The graphical user interface is a crucial element of any electronic device in the modern era. The user interface is the component that allows humans to interact with their devices, from coffee machines to high-tech computers and state-of-the-art medical devices. However, not all user interfaces are equal. Some are much more successful than others. The key to a high quality user interface lays in the design, and there are a number of cardinal rules to take into account to help you achieve the best possible graphical user interface.
- Keep it Simple
Although it sounds obvious, a simple user interface is the key to success. Avoid cluttering the interface with excessive buttons, tabs, and extraneous elements. Before taking the plunge and adding any element to the interface, ask yourself whether it is truly necessary. If it isn’t critical to the function of a specific screen, leave it out. Only add elements that provide benefits to your users.
- Stay Concise
When attempting to keep an interface simple, some designers are tempted to explain every little thing, often in the form of pop-ups or dialog boxes. This increases data mass, which in turn, can slow down your UI rapidly AND overwhelm the user.
While it may be necessary and beneficial to explain something to the user, keep it short and to the point, without excessive verbiage. Remember that the point of a user interface is to allow someone to interact with a device. Therefore, they shouldn’t have to spend a lot of time reading usability information. In the fast-paced digital age, people lack patience, and every second matters to them.
- Make it Familiar
Give users elements they are familiar with. That doesn’t mean steal iconic images or features of well known interfaces. Be unique and give your interface its own voice and style, but provide the user with items that they already understand, so that they know how to use them and know what to expect. Tabbed browser windows, folders, or options boxes are familiar to most users, for example. They already know that they simply need to touch a tab to move to that location.
- Aim for Optimal Responsiveness
Whatever the intended purpose of the user interface you create, it must be as responsive as possible for the best user experience. You yourself know how frustrating it is when attempting to use a slow, jumpy interface that consistently lags and doesn’t always respond to your touch or does respond, but takes an age to load an app, page, or program.
A successful user interface has to be quick, with a fast interface load time. Being responsive also refers to the need to create an interface that reliably and predictably responds to the user every single time, without fail. By generating graphics code early in development and testing on your target hardware, you can keep an eye on how well your hardware responds to the demands of your GUI. Making adjustments based on your findings during development will assure the best possible user experience for your product.
Additionally, even if the content takes time to load, there should be a communication of some kind, or a progress indicator, so the user knows their command or request is in process.
- Be Consistent
Consistency is a crucial factor in successful UI design. Maintain the same visible language throughout so as not to confuse the user and provide them with a cohesive, straightforward, effortless experience. Visible language includes layouts, format, typography, color, texture, imagery, sequencing, and sounds.
- Maintain Clarity
Clarity is massively important to the success of any user interface. The UI should allow users to quickly find what they’re looking for, or to complete a desired action. Make things clear and obvious. Choosing a pretty element button that has no clear purpose is not a good option. Pleasing aesthetics are a secondary consideration. Users do not like things they do not understand and often ignore them, so it makes sense to maintain clarity as much as possible.
- Maximize Organization
In the name of clarity and simplicity, organize the interface in a sensible, logical way. Make the preferred actions of each page abundantly clear. Maintain logical context to improve the user interface experience. Users prefer to have elements in logical places. They do not want to hunt for them. Therefore, for example, if you have a changeable setting, such as a profile box, situate the edit function close by.
- Adhere to the Principle of Least Astonishment
The Principle of Least Astonishment applies to graphical user interface, touchscreen GUI, and software creation. It refers to the fact that, when it comes to user interfaces, people do not like surprises.
When people interface with a device, they tend to only have one attentional focus which needs to stay on the task they wish to complete. However, if the UI does not adhere to the Principle of Least Astonishment, that focus is drawn to the novel interface experience, as the user has a burden of learning in order to use and understand the interface.
Allow your users to focus on the task at hand, giving them a better overall experience. Speed up usability processes by keeping surprises and new elements to a minimum.
A great graphical user interface helps with productivity, improves user experience, enhances workflow, and is functional, practical, and pleasing. However, as many designers know, it is a very easy thing to get wrong.
At Altia we understand the cardinal rules and excel at helping our customers to create seamless, captivating user experiences with state-of-the-art graphical user interfaces suited to any device or industry. Contact Altia to discover how our GUI development tools can help you.