Whenever we think of design, we usually think of something complex. Subconsciously, the more complex the design is, the better it is. However, this is not always the case – at least, this is not the case for UI design.
When we think of UI design, we can be tempted to think that you can play around it since it is mainly a visual-based field. However, while there’s nothing necessarily wrong with experimentation or even free expression for that matter, it will not always work in UI design. In UI design, you need to follow certain principles and practices to make your project successful. Why? Because at the end of the day, your work is judged based on results, not how you experimented or expressed yourself.
Of course, if you are working for your own project or purely for art’s sake, feel free to experiment and express as you wish – sometimes, you can get results, sometimes you won’t. But if you are purely aiming for results, you need to follow these fundamental principles and practices to make the best out of your UI design.
So, let’s not further prolong this. These are the 6 fundamental principles and practices of UI design that you should know (and follow, of course!)
1) Keep it simple
This is something you probably have read over and over again, but you have to remember it once more: keep it simple!
We have mentioned a while ago that complexity, which is often thought to be prized in design, is not necessarily good – there are many cases where you need to apply simplicity in your design.
While UI mainly works in visual aesthetics, the complexity of the visuals can sometimes hurt the usability of your website, leading to higher bounce rates and poor interaction between your users and your website.
Do you know the feeling when a certain website we usually use – social media, blog, etc. – suddenly updated their design and we don’t know what to do? What does it feel? It feels like you’re logging on the website, right? Suddenly, you don’t know where the message button is. “Oh, here it is, they changed the logo!” Or the login suddenly went from left to right.
Now, these changes can be adopted after using it a couple of times, but some websites have complicated UI that whenever you open the website, you don’t know where whichever you’re looking for is!
Keep your design simple (unless, perhaps, it’s part of the website’s branding). Complexity can make your website actually less sassy and cool (contrary to what you’re expecting).
2) Be consistent
Being consistent is actually part of keeping your UI design simple. By being consistent to your interface, it will not be hard for users to process your interface altogether.
This explains why the WiFi button is usually the same logo. This explains why the “Log in” or “Sign up” button is usually highlighted compared to “Cancel” button. This explains why many tool interfaces have the same icon, although they may vary depending on the software used.
Once you stop being consistent with the pre-existing interfaces, you risk confusing your users which can lead to poor interactive results.
3) Apply texture and color strategically
Above, we have mentioned about “Log in”, “Sign up” and “Cancel” buttons. We’ve talked about why the first two are often highlighted compared to the last one.
But really, why not just use the color of your own preference? Why need to highlight one button over the other?
It’s pretty simple: when you highlight buttons, you make an emphasis to that button, helping your readers to see which to click and what to do. In a way, we can consider this a visual form of “call-to-action”, a sales and advertising term referring to a certain phrase that “tells” the viewers what to do, hence “call to action”.
This does not just apply to buttons; it applies to how you overall apply color and texture to your website. Ask yourself on what do you want to emphasize, then apply your color and texture design around it.
4) Use typography for emphasis
Typographies are not just for stylized words, they are there to place emphasis on your design. No wonder, header words are big compared to most of the words in your website.
But if you are designing within a certain typography (such as header or logo), keep in mind which words you want to emphasize and how you want them emphasized.
5) Know why you are creating your page layout
Page layout is very important because different page layout applies to different uses. For instance, this explains why a news website’s layout is different from a blog.
When you are creating your page layout, think first of the website’s purpose before proceeding any further. You should also ask about what the website’s aim is. For instance, does it aim to have many blog posts on its homepage or does it plan to use a landing page as its homepage?
Whatever the purpose is, align your page layout design to it.
6) Reassess your work and see if it can be simplified
Finally, after you’ve made your initial design, look and reassess your work and see if it can be further simplified. Again, simplicity is key in UI design. You don’t want to confuse your users, so make sure that your design interface is as simple and clear as possible!