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How to design an intuitive user interface

An interface in computing is a shared boundary that allows two or more independent computer system components to communicate.

Software, computer hardware, peripherals, people, and combinations can all be exchanged. A mouse or microphone may offer an interface to convey data to a specific system.

However, some computer hardware devices, like a touchscreen, may send and receive data through the interface.

What is an intuitive interface?

While building an intuitive interface may not be easy, defining one is. Here is what it means:

An interface is considered intuitive if it performs as the user would anticipate. In other words, we find it intuitive when we don’t have to think about something.

As anybody who has ever studied for an exam will attest, thinking is complex. It requires effort and focus, and it is particularly challenging to think about two things simultaneously. This is why driving while distracted is so risky.

When using software, they usually think hard about the problem they’re solving. They’ll have a tough time if they also have to think about how to use the interface. 

Imagine composing an essential letter while having trouble using the word processing program. It’s exhausting, and the letter will probably be written horribly.

The cognitive load is the amount of thought required to complete a task. Low cognitive strain is a benefit of intuitive interfaces. The more users can concentrate on finishing their activity, the lesser the cognitive strain. 

Therefore, intuitive interfaces are an advantage regarding productivity and job quality. 

Additionally, they have the benefit of requiring less training and support because users don’t need to be taught how to use an interface if it functions as expected.

How to Create Intuitive Designs

When a design does not fit the user’s mental model, the user must employ problem-solving skills to determine what to do next. That results in a high cognitive load and a lot of mental processing. 

The design objective is to provide an interface or experience that meets the user’s expectations and has the least amount of cognitive burden feasible.

Comprehending the user’s mental model is the first step in producing intuitive designs. Then you may design to as nearly match the user’s expectations as you can. But, of course, the issue is that models are secret. 

They exist in the users’ heads; therefore, you must make educated estimates about what is going on. Furthermore, due to their diverse experiences, each user has a unique mental model.

Read Also: How to start a career in programming without a degree

There are two primary methods for assessing your users’ mental models:

  • User research

Talking with users one-on-one and seeing them while they work on essential activities may reveal a wealth of information about how they conceptualize their workflow and the processes envisaged.

Another effective strategy is contextual inquiry, which involves observing your customers in their natural settings. At the same time, they perform the activities you want to learn about.

  • Usability testing

You may better grasp consumers’ expectations by seeing them interact with wireframes and prototypes, especially if you allow them to “think aloud” as they work.

An intuitive UI enables users to quickly understand and navigate the app’s features, enhancing usability and satisfaction. 

Here are some fundamental principles and guidelines to consider when designing an intuitive UI for your app:

1. Consistency

Maintain consistency in the app’s visual elements, such as colors, typography, and icons.

Consistent design patterns and behaviors help users develop a mental model of the app’s interface, making navigating and understanding its functionality easier.

2. Simplicity

Keep the UI design simple and uncluttered. Avoid overwhelming users with too many options or complex layouts. Instead, strive for a minimalist design approach focusing on essential features and content.

Use white space effectively to provide visual breathing room and emphasize crucial elements.

3. Hierarchy and Visual Cues

Establish a clear visual hierarchy to teach users’ attention and make it easier for them to understand the app’s structure.

Use size, color, contrast, and typography to differentiate between elements and prioritize important information.

Provide visual cues like buttons, icons, and tool tips to indicate interactive features and help users understand their purpose.

Read Also: The Importance of soft skills for Programmers in 2023

3. Familiarity

Leverage existing UI conventions and patterns that users are already familiar with. While innovation is essential, deviating too far from established design patterns can confuse users.

For example, use standard icons for everyday actions like “save,” “delete,” or “share” to ensure users can quickly recognize their meaning.

4. Efficient Navigation

Design an intuitive navigation system that enables users to move through the app seamlessly. Use clear and descriptive labels for navigation elements.

Consider incorporating navigation patterns like tabs, side menus, or bottom navigation bars, depending on the app’s complexity and content structure.

Provide a way for users to easily access essential screens or features, such as a persistent navigation bar.

5. Feedback and Affordance

Provide immediate and relevant feedback to users’ actions. Visual cues like button press animations, hover effects, or loading indicators inform users that their interactions have been registered.

Ensure interactive elements exhibit affordance, visually conveying their purpose and behavior. For example, buttons should appear clickable, and draggable elements should have handles or visual indicators.

6. Progressive Disclosure

Gradually reveal complexity to users to avoid overwhelming them with too much information at once.

Start with a simple and clean interface, and introduce advanced features progressively as users become more familiar with the app.

Utilize features like tool tips, onboarding tutorials, or contextual help to guide users through the app’s functionality.

7. Accessibility

Consider the needs of users with disabilities or impairments when designing your UI.

For example, provide sufficient color contrast for readability, include alternative text for images, ensure keyboard accessibility, and support assistive technologies like screen readers.

In addition, following accessibility guidelines provides a broader audience to use your app.

8. User Testing and Iteration

Conduct usability testing with various users to get feedback and identify areas for improvement. Observe how users interact with the app, note any confusion or frustration, and iterate on the UI design based on their feedback.

User testing helps validate your design decisions and refine the interface to enhance its intuitiveness.

Read Also: How to test your mobile app before launching

9. Learn from Existing Apps

Study successful apps with intuitive UI designs to learn from their approaches. Pay attention to popular apps in your domain or those with similar functionalities.

Analyze their interface, interaction patterns, and user feedback to gain insights and inspiration for your design.

Consider the fundamental ideas and information a user needs to comprehend the UI. Then, think carefully about any technical phrases or ideas the user might need to be explained. 

When required, define or clarify these to help the user make informed choices—Organize tasks and information as the user expects.

Following these steps above, you’re sure not to get confused about creating an intuitive user interface. Good luck!

Robin Okwanma
Robin Okwanmahttps://justrobin.dev
Hi, I'm Robin Okwanma. Software Engineer || Django, Python || React, React Native || Blogger. Technical Writer.
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