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Good vs bad UI/UX: a designer’s perspective

July 4, 2019

What makes a website or application stand out? This is not an easy question to answer when you consider that it is often only when we come across poorly designed UI and UX that we even pay any attention to it.

The basic principles of UI/UX

Despite their professional relationship, UI, which refers to User Interface, and UX, which stands for User Experience, have quite different roles and refer to distinct parts of the design process and discipline.

Quite literally the face of a website, app or software, in information technology, the user interface is everything we tend to interact with and see and encompasses the look and feel of a product. This can include display screens, keyboards, a mouse and the appearance of a desktop.

Its purpose?

To help users effectively interact and navigate a website or application.

In contrast, UX focuses on presenting the user with the right information to meet  their needs quickly and easily.

Basic principles of good UI/UX design include:

  • Ease of use
  • User control
  • Error prevention and simple error handling
  • Preserving the end goal of the website or app to meet the users’ needs

The main aim for designers is to deliver the product or service to the user in a way that feels frictionless and intuitive.

Who’s doing it right and what does good UI/UX look and feel like?

Maintaining a user-focused approach is at the heart of a good product. If the interface is intuitive and is built to understand how the user works, then the design, in principle, will likely be successful.

Every element and action should be clearly displayed to the user, giving them a sense of control and circumventing the challenge of having to wonder what the program is able to do.

The key elements of control and ease of navigation that Drooms applies include:

  • Clear navigation presenting the user with a map of where they are and what other options are available from that point onwards
  • Well-timed feedback on users’ actions to support clarity
  • Prevention of errors with double confirmation on sensitive actions e.g. for permission setting

A big part of the control aspect is the user’s ability to reverse actions and recover from errors. Google in particular have implemented such features to their Gmail interface. You can now ‘undo’ the action of moving a conversation to the trash for example.

Finally, a user-focused approach understands and accounts for the varying skill levels of its users. Software solutions like Adobe XD often do this by providing tutorials for first-time users as soon as they start using the product, something that has been a major focus of Drooms’ own digital platforms.

UI mistakes are common

The above might sound rather obvious but creating a good UI is not as simple as it sounds. This is proven by the fact that poorly designed UI can be seen all over the internet. A surprising number of organisations commit basic UI design mistakes partly because they are so easy to make. The most common among them include:

Moving away from established conventions

An experimental interface might look innovative at first, but many users could be left wondering what their real options are and how to get from A to B via the tool. Taking advantage of established usability patterns allows users to comfortably explore their options using the knowledge they’ve accumulated from interacting with other digital products.

Forgetting to explain and show

Another common mistake that often comes as a result of trying to design a ‘cool’ UI is not being clear and providing enough information on what a platform does. First time users of business tools won’t intuitively know all the actions they are capable of. Products that fail to clearly guide the user through their first steps aren’t just a headache but make the user’s learning curve all the steeper and, potentially, increase the likelihood that they will drop out of the process entirely.  

Adding too many elements or information

Less is more. A good interface is simple, even when the product is complex. Usually products make the mistake of cramming each screen with innumerable options, assuming the user will want to have all options available at once. The overload of information only results in poor navigation and interaction of the platform however, making it difficult for the user to decide what is the right next step, or if any of the available options are suitable for the task at hand.

Prioritising performance

Developers and designers can easily run the risk of focusing on how everything looks before considering how it will be developed, and when it comes to digital products, performance is king.

The key is to work closely with developers from the offset to ensure that all designs are technically feasible prior to implementation, before constantly cross-checking performance per feature to tweak areas where needed (whilst still delivering the right information on the interface) once the implementation process has started.

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