In this post, I'll share with you the top 10 rules of good UI design.
You will be learning:
- What are the essential elements of a good UI design
- What are the most common UI/UX mistakes that designers make
- What are the UI best practices in 2020
- Lots more UI design tips
Now, let's get started.
1. Aim at an Almost Invisible User Interface
What is a good UI design?
A logical structure & necessary visual elements only.
In other words, in order to design an almost invisible user interface you need to:
- be “merciless” and keep the essential elements only
- base your UI on a well-thought-out structure
- use clear language in your text messages and on your labels
A poorly structured and cluttered UI would only make the user ask questions like: “Where's the main menu?”
2. Keep It Consistent
And this is one of those good UI design principles that's overlooked or undermined most often.
Consistency should span over the entire ecosystem of elements that make up a UI design: fonts, colors, menus, buttons, icons.
Keeping a consistent UI throughout your website translates into creating patterns aimed at enhancing efficiency.
At improving the user experience.
And here I'm referring to layout, design, language patterns. Once the user gets familiar with a given pattern, it will be easier for him/her to interact with other parts of your website that present the same pattern.
3. Be Purposeful with Page Layout
One of the fundamental rules of good UI design is to structure your pages based on importance.
In this respect, here are the crucial principles of user interface design to guide your page layout creation:
- take into account the spacial relationships between various elements on the page
- place your UI elements strategically: draw users' attention to the most important information on the page and make it easy for them to scan it through
- keep in mind that “form follows function”: design each item in accordance to its function (no need to reinvent the wheel and to turn the hamburger menu into a... sandwich menu, for instance)
- stay away from clutter, at all cost: keep the visual elements on the page to a minimum
- make smart use of headings, group similar elements together, add numbered items, as well, all in the name of readability
4. Use Color and Texture Strategically
Make smart use of color, texture, contrast, and light to direct the user's attention to key elements and important information on the screen.
5. Use Familiar UI Elements: One of the Key Rules of Good UI Design
One of the UI best practices that's both:
- the easiest to implement
- the most underestimated
And it all comes down to intuitive design. To sticking to common elements when creating your user interface.
Again, the hamburger menu makes the best example: once spotted, the user knows what it is and how to open it.
Restrain yourself from showing off your creativity as a web designer. From being "discouragingly" innovative. Form should follow function, remember?
Instead of impressing your users, you should help them get things done quickly and easily.
That's what delivering a good user experience is all about, after all.
6. Put the User in Control of the UI
Instilling a sense of control in the user is one of the most powerful UI design principles.
In this respect, here are some specific measures that you can implement:
6.1. Provide enough context
Ensure that the user knows, at each stage of his journey on your website, where he is, where he's been, and where he could go next.
Tip: place visual cues to help the user develop a sense of mastery and control.
6.2. Be transparent about the system status
Another one of those golden rules of good UI design:
Let the user know, at all times, what's the status of the process that he's initiated.
For instance, he/she might have started an action that requires some time for the computer to carry out.
In this case, make sure you provide feedback, at regular intervals, about the system status, about what's going on.
6.3. Make actions reversible
In other words, allow users to:
- undo their last actions
- restart whatever processes that they've engaged in
6.4. Design your UI with all user skill levels in mind
And this is one of the most obvious characteristics of a good UI design.
It's an easy to use interface for both casual and expert-level users.
6.5. Provide feedback on every user action
It's more than a good UI best practice: it's a matter of... good manners to provide at least some sort of feedback at each point of action.
Therefore, make sure your system delivers a meaningful reaction each time a user:
- clicks on a menu
- hits a button
- clicks on a text message tab
Let the user know, using specific UI elements — animations, progress bars, pop-up windows, color change — whether he's successfully carried out the action or not.
7. Minimize Cognitive Load: Recognition over Recall
“Task-relevant information only” should be one of your key rules of good UI design.
And sticking to a limited number of elements within the display aligns with the very limits that the human attention, itself, imposes.
In this respect, it's human nature that your users prefer to recognize information across a sequence of screens rather than to strive and recall it from their memory.
For instance, our cognitive load is always lighter when we're challenged to answer multiple-choice questions compared to having to tackle short answer questions.
8. Stick to One Primary Action per Screen
And here, we go back to the “visual declutter” principle again:
Make sure that each screen supports just one single main action.
Squeezing too much information on the same screen and requesting the user to carry out more than one primary action will just:
- confuse him/her
- distract him
- lead to attention overload
9. Use Typography to Create Visual Hierarchy
Most likely one of the easiest to follow rules of good UI design.
Strategically use different font sizes and display text to enhance:
10. Stick to a Small Number of Gestures
Gesturing, swiping, tapping, pressing... no need to “squeeze” all these user actions into your app. Keep them to a minimum.
Tip: Facebook and WhatsApp make some good UI design examples; their interfaces require a limited number of user gestures.
Pro tip: make sure it's crystal clear to your users what gestures they need to perform in order to carry out certain actions on your interface.
Now, I'm really curious to hear/read your thoughts:
How does your own list of must-follow rules of good UI design look like? Have I overlooked any key best practices?
Let me know in the comments below.