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It’s like a translator who listens to commands – in the form of key presses, mouse clicks, finger swipes etc - and relays that input to the web browser; provoking a response of some sort.
That response may be a new window opening, the next photo in a slideshow or a fully expanded drop-down menu. The user interface communicates our instruction and retrieves the data relevant to that request.
So facilitating that exchange is an integral part of web design. When executed properly, it can provide an enjoyable experience for the user. When implemented badly, the experience can be frustrating and challenging. The chances are if a user can’t access the information they are after quickly and easily, they will stop using the website all together.
As a consequence, the delivery of the user interface is inextricably linked to the user experience so it’s important to invest sufficient time in both the design and development process. With the advent of touch screen smart phones and tablets, web UI design has evolved and diversified more than ever before. Coupled with the latest web standards, user experience has never been as rich or intuitive.
A large part of getting the user interface right is seeing what your users want, how they use websites and translating that into the user interface. It’s more about learning from your audience than imposing a structure.
Users like consistency. They need to know that once they learn to do something on a site, they will be able to do it again. Language, layout, and design are just a few interface elements that need consistency. A consistent interface enables your users to have a better understanding of how things will work, and increases the user’s efficiency when on the site.
The user interface should be designed in a way that allows the user to focus on what is most important. The size, colour, and placement of each element need to work together. Coherence on the page will greatly assist the user.
Throughout the process, the touchstone of what you’re developing should be ‘does the user really need this?’. There’s no point in adding bells and whistles if they’re not wanted.
A good user interface is beautiful, simple and unobtrusive. Users won’t notice it, they’ll simply enjoy using your website.