Gone are the days of sites with their hardcoded, never-changing HTML. Sites and apps these days are dynamic and interactive. The job of a designer is to make it so that the interface through which they interact with our web UI design is as close to ideal as possible. Luckily, some nearly universal rules can help in designing interfaces. User interface design is the process of designing the look, feel, and interactivity of a digital product. It is important to note that UI design is not the same as UX, although the two regularly go hand-in-hand.
Basics of Designing Interfaces
A user interface is the point of interaction between humans and computers. User interface design is the process of designing how these interfaces look and behave. Suppose that you are using an app on your smartphone to book flights. The screens you navigate, the buttons you tap, and the forms you fill out are all part of the user interface. A user interface is usually made up of the following elements.
These are interactive elements that enable a user to enter information. Input controls include things like checkboxes, buttons, text fields, and dropdown lists.
These communicate useful information to the user, for example through message boxes, notifications, and progress bars.
Containers are used to group content into meaningful sections. A container holds various elements, keeping them to a reasonable maximum width based on the user’s screen size. An example of a container in UI design is the accordion menu, which is a vertically stacked list of headers that can be clicked to hide or show content.
These help the user to navigate an interface to complete their desired task. Navigational components include things like search fields, sliders, and hamburger menus.
UI design considers all of these elements and how they work together to create interfaces that are both easy to navigate and visually pleasing. As such, UI design covers the following things.
It is how the user interface and its various elements behave and function. For instance, what happens when a user clicks on a particular button?
It is how the interface looks, considering things like color, typography, imagery and graphics, logos, icon design, and spacing. A variety of resources exist to help in this process.
It is how the content within the user interface is organized and labeled.
Designing Interfaces Process
UI designers come in at the later stages of the product design process. Some key steps in the designing interfaces process include the following list.
1. Understanding the context
You cannot design the user interface for a product without knowing who will be using it and what they will be using it for. The UI designer will start by getting familiar with the project brief to understand the target audience they’re designing for and the purpose of the product.
2. Conducting competitor analysis
UI designers might conduct competitor analysis to see what other brands operating in the same space are doing. This helps you to understand what your users expect when interacting with certain products, allowing you to design interfaces that feel familiar and are therefore easier to use.
3. Designing screens and UI elements
A substantial part of the UI design process focuses on design. UI designers will design all the individual screens that make up the user journey and the different elements that feature on these screens. This includes designing icons and buttons, selecting or creating imagery, making decisions about colors and typography, and designing any animations and interactions.
4. Be Clear
Clarity and consistency are different. Clarity means that you want your users to know what to do at all times. In some ways, this also bleeds into UX design because it reduces frustration on your users and increases retention, and reduces bounce rate. Clarity is the reason minimalist web design has been so popular. People are not confused about the purpose of any site or page because there is no clutter.
Being consistent in feature placement within your UI is key, though you should also be concerned that your UI works and looks consistent across the entire product, too. Do not have the menu on top of one page and at the bottom of another. Also, do not rearrange menu items every time it loads. Make sure that your users know where things are on your site. If you keep a contact form underneath your blog posts, don’t decide to leave it off. Users will notice and be confused. Consistency also includes your fonts and design should work from page to page to page. Do not go swapping header/body fonts from page to page.
6. Creating wireframes and prototypes
Throughout the UI design process, UI designers will create wireframes and prototypes. In the early stages, low-fidelity wireframes can be used to map out the position of different elements on the screen. As initial ideas progress to concrete design decisions, high-fidelity, clickable prototypes are used to model the final look and feel of the product. With high-fidelity prototypes, UI designers can communicate not only what the product UI should look like but also how it should behave when the user interacts with it.
7. Handing off to developers
Once the product UI has been finalized, it is over to the developers to turn the UI designer’s prototypes into real, working products. It is essential to be aware that moving from high-fidelity prototypes to development might not always be straightforward as developers and other stakeholders may have feedback, requiring you to iterate on your designs.
If you want to get a try at designing interfaces, this guide will certainly help you out in doing so. Thus, it is recommendable that you take the concepts and start any design gig that you may find.