
The secret behind the success of top-notch user interface design agencies is an ideal blend of creative artistry and scientific rigor. Visual quality and reasoned thinking must complement and enhance each other for optimal results. While creativity is a naturally evolving process, studies in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) help us apply proven, effective, and sound techniques. We’ll discuss ten of these ideas here.
Identify and understand your users
Defining the target users is the first step in the development process, and it influences every design decision. It’s critical to acquire complete knowledge of the users’ profiles and expectations, as well as the challenges and constraints they grapple with. Market research is an integral part of user interface design services. It may offer pointers, but a deeper analysis is essential to interpret the data correctly. The aim is to extract comprehensive, actionable insights.
The scope of the research must be broad enough to obtain pertinent answers. What users want may throw light on their larger needs, which can open up rewarding opportunities. Any website, however attractive, will prove ineffective if it doesn’t factor in the customer’s sensitivities. When users are delighted with their experience, business results will automatically ensue.
Visualize how users will interact with the product
Each UI element is meant to be used in a specific way. For example, when presented with a slider, users are expected to swipe left or right to view other images. On a regular desktop, however, this may require a mouse click. Not all users are comfortable with swiping — or using a mouse. In some cases, especially when the target users are familiar with keyboard shortcuts, offering keystroke combinations for specific actions may be a good idea.
User interface design agencies visualize the user’s actions to judge which UI objects suit a particular need. Broadly, the interactions are of two types, though some situations may demand a combination of the two.
- In direct interactions, a UI element provided for a specific purpose is used, such as clicking a CTA button.
- In indirect interactions, the action is triggered externally, without the use of a UI component, such as a keyboard shortcut for a specific function.
Optimize the location and size of elements
The location of the CTA buttons, navigational aids, and text links directly influences how users will interact with them. The rule of thumb is to move UI control closer to where the user’s attention lies. A similar rule applies to the size of the elements – the larger they are, the more inviting they look. Here are some guidelines to follow:
- Make the critical elements bigger – these could be CTA buttons and links to other relevant pages. If you have several controls that need to be placed in a section, maintain sufficient spacing and padding to prevent users from clicking on incorrect links.
- Keep navigation links or the search button closer to the edge of the screen, at the top or bottom (or sometimes on the left or right). This makes it easy for the user as it creates more room for clickable links.
- The placement of controls must be in line with the intended interaction model. Ask whether vertical or horizontal scrolling is involved, which elements should be “sticky” when the screen is scrolled, and if the order and visibility of the UI elements should change according to the user’s action.
Pay heed to standards and best practices
The passion for doing something different is hard to overcome, especially for creative people. However, their obsession with visual appearance must not end up impacting the site’s usability.
When it comes to user interface design services, even experienced professionals adhere to common ideas that most users are familiar with. Any significant change requires users to think, make an effort to recognize the interface and act appropriately. This adds friction and makes the experience stressful. For example, when you need to add a search icon, would you want to use Sherlock Holmes’ smoking pipe rather than the humble magnifying glass? Which button are your users likely to click?
Design guidelines published by industry leaders such as Google, Apple, and Microsoft serve as excellent resources. These ideas are based on research and continuous development, and they aim to offer the best possible user experience.
Keep it simple and easy
As users navigate the site, they must recognize the UI elements, and after looking elsewhere, remember to go back and click on an option that interests them. But our short-term memory has limitations – we cannot reliably recall more than a handful of objects. We must decide what should be projected prominently and what can be moved to lower-level sections or pages. On the other hand, a logical presentation of the content remains the principal requirement. A simple and uncomplicated interface design meets both these conditions. A minimalistic approach offers several benefits:
- It enhances the visual appearance. A clutter-free design makes better esthetics.
- It enables quicker navigation, improving the user experience.
- It ensures hassle-free updates. Changing the content is easy when you have fewer elements to worry about.
It’s also essential to improve the readability of the copy. Break long-worded content into smaller, digestible chunks. You can then classify and create cross-linked sections or pages to ease the user’s journey.
Tell users what to expect
When users interact with the product, some of their actions could lead to unintended or undesirable consequences. They may click on a button that deletes an important piece of data, a button that confirms their acceptance of the terms of a sale that charges their credit card, or even a “Submit” button that captures sensitive personal details.
You can win users’ trust by clearly specifying what will happen next – but this has to be done before they click on the button, not after. When you present a “Delete” option, ensure users are aware of the risks.
You can convey the information in the following ways:
- Through visual design, by using a well-understood icon (such as an exclamatory mark in a yellow triangle that denotes caution), using a specific color (red, which universally means “stop”), or highlighting the safer, default option (“Cancel” instead of “Go”).
