Use These Design Principles
Software development is a complex process, and it’s hard to say which aspect is most important. Most people agree, though, that the user interface (UI) deserves special attention.
The user interface is the first thing users see when they open your app or software. It sets the tone of the entire user experience (UX), and things can quickly go downhill if your UI is lackluster or difficult to use.
The UI and UX can make or break any software or mobile app. That’s why, as a startup founder, you should know how to create a great one. Here are some design principles and best practices you can use to create a better user interface and a better overall user experience.
Make It Visually Appealing
Looks matter. Despite our best intentions, humans naturally make decisions based on emotions—even if we don’t want to. That’s why your UI needs to be visually appealing—because it makes people feel good.
Many software designers struggle with finding the balance between functionality and aesthetics. The truth is that you need both. In fact, if your software isn’t “pretty,” your users may also think it doesn’t work well, no matter how user-friendly it is. The reverse is also true: If your software is “pretty,” users are more likely to overlook simple errors or minor issues with functionality. This is the aesthetic-usability effect. The rest of this guide will cover specific ways to make sure your software finds the balance between the two.
Use Consistent Colors and Fonts
People love consistency. If you use too many fonts and colors at once, it looks like chaos. The human brain simply can’t comprehend more than a few things simultaneously. When you’re designing your UI, try to stick with a consistent color scheme and typography.
While there’s no limit on how many colors and fonts you can use, cohesiveness is key. Whether you use two fonts or ten, they should look like one consistent design—all the way through the application. The same is true for colors. You may use as many colors as you like, but they need to look like they belong together and you put some thought into it. You can hire a professional or purchase commercial fonts that make this process much easier.
Make It Easy to Navigate
Navigation is another pain point for most users. Customers are quickly frustrated when they can’t find what they need. Whether you’re designing a mobile app or desktop software, make sure it’s easy to navigate. Put yourself in the user’s shoes. They know nothing about the product. What are they looking for first? Put those things front and center. Then make sure everything else is just a click or two away. Include instructions, directives, and signifiers so people know exactly what to do with each element. If it’s a video, add a “play” signifier. If it’s a link, make sure it looks clickable.
Use Big, Chunky Buttons
That brings us to the next point: big, chunky buttons. Yes, they need to stand out. You may know it’s a button, but your users don’t. Don’t imagine a tech-savvy customer using your product. While you may have some tech-savvy customers, the majority of your clients are likely Average Joes who just want to find the thing they need to click. Some of your users may have visual impairments and other accessibility issues.
Make it big. Make it chunky. Make it obvious.
Make Your Form Fields Huge!
The same thought applies to form fields. Sometimes form fields are simply not big enough, and that makes an application less functional. The ideal form fields are large enough to click easily and contain all the text in one screen. Yes, your form fields may take up most of your screen space, but that’s normal. You want absolutely every customer to use your software with no problems. Big form fields are the best way to do that.
Keep Everything Aligned on the Left or Right
Proper alignment does a lot for your UI. First, it makes things look better. Your information seems less scattered and more cohesive. It also makes it easier to find what you need, though. A user can quickly scan text and elements when they’re aligned left or right. If they’re scattered all over the page, it’s harder to sort through things. It just looks like a jumbled mess, which is off-putting to your customers.
Add Some White Space for Breathing Room
Finally, make sure you make use of the best element of all: white space. White space is the empty areas around your other elements—and sometimes within the elements themselves. When used well, white space is visually appealing and somewhat soothing to the human eye. It gives the brain a break from information and helps users separate elements easily in their minds. When you add white space, you’re better organizing your UI so customers can see everything more clearly. You can even use white space to guide a user from one item to the next, providing better instruction. You can separate your design elements and highlight action items. White space is one of the most important aspects of UI design. Master white space, and you’re already ahead of the game.
You work hard on your code, but customers never see that. The user interface is the only chance you get to “wow” your users and turn them into dedicated customers. By focusing on both functionality and aesthetics, you can turn an average user experience into an exceptional one.