One design element that measures usability over pure aesthetics is user interface (UI) design. You can have the most attractive website or software in existence, but if it doesn’t address the needs of the user, it’s still ineffective.
Envision a website or software as an interface where your business’ web profile interacts with your customer. A strong UI design strengthens the usability factor, but it’s just one piece of the overall user experience design. This includes other elements, such as research and information architecture.
At my company, user interface design always takes precedence. So to satisfy the UI needs of our clients — which range from companies in the enterprise-level energy and pharmaceutical spaces to local realtors — we work closely with them to pinpoint their own customers’ needs. We then combine those elements with interaction and visual design principles to create a user interface that’s balanced in form and function.
What is most important when addressing the requirements of a strong UI design? The following are four elements I use to help create an optimal user interface design.
1. Start With Your Users
Before starting work, I always meet with the client and began an in-depth study of that client’s customers. The deeper you profile, the easier it will be to create a user interface design that converts visitors.
If your project involves revamping an existing platform, get access to the Google Analytics and any other analytic reports and start digging. This will allow you to view the path users are taking en route to a conversion, and prioritize what requires the most attention. If possible, go one step further and interview the client’s core customers. Ask their opinion of the current platform, and the goals they have when visiting it. Ask what can be improved, what works well, and what functions they would like to see added.
Once this information is compiled, you can outline the content that needs to be highlighted across the interface and help strengthen that content by making it stand out.
Before we began creating software for one of our larger clients in the energy space, we sent a team to personally interview the client, as well as that client’s top customers. We asked a series of questions like the ones above, and by the time we got to work, we already had concrete solutions ready to create an optimal user interface design.
2. Make It Easy To Learn
In regards to user interface design — just like any other design — simplicity reigns. The easier something is to learn, the easier it is to remember. If a design element becomes too complicated, break it down and offer simpler chunks that are easier to digest.
For example, sometimes navigation can become too deep, and the user will lose interest. If this is the case, break down your navigation into more manageable segments. As well, always further simplify with tabbed navigation, which makes things appear like tabs on a folder. This will allow users in the moment an easy map of your website, and allow returning users an easy way to resume where they last finished.
Personally, I like user interface design to be so simple that a child could navigate to the software’s ultimate solution without any hassle.
3. Provide Quick Responses
I cannot stress this enough. You must provide quick responses to users when any action is occurring on your platform. Whether it’s a simple progress bar or a pop-up window that signifies an action is taking place, make sure the user knows what’s going on.
While working with one of our data record storage clients, we spent significant time designing these quick responses. This was one of those situations where the software required several seconds to dig into storage records. We didn’t want to lose customer interest during the retrieval process, so we designed animated pop-ups that provided messages like “your request is on its way.” The key is to always keep the customer engaged.
4. Keep Sign-Up Forms Short
For immediate sign-up for services, purchases, etc., design the software to solicit only the essentials. The rest can be filled in later with a follow-up email or other alert. Long sign-up forms take user’s attention away, so keep these forms short and simple, and let the follow-ups be the platform for obtaining further information.
Early on, we confronted this issue with one of our clients in the financial sector. Every time a user would attempt to complete a sign-up form for a newsletter or submit additional information, the amount of requested information appeared too overwhelming, and users immediately shut the window. We simplified matters and witnessed a significant increase in completed transactions.
The one element of a great user experience — one that drives conversions — is a simple user interface design. Pinpoint the ultimate user’s perspectives on what’s needed for an engaging experience, then use the above tips to create a strong interface.