- With explanatory copy that offers helpful information, such as descriptive text for buttons (“Delete this record from the profile” instead of a simple “Delete”), alert messages (“Warning: You cannot undo this action” below the “Delete” button), placeholder or helper text in forms that indicates the type of input required (“Enter an 8-character password with one upper case letter and one numeral”).
When the action is irreversible, ask users to reconfirm if they really want to go ahead(“This will permanently delete the data, and you cannot recover it. Do you want to continue?”). Let the options be unambiguous (“Yes, go ahead and delete” instead of “Ok” and “No, I want to retain the data” instead of “Cancel”). Your users will one day thank you for it.
Account for user’s mistakes
We all make mistakes — there’s no getting around it. A pragmatic UI designer considers this fact rather than hoping that users will exactly do what’s expected of them. The idea is not to foresee and prevent every possible misstep (which is impractical) but to ensure the user experience is not adversely affected even if one occurs.
A basic yet effective approach is to minimize the possibility of mistakes in the first place. Clever UI designs disallow a few actions that can trigger an undesired condition. For example, on an e-commerce site, disabling the “Pay” button unless the customer enters valid credit card details ensures a trouble-free experience. Yet, users may still get it wrong – here, you need to gently handhold them as they make corrections. This is best achieved with clear, precise, and friendly error messages – and by avoiding unsettling, ambiguous, or incomplete information. Which one do you think will sound considerate: “Invalid details” or “The card number seems to be incorrect? It’s usually 15 or 16 digits. Please check and reenter.”
Provide quick and helpful feedback
When users interact with a UI control, you must reassure them that their action is registered. Offering feedback is essential, and the information must be:
- Easy to understand: If a user has clicked on the “Submit” button on a contact form, tell them, yes, you’ve received their entries. Tell them what you’ll do next with the data and when they can expect a response.
- Immediate: The response must be quick. According to a study by Nielson Normal Group, users expect an acknowledgment of the action, such as a mouse over effect on a button, in one-tenth of a second. If the action cannot be completed in a second, trigger an indication that the system is still working on the request. Ten seconds is what will hold users’ attention – if you need more time, add a progress indicator — or better still, allow users to interrupt the process and return to the previous screen. Remember that in some cases, a progress bar can make the site appear slower than it actually is, so use it judiciously.
- Relevant and helpful: The message must be direct and appropriate. Instead of “Please wait,” try “We’re now fetching the details from the database,”We’re now analyzing the data provided by you,” or “We’re now tabulating the results for you.”
Facilitate faster decision-making
When we want to coax users to make a decision, such as clicking on a “Buy” button, does your UI accelerate or hamper the process? Does the user go through a series of steps that divert or discourage them? Are they bombarded with too many options and variants that promote your interest, not theirs?
Ensure the user’s visit is conclusive by gently chaperoning them with cleverly designed UI. As we have discussed earlier, it’s imperative to keep the design simple and usable. But to achieve results, user interface design agencies should anticipate not just the user’s actions but also their possible apprehensions. The design can further be tuned with iterative UI testing and evaluation.
Remember: Today, when customers are expected to make decisions, they look for a hassle-free experience, with guidance provided at every step. It’s the same with websites and apps. Facilitating faster and effortless decisions must be a priority for designers.
Analyze data and apply learnings
The scope of user interface design services must include usability testing. A systematic evaluation can unearth critical flaws and indicate possible improvements that would otherwise go unnoticed. The testing process is effective when a clear-cut plan is prepared, and a representative group of users is empaneled. The results must be documented and scientifically examined before design decisions are reviewed.
While pre-launch testing can spot a few weaknesses, real-world feedback on the UI’s effectiveness can be obtained through site analytics. Pick from a range of free or commercial tools to log usage data. Collecting data is one thing, but analyzing it to extract insights is another. Fortunately, most applications offer detailed, easy-to-understand reports.
Continuous monitoring is critical as the site grows in terms of content, scope, and popularity. This helps us ascertain how customers interact with various UI elements and how the design effectively fulfills the business objectives.
Looking for top-notch UI ideas that deliver? Talk to us. Ours is a young UI/UX design studio driven by a passion for excellence. We love building new-age design strategies for businesses keen to benefit from futuristic thinking. With our customer-focused approach, agility, and positive attitude, we fulfill the exacting needs of global organizations. Our services span the entire UX spectrum, addressing the unique challenges and expectations of startups, mid-size companies, and enterprises.