UI Design 101: What is UI and why is it important?

UI Design 101: What is UI and why is it important?

What makes great UI design? This is a question that countless designers, founders, and project managers have battled with during the design and iteration process. Yet, despite ongoing technical advancement within the field of digital design, as well as the advent of full spectrum design tools such as Figma or rapid prototyping tools like Uizard, one thing has remained as constant and consistent as ever... user needs.

“Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design… because good designs fit our needs so well that the design is invisible” Donald A. Norman, The Design of Everyday Things, Preface

Donald Norman’s quote (above) may have originally referred to design in a more holistic sense, but the logic remains sound, even in the context of user interface design. Great UI should encourage effortless usability for customers, it should aid ease of access without introducing extra layers of friction and, perhaps most importantly, it should be imperceptible in its efficiency.

So, what exactly is UI? And what is user interface design? We cover all in our guide to UI design and provide you with a few great tips for mastering your own web, app, or product UI along the way.

Photo by Harpal Singh via Unsplash

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What is UI?

UI design: An overview

Why is UI design so important?

How to design UI that really sparkles

What is UI?

Let’s start with the basics before we dive into the detail, what exactly is UI? UI stands for user interface and refers to the interaction between humans and software. Whereas UX (user experience) refers to all aspects of the end-user's experience with a brand, product, or service, UI refers specifically to the ‘how’ of user/software interaction.

Essentially, UI is the point of human-computer interaction and can be thought of as the more tangible side of how a user engages with an application, website, or digital product.

UI design: An Overview

If UI is the “how” of user/product interaction, then UI design is the “why”. It is the process by which impactful UI is ideated and built. It is why certain design elements are the way they are, and why certain UI best practices are paramount if your product is going to be successful in its goals.

UI design elements can be split into four broad categories (namely input, informational, navigational, and container elements) although, practically speaking, you’ll find many instances where components overlap and tick more than one of these boxes. For example, almost all UI elements have some aesthetic appeal to them to allow for more synergy and consistency from a branding standpoint.

Here are some examples from each of the four categories (plus a bonus category):

  • Input: Text boxes, dropdown lists, sign up and log in fields
  • Informational: Info boxes, content blocks, interactivity tips, icons, modal windows, notification popups
  • Navigational: Main navigation bar (or hamburger nav for mobile devices), breadcrumbs, search boxes, pagination
  • Container elements: Accordion boxes, grids, menus, data tables (anything that needs to react responsively dependent on user device)
  • (Bonus) Aesthetic: Heat spots, brand elements, the overall use of a minimalist approach to reduce clutter and friction

Why is UI design so important?

A recent study by AppDynamics showed that nearly 90 percent of users surveyed stopped using an app due to poor performance – make no mistake about it, if you compromise on UI, it won’t just be your users that pay the price, your product will suffer in the long run.

Whereas great UI design is a silent partner in your user’s experience, effortlessly shuffling them along from site or app entry to conversion, bad UI can be the ultimate killer, turning your customers or users off before they’ve even had a chance to familiarize themselves with you or your product.

UI design may have, at one point, been more of a later-stage design consideration, but the emergence of online wireframing tools such as Uizard has allowed for UI design to be factored into design flows right from the offset. Realistically, the sooner you think about UI, the quicker and more successful your iteration process is going to be. Uizard comes packed with several predefined UI components that you can use straight out of the box to help you do just that.

ui component templates
Uizard UI component templates in action

How to design UI that really sparkles

If you're looking to get started on UI design for your own project (you might be about to begin the UI prototyping process and want to make sure that UI considerations are baked in from the get-go for example) here are some top tips to help you design UI that really sparkles…

  1. Keep your UI design simple
  2. Stick to tried and tested UI design patterns
  3. Promote easy navigation
  4. Centralize your product or service
  5. Actively seek feedback

Keep your user interface simple

Rule number 1; keep your UI design simple - you might even call this the golden rule of UI. Think of it this way, the more quirks and intricacies you add, the more confused your user journeys will become and the harder time your end-users are going to have when they get their hands on your product.

Stick to tried and tested design patterns

Need guidance on how to keep your design simple yet functional? Stick to the tried and trusted design patterns. Using established design software patterns is a great way to avoid any unique issues that a completely bespoke UI design may encounter (you can find out more about UI design patterns here).

Promote easy navigation

One sure-fire way to put your users off is convoluted navigational elements, and this doesn't just include unclear site structure or hierarchy, it can also include multiple click journeys - there is nothing worse than a 20-click headache from homepage to checkout.

Centralize your product or service

This might sound simple, but please make sure you focus your core landing pages around your product or service. If a user has downloaded your app or clicked on your website listing to seek out something in particular then make sure they can find it.

Be open to feedback

You've designed your UI, built a prototype, and pushed your product to market, your UI design journey ends there, right? WRONG! Think of UI as an ever-evolving beast. Even with the most meticulous of approaches to UI, you are sure to have missed something that only a user will be able to find with regular interaction. Be sure to give them the means to feed this back to you so you can act on it!

UI design doesn't need to be difficult, but we're here to tell you that you should be thinking about your UI design and your users during every step of the design and iteration process. If you're looking for a head start with your product, website, or app though, Uizard UI design templates come with heaps of UI components and features pre-made, helping to get you ahead of the game when it comes to perfecting user interfaces. Explore our templates now and happy designing!

Ready to start designing? You can have your own workable prototype built in minutes with Uizard and have time to spare to check out some more of the awesome content on the Uizard blog. Sign up to Uizard for free now and let your magical UI design journey begin today.