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All of the random thoughts that we have.

Designing an Effective User Interface – Part 2

May 7, 2017

So last week we looked at some examples of past User Interfaces and found out that in order for a UI to be remotely useable it needs to be simplistic, it’s ok to push the boundaries and images work well. Everything lately is moving towards the metro styling with bigger and more easily understandable ’tiles’. Text based instructions and labels are becoming less and less important with interfaces becoming more visual. So the question becomes, what can you do to take advantage of this in your UIs?

The answer is that you need to use things that are familiar to your audience. Smart phones are so prominent in today’s society that within the few short years since their introduction there has been some very standard ways of showing different things within the interface. One example of this is the menu button.

The menu button to the right is the basis for a lot of menus in mobile applications and websites. The three horizontal, parallel lines have become synonymous with “more options” and as such if your interface needs a menu then you should definitely use this. Don’t get me wrong, you can change the colours and the size and style it however you like, but if you want people to know that this button means “menu” then don’t stray too far.

The next example we’ll look at is the “settings” icon. The cog, or two interlocking cogs has been used time and time again. It’s used in Android, it’s used in iOS, it’s used to Google Chrome, it’s used in Internet Explorer. Anywhere that has a visual interface to interact with its settings uses an icon similar to this one.

Obviously there are a lot more examples than the two I mentioned but they are the two most prominent and the ones that sprang to mind first. Obviously you don’t have to use these when designing an interface, but I would highly recommend it.

The next point is this, you have to know who your audience is. You have to know how they will react to the interface. You have to know how they will read the interface. Western cultures read from the top left going across and down the page. If your target audience is primarily Western then you should probably put your name/company/logo in the top left where they will see it first. Some cultures read from the centre out. This obviously means you should have a more circular design with the primary information in the centre of the design with the least important stuff on the outside. Other cultures again read from the right, or the bottom. You have to do a little bit of leg work and a little bit of research in order to understand how your intended audience will want to use your UI.

Other than those two things, your UI is completely up to you. Colours, styling, sizes, art style, placement all lends a hand to the understandability and usability of the design. Just remember to get other people to look at it and do tests with lots of different people because it is possible and very likely that you will become too ‘involved’ with your project and not be able to see its faults.

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