Tech N Toast®

What is User Interface (UI) Design?

We interact with various applications and appliances every day. For example, a washing machine to wash and dry our clothes, a television set to watch favorite programs, a software program to accomplish the required tasks etc.

This list is very long, where we can include lots of things. For example, a control panel, or a huge refrigerator with lots of digital buttons on it. 

When we want to use a machine, the most important thing is its front or the part that is visible, which informs or indicates us how to use it. 

For example, the power button is used to turn on and off devices, volume button on a remote control is used to turn the volume up and down, volume bar also appears on the screen to inform us if it is 60 or 70 or some other number, different types of lights (red, green, blue etc.) on a refrigerator, and buttons on a washing machine talk about various activities.

Lots of buttons, indicators, lights etc. if not available, how will we use all these equipment and devices? Time, money, research, and studies are required to design the front part of a usable item, which could be a software program, or a gadget. Please ensure that an end user is clearly able to understand how to use the item.

Please don't consider only electronic items while talking about user interface (UI) design because a vehicle also requires a great user interface. We need to make sure a driver understands how to use various handles, and buttons. 

For the success of our business, it is very important that end users are quite comfortable with our goods and services. I am specifically talking about the front end of an application, software, mobile, watch, washing machine, television etc. 

Nowadays smart mobile phones are very famous. The sale of smartphones has drastically increased in the past 10 years. More and more companies are entering this segment, and giving a stiff competition to old companies. But, it is interesting to note that no company dares to change old elements. 

For example, a long time ago we used Nokia basic phones to send and receive text messages, and for some other basic functions. When Samsung launched their touchscreen smartphones, they continued with the most common functions. For example, send and receive text messages in Massages. There were definitely some advanced functions, but customers easily got to know how to send and receive messages in the latest smartphones.

Samsung is a huge brand, they could discover different elements to replace the old basic functions. But, they knew that end users were comfortable with them. It would be risky for the company. Above all, every company continued with the same basic functions. 

We can make some small changes to an interface, but cannot completely eliminate the old patterns. If we want to do so, apply it slowly, and track user behavior towards our product. If the end user can accept the changes, we can continue with that. The reason we are discussing this point here that it is necessarily not true that all old user interface (UI) designs are good. 

It is quite possible that one old element is not good, people face problems while using that button or form. But, after some time become habitual, and don't want to change it. We need to understand all customer issues, and always try to create the best user interface (UI) design.

User Interface Elements - buttons, boxes, forms, search bar, text fields, notifications, breadcrumb, icons, dropdown, tags, progress bar, tooltips, pagination etc.

Let's learn how to design the best User Interface:

1. Kiss Formula - Keep it simple and short. The more complex the design is, the more frustrating it could be for consumers. If the user interface design of our product requires some special skills, only a few people can use it, and difficult to increase its sale. Even the users who could easily understand the complex design, will stay away from it after reading the reviews and comments made by the majority of people. 

Therefore, it is advisable to use the design, which is simple, not complex, and easy to use. Also avoid those elements, which are not required. If we add unnecessary things, the user interface design becomes cumbersome. 

2. Majority Wins - We should concentrate on majority of the people. What they want, the way customers understand things better, common habits etc. I know that all goods are not made for everybody. 

For examples, commercial planes are for specific people who are from that field. But, when we talk about user interface design where so much money, hard work, research, and other important aspects are involved, it is mostly for the masses. We should not forget that great products are designed to gain the maximum profits. 

3. Common Elements - Consumers want to use those items, they feel more comfortable with. Use only the elements, which are quite common. People have been seeing, listening, reading, using the same labels, texts, forms, dropdowns etc. for many years. 

Items have been replaced. New products are launched, but users are still habitual to old elements. If we try to change them, then ready to bear the consequences.

Let's understand this using a common example. Traffic signal rules are almost same for many years. When to cross the road, zebra crossing, vehicles have to stop at the red light, and other important rules. These rules are not recently made. Countries and people have been following these rules for many years. All of a sudden if we change these rules. We want to use something else in place of zebra crossing, or cars have to stop at the green light. Such changes will not be acceptable to people.

Same logic we have to apply while designing a user interface for our product. Especially, those items which have to be sold in international markets. It does not matter whether a user is from the UK, USA, or India, he or she should be comfortable while using them.

4. Color and Texture - Products are used in broad daylight, at night, and in the evening. Different lights impact the color in our product. In bright light, it may appear too bright or in dim light, it may appear dull. Both conditions are not pleasant for the eyes of the end users. 

By using unpleasant colors and textures, we will be forcing our customers to use items in the most suitable light conditions. Users will not like it. They may abandon such goods. That's why test the product in all types of light conditions, how it looks in too bright or dim light, if it is usable or not in different types of lighting. If possible, provide artificial light to use the item in a dark room.

5. Keep Users Informed - If an application, a website, or a led screen stops responding. But, a user is not aware because there is no notification, no error, no text on the screen. The user is continuously trying to hit everything to start the device, which just brings frustration to our customer. 

He or she does not like such machines where they don't see a clear message, what's happening, why the device is not responding etc. It is important to keep our customers informed about all types of errors, and also mention how to rectify errors, next steps, and the required actions.

6. Important Elements - There are many elements, but some of them are not very important. In user interface, clearly mention the important elements, which could be a form, drop-down, or something else. 

Focus should be on the most important things. Whenever a user starts using our product, he or she should see only those elements first that we want them to see. User interface design should be able to fulfill the needs of our internal business purposes. 

If we put all elements on the front end, a user may become confused, which is not good for our business. It should be like a straight path, where a user can clearly see the items that should be touched or pressed first.

7. Easy Interaction - If people want to zoom in on a page, or they want to see small text. User interface design has to be scalable and readable. Please take care of the fonts, typography, various sizes, text, letters etc. 

There has to be an easy interaction between users and our product. If a user is reading something, he or she should be able understand the meaning just by scanning the interface. No need to put pressure on mind and eyes to understand the product. 

Let's discuss two types of User Interfaces:

1. Graphical User Interface (GUI) - On a computer or mobile screen, there are various icons, buttons, and indicators. If we want to start a browser, call someone, message friends, or some other tasks are done using the GUI of our machine. 

A user interface includes graphical elements like icons, buttons, and menus, which are used to interact with our machines. For example, Microsoft Windows, Android, operating system for smartphones, and other modern operating systems.

If we open one document on a computer screen, the user interface allows us to see, read, and edit the information.

2. Voice User Interface (VUI) - We use our voice to interact with a device. For example, Amazon Alexa. "Hey Alexa, I want to read an article".

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