Written by Flexy.Global

What is User Interface Design?

Interface Design
Flexy Tips

A user interface design (UI) is the peanut butter in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich because it affects the taste of the whole thing. You can instantly notice when it’s not there or if it’s past its shelf life (i.e. outdated design), but when it's used correctly you don’t even focus on it.

What your interface design should achieve is invisibility. Your users should not think about the design because everything looks good, is easy to find, very responsive, and convenient. User interface design is mainly concerned with creating an enjoyable digital experience.

In this article

A brief history of Interface design

It is much older than you might think. Interface design goes back to ancient times when humans used symbols for communication, some of those symbols barely changed and are still used in digital interfaces!

During the Industrial Revolution, typewriters made the use of symbols even more convenient and accessible, leading to the concept of hardware as an interface. Objects and tools started catering to people’s needs and convenience, which created the basis of modern interface design.

The first software made mimicked the physical tools we used to make it easier for people to switch to these new mediums. Later on, this turned into skeuomorphism, made popular by Apple, where digital interface elements resembled physical objects (e.g. a folder).

In 2013, the world shifted to a minimalistic and spacious interface design, influenced by iOS7. Touch screens made interface interactions more engaging, with pinching and tapping gestures. Today, we don’t even need to use our hands sometimes and just talk to intelligent voice assistants.

What is User Interface design today?

User interface design is the process of creating interfaces in software or computerized devices, focusing on looks or style.

Don Norman, a cognitive scientist and User Experience Architect at Apple in the 90s, was the father of both user interface and User Experience design.

“It’s not enough that we build products that function, that are understandable and usable, we also need to build products that bring joy and excitement, pleasure and fun, and yes, beauty to people’s lives.”

The main purpose of user interface design is to make the user's interaction as simple and efficient as possible—what is often called user-centered design.

User interface design is important because it can make or break your customer base. A well-designed interface can prevent users from getting confused, overwhelmed, and making mistakes. This means that the design should help and guide the user through the digital product.

The 7 types of User Interface design

User interface (UI) design can be categorized into several types, each with its unique characteristics and use cases.

  1. Human-Machine Interfaces (HMI) are screens or panels that help users control a system or device. These are usually used in factories or industrial spaces. For example, a tablet that controls the air conditioning.
  2. Graphical User Interface design (GUI) is the most common type of UI, where users interact with digital products through graphic icons and visual indicators. It is often used in mobile and web apps for user-friendly navigation.
  3. Voice Interface design (VUI) allows users to interact with a system by giving voice commands. This type of interface is increasingly popular in smart devices, voice assistants (like Amazon's Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple's Siri), and certain mobile apps.
  4. Menu-Driven Interface design can be found in ATMs, kiosks, and older software applications. This type of interface presents a list of options or commands in a menu format. Users select options from menus to perform tasks. It is straightforward to use, especially for simple applications.
  5. Touch Interface Design (TUI) is used in smartphones, tablets, and touch-enabled laptops or monitors, where users directly interact with the design through touch gestures like swiping, tapping, and pinching.
  6. Gesture-Based Interface design uses body movements, typically through sensors or specialized cameras, which are found in gaming systems (like Microsoft's Kinect) and certain advanced systems in virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR). It offers a more immersive and interactive experience than the TUI.
  7. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) Interface design create immersive experiences where users interact with 3D environments. Used in gaming, training simulations, and certain specialized applications, they rely on specialized equipment like VR headsets or AR glasses.

Top tips for great User Interface design

Great UI design is like a cloak of invisibility, you don't notice it's there. It lets you use a website or app easily, helping you find what you need without any trouble. Here are some easy tips from big names like Apple and Google for making a great UI:

  • The advised target size (size of an interactive element like a button) is 44 by 44 CSS pixels according to WCAG 2.5.5, Target Size (Enhanced) (Level AAA) guidelines.
  • Make sure that the interface design meets accessibility standards.
  • Based on Fitt’s Law, the bigger and closer the CTA, the easier it will be for users to interact with.
  • The interface design should respond to hovers and interactions so that the UX is more predictable in use.
  • Since users might engage with your interface design from desktop or mobile devices, leave some space between interactive buttons and adjust their size so that the UX is comfortable using a cursor as well as a finger.
  • Continuously test your interface design to identify areas for improvement.
  • Optimize content to adapt to the screen size and orientation of the device. Users shouldn't have to zoom in or scroll sideways to see the entire content of a page.
  • Make sure there's a strong color contrast between the background and content like text for better readability.

What are the benefits of a good User Interface design?

There is a link between the quality of user interface design and the user experience. Research done by Forrester found that investing in UX can yield an incredible 9900% return on investment (ROI)! But this is just one of many benefits of hiring a specialized agency and perfecting your interface design:

  • Improved user engagement
  • Increased conversion rates
  • Reduced bounce rates
  • Enhanced customer satisfaction and loyalty
  • Lower support costs
  • And a stronger brand image

In summary, you should aim to have an interface design that offers the most straightforward, comfortable, and enjoyable experience.

Each interface design type has its unique applications suited to user needs. The choice of UI depends on your target audience, the services, and the environment in which the interface will be used.

At Flexy, our design and development experts are trusted by founders worldwide to create stunning interfaces. Explore our portfolio and let's discuss how we can help you achieve your business goals!

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