5 Fundamental Principles for Designing A User Interface 

By  Maham Qasim

March 04, 2022 7:49 am EST

This article attempts to provide a concise, comprehensive list of UI design principles that designers can reference. It’s not meant to be exhaustive; rather, it should provoke some discussion and debate.

The next time you’re in the middle of designing something new, perhaps you’ll find one or more of these guidelines useful to keep your project on track or think about how you might integrate them into your existing process.

However good a product may appear to be, only its user interface is the arbiter between success and failure…

5 Fundamental Principles for Designing A User Interface:

User interface (UI) design is not an exact science.

Much like art, there are no right or wrong answers to design. However, after working on so many different projects in the past 20 years, I have found that certain principles can make a user interface more efficient for your users.

The following list outlines what I feel are 5 fundamental principles for good UI Design (well, at least my definition of ‘good’). Whether you come up with these principles yourself or not is beside the point; hopefully, they will help you create user interfaces.

User Interface Principles:

  1. Reduce Cognitive Load

Never allow your users to remember anything. This includes information (i.e., What is my password?) and actions.e., How do I remove an item from this list?

– Provide labels, prompts, and/or examples for all user input. If the user doesn’t understand the label or prompt they are given, they will have to stop doing to figure it out. This is especially important when you ask them to perform a task that they have not done before.

– Whenever possible, provide text hints as soon as the user starts typing. It might seem strange now, but people often forget what they were typing only moments ago.

  1. Reduce Decision Fatigue

When designing any screen (especially ones with lists of items), always assume that users do not know how to prioritize their decisions (i.e., order by date created vs date modified vs alphabetically vs, etc…). 

– The best way to reduce decision fatigue is to give clear labeling and grouping. Labeling tells users how the items on the page are organized, and grouping ensures that items with similar properties (i.e., date modified, file type) appear together logically.

  1. Reduce Memory Load

– Whenever you ask the user to perform a task, assume that they have never done it before and do not remember anything about how your system operates. Reducing the number of times, you require the user to remember something is a key concept for any UI designer.

– Reduce memory load by using descriptive and consistent labels and names for all user interface elements. Don’t make your users wonder if the label text refers to their company or some value (i.e., don’t use abbreviations).

  1. Reduce Relearning

A user’s goal should remain consistent across any given journey through your software (whether this journey occurs within a single session or across multiple sessions). 

– If your design changes when moving from one part of an application to another, you will force users to re-learn how your software works.

  1. Reduce Training

The more effortless users accomplish their task within the first 5 minutes of using your software, the less training they will need.

– If you design your application so that the user can become proficient without any guidance, they will be able to use it successfully with minimal support from you down the road.

Conclusion:

User interface (UI) design is not an exact science, and neither are these principles. Many other important factors create a great user experience but following these simple rules can help ensure that your software is as intuitive as possible.


Maham Qasim

Maham is a copywriter and content creator who's always been drawn to the idea that there's more than one way of getting things done. Her writing career can be thought of as just another side hustle for her; when she isn't crafting content or reading Oscar Wilde, Maham often strategizes about how best to reach out with an engaging voice in this ever changing marketplace!

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