Did you know that your website is actually an interface? If not, you’re not alone. Many people view a website as a place to visit, where the pages are connected by links and provide information. However, the truth is that a website is an interface, which allows each person to interact with the site. The user interaction can either be smooth and pleasant, or difficult and challenging, which is often determined by the site’s design.
Web designers are able to determine just how a user’s experience goes. As a web designer you have the opportunity to make sure a user’s experience is the best possible. This is where you can use user interface design techniques to create a great interface.
There are some methods you can use to make it easier for users to interact with the sites you create. The key is to focus on your site users and understand what they need and want. To help you create a design that works, we’ve put together some tips to create purposeful, pleasant and easy to use interfaces.
1). Know Your Users
The most important tip is to know who your users are, what they need, and what makes a site difficult for them to finish their tasks and objectives. To understand your users, you have to study the demographic data which is gathered by an analytics app used in conjunction with the website.
This means you’ll need to carry out an in-depth review of the demographic data. It may also mean working directly with a site’s visitors. Remember these are humans you’re designing for. It can be effective to talk with site users, watch them use the site, and then ask them questions.
Questions can include asking about the issues they have interacting with the site, what they think of the design, and even what can be improved. Ask them what could be modified in the design to make it easier for them to accomplish their tasks or goals.
The aim of this exercise is to understand what the humans using the site need and want. It’s all about satisfying their needs.
2). Define How People Use Your Interface
You are responsible for defining how people interact with your website design. However, you’ll need to know who the site users are and what devices they may use to access the site.
More people are using touchscreen devices that involve interacting with a site or app in various ways. These interactions are usually done in two different ways:
- Directly: involves interacting with the interface design elements, which can include:
- Tapping a button
- Swiping a card
- Dragging elements across the screen using a finger
- Indirectly: involves interacting with UI elements, which are external to the product, which may include:
- using a mouse to point and click
- typing into a form field
- using key commands or shortcuts
- drawing on an art tablet (such as a Wacom tablet)
Does the user interface really make a difference? Yes. For example, consider designing a site or app for seniors. They may have trouble using their hands due to arthritis or other conditions, which makes it more difficult to swipe or even click a mouse.
Another example would be designing with coders in mind. They are more apt to use a keyboard, so designs with them in mind would make more use of keyboard shortcuts, to cut down time used working with a mouse.
3). Set Expectations
Another issue to keep in mind is the anxiety that can keep users from following through with an action. For instance, clicking on a button could mean making a purchase, erasing information in a form on a site, and more. If users aren’t sure what will happen when they click the button, they will not follow through. This is where you, as the designer, can help.
You can help relieve users’ anxiety by letting them know what happens if they click a button. Let them know what will happen before they take action. This can be accomplished through the design or copy on the site. Here are some examples on how that can be done.
Setting expectations through design:
- Use a colour that has deep meaning; for instance, red means “stop,” while green means “go.”
- Use a symbol that is widely understood; a commonly used element for deletion is the trash can. Another commonly used symbol is the magnifying class which indicates a search.
- Highlight a button that is connected with an action; for instance, an animated arrow (in a bright colour) that points at the button to draw attention.
Setting expectations through copy:
- Deliver warnings and ask for confirmation
- Provide directions with encouragement
- Writing clear instructions for a button
In all cases, be sure to ask if people are sure they want to follow through with an action. This is especially helpful if there are consequences such as permanently deleting something, making a purchase, and more.
4). Mistakes Will Happen
Because people are human, they will make mistakes. For this reason, you’ll need to anticipate these mistakes and provide an “out” for when they do happen. You can do this by:
Preventing mistakes before they happen: this may include:
- Leaving certain buttons inactive until all fields are filled out
- Allowing forms to detect an email address that is entered incorrectly
- Popups that ask if the user wants to abandon their shopping cart
Provide ways to fix mistakes after they happen: this may include:
- Explaining the problem
- Explaining how to fix the problem
5). Element Placement & Size are Important
There are several interface design techniques you can use to improve user interface experience. For instance, ensure that buttons, icons and links are large enough to been seen easily, as well as easily clicked. If there’s not enough space in a menu, list, and more, people may end up clicking on the wrong things over and over. Talk about frustrating!
- Buttons for common actions can be made larger and eye-catching.
- Navigation elements are usually better to place on edges or corners of the screen.
In the end, ensure that your site’s user interface is easy to learn and use. People expect sites and other types of interfaces to be easy to use and understand. They want to accomplish their task and then move on. Everything should be designed to help them easily and successfully make decisions, without making mistakes. And if they make a mistake, there should be a way to correct it or a way out of the process. This way you’ll have happy, satisfied site users who will definitely be back for more.
Liam is a website designer and digital marketer based in Leeds, West Yorkshire. He spent a decade working within the charity sector before moving into the marketing space a number of years ago. Liam always strives to do something slightly different with every project and always designs to deliver results, not just pretty websites.