What is UI design, exactly?

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UI design stands for user interface design. UI design is basically designing a user-friendly interface that’s easy to use, clean, and in working condition. UI focuses on the user’s interaction with the website to make it an enjoyable experience. Pretty much everything we use that is computer-driven has a user interface of some sort: your desktop/laptop computer, your phone, and a website are some of the most common examples. The user interface of any technology makes it unique.

Oftentimes, a UI designer is the web designer who has the most difficulty perfecting their work because getting the perfect UI is not easy. You have to accommodate as many users as possible, which is why it’s good to target a specific demographic. For example, the younger generation visiting Instagram doesn’t really care for the text as much as they do the pictures. The user interface should easily navigate them to the pictures they’re looking for with the shortest and cleanest way possible. Writing a text box for them to read in order to figure out how to find the pictures they want to see is going to frustrate and irritate many of their users. This is the same for all websites, no matter the field.

What are the basic UI elements?

Some of your users may have never been to your website before, which is why it also needs to be easy to learn. A brand new user that lands on your website with at least one goal in mind is going to want to navigate your site like they’ve been going there for years. This is easy to do if you use a good user interface. To make your website work, you need a few basic UI elements:

  • User Input Options

  • Navigation Options

  • Help Options

Your user input options include the elements of your site the user inputs. Anything they click and interact with is considered the user input. These elements can include buttons, drag and drops, dropdowns, and other interactive elements. These options are specifically meant to guide your user to the next relevant area of your website. Assuming your user input was appropriately labeled, they should get to the place they wanted, but maybe they changed their mind or went to the wrong place. If this is the case, they want to get back to where they were, or maybe they want to go somewhere else entirely. Now your navigation options come into play.

Navigation options are any elements that can guide your user from where they are to anywhere they may want to go. Many times, sites use search bars as their primary navigation options; however, breadcrumb navigation and sidebars can also be useful in guiding your users. Last but not least, your user may be completely lost and just doesn’t understand something. In this case, you have help options such as little messages along the way that let them know what they’re looking at/doing, or just a little help button that can help them out with whatever it is your site is designed to do.

Examples of UI design

For a better understanding of UI design and what makes one website design greater than another, take a look at some of these amazing web designs with some pretty impressive user interfaces. Some of them should be familiar…

  1. Google Play Store

Google’s Play Store has thousands of apps and free/paid downloadable software that is used across numerous devices. Organizing a large quantity of apps like this should be a difficult challenge, but Google made it so easy to use that there’s no problem finding anything you need in just 1-2 clicks. Their design is simple, easy-to-use, and plain attractive. The screen is so clean, partially due to the navigation menu in the top left-hand corner. The nav bar doesn’t go across the top, instead they made use of a lack of sidebars and used that space to cleanly organize their categories.

  1. Tribal Media

Tribal Media uses their splash page to truly grab your attention with that beautiful cityscape photo; however, once you move on to look for information you’ll find that their website is extremely well organized and simple. The true UI design aspect of their site comes in as you scroll down and is used throughout the rest of their site. Here’s the “Who we’ve helped” section:

Their entire website follows this simple pattern: a brief description with large fonts to tell you what’s on the page, followed by the above layout. This site is arguably one of the easiest sites to navigate and search through, all through an attractive and simple layout.

  1. Mozilla

Mozilla, the company that made the Firefox Web browser, has a very inspiring design. They keep everything you need to know about their products, company, etc. all on their home page. They take into consideration the user’s reason for landing on the page and placed the Firefox download link straight on the home page clear as day for easy access. Knowing what your users want before they get there (or at least guessing at it) is difficult for some companies, but necessary for all. Once you grasp this concept, you can make your website design much more user-friendly.

  1. Towfiqi

Oftentimes designers forget that less is more. The designer of Towfiqi’s website definitely did not forget this vital fact! The design of this website is much simpler than all of the others you’ve seen thus far. The UX they were going for starts with a simple design, but upon further inspection it’s all there to guide you to their templates page, which is more than likely why you would go to a WordPress Themes website…right? They combined subtle dark colors with a nice interface and an awesome experience.

  1. Apple

The computer giant Apple never disappoints with their UI. Their interface on their devices is one of the reasons people always move towards the iPhones, iPads, and Mac laptops. You may have noticed their home page doesn’t require any scrolling. That’s the whole thing. They fit everything you could possibly want/need to know easy to find from this one screen. Information on various devices, purchasing options, support, and any apps you may want are all easily accessible from here. Making easy-to-find links is the key to making the user’s experience a better one, and Apple certainly knows this!

UI Design is a Necessity!

UI design is absolutely necessary for all websites. If your designer does not consider the user interface in their design process, then you are going to have a very difficult to use site. UI design is what makes some of the major players on the Web who they are. Their websites are naturally easy to use, making for a more pleasurable browsing experience. If your designer grasps the concept, then you just have to make sure your website doesn’t come out cluttered as well! Make sure you choose a designer that can get everything from UI into a website with their custom designs without making it look cluttered and difficult to use. If you can get this down pat, then you’re in for an awesome design!

Author Bio: Ryan Gavin is an associate of Ignition72, a Maryland web design agency. He loves finding new websites with inspiring web designs and designers with creative minds.

Catalin is the founder of Mostash - a social marketing boutique - and he's always happy to share his passion for graphic design & social media.