Diaries of Senior UI/UX Designer Desarae Veit who loves to read, write, travel, and so much more. Hobbies include aviation, yoga, scuba diving, barre, and art or craft projects. Blog includes Book Reviews and Gadget Reviews.
"Always code as if the maintainer will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live." EDIT THIS POST BEFORE PUBLISHING
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE USER
The user is the ultimate arbiter of success for any interface. If users can accomplish their tasks in a simple, efficient, intuitive way, then we’re doing our job right. Therefore, we must keep the user in mind at every stage of interface design.
One common mistake that you can make up front is to assume YOU are the user. Because working on a computer is a solitary activity, it’s easy to forget that everyone experiences an interface in a different way. Depending on what you’re designing, the user may be a complete novice or a seasoned sysadmin.
It’s important to imagine what your users are like. If it helps, give the user a name, age, and occupation. Ask yourself these questions:
In what context will they use this feature? At work? At home? On a TV from 10 feet away?
Have they used a similar interface before?
How savvy are they with computers in general? Do they know how to copy and paste, drag and drop, or open a context menu?
When designing a feature for the interface, walk the user through the feature. Make a rough sketch of the main components (buttons, lists, text blocks) on a whiteboard or sheet of paper. Then simulate how your user might interact with the feature, by drawing in their input and selections.
While sketching your proposed interface, put yourself in the user’s shoes. Ask yourself these questions:
What will they be doing when they want to start doing X?
How do they discover the feature?
What will they want to do after?
How frequently will the user do X?
What if X fails to complete properly?
and so on. Once you’ve asked yourself those questions, consider how the answers should impact your design and modify it accordingly.
The user is paramount. Each of your decisions should be justified by its impact on the user.
BE CREATIVE, BUT DON’T RE-INVENT THE WHEEL
I’ve seen many candidates jump through incredibly awkward (albeit fancy) hoops just to display some very simple data. If you have a list of data, display it as a list. In general, being familiar with UI conventions is helpful because they encode a lot of hard-earned wisdom.
If you’ve created an interface that will enable the user to do their task as quickly and painlessly as possible, then stop. Don’t weigh down the interface with unnecessary features. As Deiter Rams famously said, “Good design is as little as possible.” This holds true for user interface design just as well as product design. Consider Alan Cooper’s rule of thumb, “A user will take as much time to make a choice as there are choices.” If a user is inundated with options and features, they find the interface more difficult to use. A simple, direct approach is frequently the best one.
If you want a quick and easy measure of the simplicity of a feature, just count the number of clicks to complete the task using your interface. If the user has to switch from mouse to keyboard, count that twice.