Monthly Dose Of Design: User interface design basics

November 25, 2019
Emma Galvin
Creative Executive

Over four articles, we talk about the fundamentals of how you can build a digital platform for research purposes. The articles will cover four areas:

  1. Wireframing
  2. Interface design basics (UI)
  3. Copy basics
  4. Interaction

Last month, we discussed wireframing. Wireframing is how you design a platform’s structure and layout a blueprint for content and functionality while considering user needs and journey. This month, we will discuss User Interface (UI) design and how to start designing once you have created your wireframes.

what is UI design?

UI design is the ‘face’ and visual characteristics of your platform (polling app, ethnographic diary, gamified survey). It consists of visual hierarchy, layout, typography, and color.

UI design is about practice, patience, and constant learning. No one gets it right the first time. You’ll run into issues such as wrong button sizing or text sizes that might be too small to read. As you start designing and practicing, you’ll start to eliminate such problems by experience and create a platform that is user-friendly and easy-to-use. Also, best practices change often and rapidly in the digital realm. Therefore, it’s important to stay informed

how can researchers use UI design?

UI design is integral for researchers when building digital research platforms. When done successfully, it enhances the user experience and makes the platform more engaging. In turn, this yields better insights. Conversely, when UI is poor, participants can misinterpret instructions and become disengaged. This will reduce insight quality.

here are 5 5imple and effective tips to use when designing your user interface:

1. train your eye

Developing a keen eye for good visual design may sound daunting. However, by visiting Dribbble.com, Behance.com and Pinterest.com you can study how UI designers work. Watch how they layout their platforms, use white space, typography and spacing. Training your eye can come from simply looking at how UI designers work. This will give you a better understanding of how to better design your own platform.

2. read about best practices

UI design is constantly changing. This is because designers are always testing and discovering new insights to better their interfaces. UI design is obsolete within a year. Daily articles on Medium.com will help you keep abreast of the latest updates on best practices in UI design

3. use established design patterns

Websites and apps like Facebook, Instagram, Netflix and Whatsapp have conditioned users to expect key elements and design principles to be consistent across different platforms. For example, having a red close button in the top right or left corner. Therefore, don’t unnecessarily design your online platform. Ultimately, it will frustrate your users and they will quickly lose interest. This will disengage them and reduce insight quality.

4. visual hierarchy

Visual hierarchy is the arrangement of elements in the order of their importance. As every digital platform has a purpose/goal, having a strong hierarchy is crucial.

For example, if your platform’s purpose is for polling, the “Poll Now” button is the most visually important element. This is followed by checkboxes to state the choices the user wants to make. Other elements such as the menu, back and home buttons are at the bottom of the hierarchy. Visual hierarchy is established by using a combination of size, typography, white spaces and colour to direct the user to do what is most important.

5. share your work for feedback

So you’ve followed designers, read about best practices and established a strong visual hierarchy that you believe that users will find easy to use. However, in the UI design world, there’s always re-iterations and something to improve. Unlike traditional design such as print, the digital world provides the flexibility to improve on your work, even when it’s gone “live”.

Feedback is probably the most important aspect of UI design. When designing user interfaces, it’s imperative to consider multiple perspectives and demographics, so you can be inclusive of everyone using your platform. Potential improvements can be easily identified from user testing. This is because users may interact with, and interpret your UI differently to how you initially envisioned, which may not have been obvious to you in the beginning. For example, if you are designing a kid’s research platform for 8-year-old children to interact with, a 20-something designer wouldn’t be able to tell how an 8-year-old child would think and interact with your platform. The same goes for different demographics of people you design for, elderly, people with disabilities, etc. You need to ask how your users find your products instead of guessing what works best for them.

In next month’s Monthly Dose of Design…

….we will talk about the basics of copywriting and how we can tie a sense of tonality and function to your platform.

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