User Interface (UI) design and User Experience (UX) design are important considerations when designing a mobile app or piece of custom software. Once a company determines the type of software that is needed, the focus turns to how that vision will be carried out. UI and UX are important for capturing a user’s attention. Since a quarter of downloaded mobile apps are only used once, first impressions may be more critical than you think. With positive brand perception on the line, it is imperative to put your best foot forward with UI and UX design. Here are the Top App Design Principles for a Strong UI/UX.
What is UX Design?
In software development, User Experience (UX) design is all about how users will interact with the product and their disposition toward the software. Developers want the UX to be a positive one by designing the software in a way that helps the business and users accomplish their intended goals. When the mobile app or custom software fulfills its job in an effective way, everyone is satisfied.
Here are some important questions to consider during the UX design process.
- How will the layout and placement of the design affect the way the user interacts with the custom software or mobile app?
- Does the UX streamline the usability of the software and interaction process?
- Is the UX design intuitive and user-friendly?
- Where might users experience frustrations?
- Does the arrangement of elements effectively highlight the most important features?
- What features might not be relevant or necessary?
User acceptance testing is extremely helpful in determining whether the mobile app or custom software is doing its job effectively. When test users explore the software, it allows the team to gather feedback on what the users look for, their expectations and any rough spots they might get hung up on. This testing phase allows developers to receive feedback on pain points that they may not have even considered. After all, it is natural to think of a mobile app design as intuitive after spending many hours working on it. Having fresh sets of eyes is invaluable in gathering feedback to improve the UX.
What is UI Design?
UI design is focused on the appearance and style of what is being created. Since it is client-facing, UI is part of front end development. However, this part of the design process is not simply focused on logos and color schemes. UI also includes the look of functions and features such as buttons, icons, menus and more. It is easy to see how UI and UX work together to craft software.
In literature, it is common for authors to “show” their story instead of merely “telling” their readers what to think and how the story is progressing. In a similar way, UI brings a creative element to practical UX design principles. UI design should lend itself to the UX, not distract from it. The design should be relevant to the use and purpose of the software, the feel or theme of the brand, and should complement and guide the user experience.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s review some of the top app design principles.
Top App Design Principles for UI and UX
Design is largely subjective, but there are certain UI design practices that are preferred for their ability to deliver an engaging and positive UX. Designs must be harmonious. This principle lends itself to both UI and UX. The consistency and harmony of elements can include anything from a unifying color scheme to similar shapes and features. When developing mobile apps or custom software, it is important to have a congruent design. This not only includes what is visible on the screen at any time but also what is present throughout the entire software. When elements are in harmony with each other, the user experience will be more seamless.
A fun part of the UI design process is determining how different elements can communicate the feel of a brand. Gestalt Theory is also helpful for UI design. One part of Gestalt Theory describes how we often group elements and look for continuity even when it is not present. We like to look for patterns and make sense of what we are seeing. This includes how we interpret what is considered the background and what is considered the foreground of any design. Some figure-ground optical illusions occur when we perceive different designs based on what we focus on as the foreground and background. When our perception shifts, the design appears to shift with it.
Since users will automatically look for meaning in any design, it is important for designers to consider what they are communicating. When elements are not in harmony with each other or are not focusing the user’s attention on the key features of the software, users may become frustrated. If you want to see how important design is, misalign an element in a series, sit back, and watch the users squirm.
Size and color are also two effective ways to establish the hierarchy of elements. The headers or the most important elements can be made larger or designed to stand out. Since users will look for patterns, something that is different will catch their attention.
UI Design Tip
Something that can often be overlooked is the power of the background and open space. Designers are not only responsible for what is seen but what is not apparent as well. Spacing is important so that the visual field is not overwhelmed. On the one hand, features and text should not be too tiny. However, they shouldn’t cover the whole screen either. Designing the background space doesn’t mean filling up the screen with design. Instead of a cramped design, use the “white space” effectively to direct attention, providing a smooth experience.
A Top App Design is Intuitive
When a mobile app design is described as intuitive, this means that elements are arranged in a way that seems natural and expected to a user. For example, if a menu or button will help the user navigate through the mobile app, we would want it in a place that is helpful and logical. Menus placed at the top or side of the software would be much more intuitive, whereas it would seem counterintuitive to bury a menu somewhere in the middle of the page. We would also want the menu items to be a sufficient size, color and positioning so they’re both visible and easily clickable.
If we take the menu example one step further, we can ask ourselves how users would want to get back to the menu. If the screen is smaller, a hamburger menu could be the way to go. If the menu is at the top, should it become opaque and follow their scroll? Should it disappear until users scroll back to the top? When considering these options, placing yourself in the role of the user and considering what would most helpful can guide your decision-making process. As always, a thorough testing phase will be invaluable for gathering feedback and improving the overall UI/UX design for a mobile app.
UI and UX Working Together
To summarize, an effective UI will communicate the feel of the brand and software, while being aesthetically pleasing and lending itself to the UX. The UX should be functional and practical in a way that will allow the UI to shine. The overall User Experience encompasses the User Interface design and both work together to create an effective mobile app or piece of custom software. When top UI/UX design principles guide the development process, success is sure to follow.
The team at 7T has extensive experience crafting a customized UI/UX that is suited to the needs of your business. Our talented team of developers delivers an exceptional user experience and an intuitive design that focuses on functionality, usability and security.