User interface (UI) design is the process designers use to build interfaces in software or computerized devices, focusing on looks or style. Designers aim to create interfaces that users find easy to use and pleasurable. UI design refers to graphical user interfaces and other forms—e.g., voice-controlled interfaces.
User interfaces are the access points where users interact with designs. They come in three formats:
- Graphical user interfaces (GUIs) — Users interact with visual representations on digital control panels. A computer’s desktop is a GUI.
- Voice-controlled interfaces (VUIs) — Users interact with these through their voices. Most smart assistants—e.g., Siri on iPhone and Alexa on Amazon devices—are VUIs.
- Gesture-based interfaces — Users engage with 3D design spaces through bodily motions: e.g., in virtual reality (VR) games.
To design UIs best, you should consider:
- Users judge designs quickly and care about usability and likeability.
- They don’t care about your design, but about getting their tasks done easily and with minimum effort.
- Your design should therefore be “invisible”: Users shouldn’t focus on it but on completing tasks: e.g., ordering pizza on Domino’s Zero Click app.
- So, understand your users’ contexts and task flows (which you can find from, e.g., customer journey maps), to fine-tune the best, most intuitive UIs that deliver seamless experiences.
- UIs should also be enjoyable (or at least satisfying and frustration-free).
- When your design predicts users’ needs, they can enjoy more personalized and immersive experiences. Delight them, and they’ll keep returning.
- Where appropriate, elements of gamification can make your design more fun.
- UIs should communicate brand values and reinforce users’ trust.
- Good design is emotional design. Users associate good feelings with brands that speak to them at all levels and keep the magic of pleasurable, seamless experiences alive.
User interface design patterns are the means by which structure and order can gel together to make powerful user experiences. Structure and order are also a user’s best friends, and along with the fact that old habits die hard (especially on the web), it is essential that designers consider user interfaces very carefully before they set the final design in stone. Products should consist of such good interactions that users don’t even notice how they got from point A to point B. Failing to do so can lead to user interfaces that are difficult or confusing to navigate, requiring the user to spend an unreasonable amount of time decoding the display—and just a few seconds too many can be “unreasonable”—rather than fulfilling their original aims and objectives.