Guide To UI Design
UI design is one of the most important aspects of building a website. This expert guide explores everything there is to know about the principles, practices and history of the process.
User Interface (UI) Design is a key part of building a website and focuses on the look, feel, engagement and interactivity of a digital product.
UI design is a broad field that has developed to become an integral part of every website and app we create here at KIJO.
Despite its importance, UI design can easily be confused as being the same as UX design (spoiler: it’s not!) and with many web designers working across the specialism, it’s never been more important for us to get to grips with what UI design really entails.
That’s why our team of experts have put together this guide to UI design to help you understand all there is to know about UI-led website design.
What is UI Design?
User Interface design centres around aesthetics. They may say never to judge a book by its cover but the same can’t be said for websites.
How a website looks plays a massive part in the judgement a user forms of the site and brand as a whole and UI design focuses on these visual and interactive website elements such as links, buttons and colour schemes.
A user interface is the point of interaction between a user and a computer, put simply it is the part of the website that a user sees and experiences.
For example, when you visit a website the pages you land on, the buttons you click and forms you fill out all form part of the user interface.
UI web design therefore refers to the appearance of this interface and focuses on three key areas:
- Visual design – how the webpage looks.
- Interactivity – how a user will interact with elements on the page.
- Information architecture – how the content within the user interface is presented to users.
The History of UI
The evolution of user interface spans over 50 years but the first personal computer to use a graphical user interface, as they were then known, was in the early 1980’s.
Up until that point, interfaces had relied on keyboards for the interaction between humans and computers.
It was in 1979 that Apple’s Steve Jobs visited Xerox Parc where he saw the GUI and mouse in action. Little did anyone know that the inspiration he took from that visit and the resulting Macintosh computers that were launched would be such a mainstay of life over 40 years later.
With the growth of laptops in the nineties came further developments to UI’s with trackpads and trackballs starting to play a huge part in how users interacted with computers.
Of course once the new Millennium arrived it brought with it a whole host of technologies that would transform UI forever.
From mice with pressure sensitivity to scroll wheels as first seen on Apple’s iPod, how users interacted with computers and digital devices was changing fast.
The launch of the iPhone in 2007 brought touch to the forefront of UI, something that’s still prominent today.
The UI journey now focuses on touch, voice and immersive experiences, all allowing users to interact with computers day in, day out.
UI Design Principles
Most UI designers will follow a set of guiding principles that run through their work including:
The best and most user-friendly UI designs are ones that are consistent. UI designers keep designs consistent by using the same fonts, colours, buttons and icon styles throughout a website. It’s also important to ensure function consistency by using the same elements to represent the same functions and actions.
Familiarity and Predictability
Based on a user’s wider experience of visiting websites or using apps, they learn to expect certain elements to perform in certain ways. It’s important therefore for UI designers to create websites that are comfortable for users. This includes common design choices such as placing the menu at the top of the page or using an X to exit.
Feedback is a crucial part of UI design as it reiterates to users that they are following the right path through the website. Feedback can be given in multiple ways such as through ticks appearing when they’ve filled out a form correctly or a thank you message following the completion of a purchase.
This refers to ensuring that advanced users who are accustomed to using a website have access to shortcuts or accelerators to speed up regularly-used actions.
Whilst it’s important for a user interface to be consistent, there should also be some flexibility and room for personalisation for specific users and how they undertake certain tasks.
UI web design should always be accessible, meaning websites are accessible to everyone. Factors to consider include ensuring fonts can easily be read against background colours and making interactive elements such as buttons and links easy to identify.
Value of UI Design
Creating a great UI web design has never been more important. With so much online competition, users are getting to grips with what they want and expect from a website.
Today’s web users are more demanding than ever before and it’s a UI designer’s job to meet those demands with the end product they create.
Great user interface design is valuable for a number of reasons including:
- It provides you with a competitive advantage.
- It can help to build brand loyalty within your customers.
- It makes customer acquisition easier and more successful.
- It boosts engagement between users and your brand.
- It increases your chances of retaining customers.
UI Design Process
UI designers will often come in at a later stage of the overall website building project. Take a look below at the common design process followed by UI web designers.
Step 1: Understanding the Context
The first step for any UI designers is to understand the brief for the project. Before they can begin any work, they need to get to grips with who the website is for, the main aims of the website and how it will be used. Context is key to great UI design.
Step 2: Competitor Analysis
Competitor analysis allows UI designers to understand what competitors operating within the same online space are doing. Not only can this act as a source of inspiration (or in some cases, as an indication of what not to do) it also helps designers to determine what users are likely to expect from the website.
Step 3: Design
Believe it or not, a key part of UI web design is to do some actual design work. This includes designing up each individual screen that a user may land on as part of their journey through the website and creating elements such as buttons, icons and animations as well as selecting colour schemes and fonts.
Step 4: Wireframes and Prototypes
A key part of the UI design process is to create wireframes and prototypes. During the early stages of a website design, wireframes are used to map out the position of elements on the screen. As these designs progress and decisions are made, clickable prototypes are usually created that depict how a UI designer wants the final product to look and work.
Step 5: The Handover
Once a UI designer is happy with their prototype, they will hand it over to the web developers who will turn their designs into reality. Of course even at this stage there is still room for change when feedback and technical aspects are taken into account.
How to Become a UI Designer
If you like the sound of getting involved with UI web design and becoming a UI web designer then there are various skills you need.
Some of the key skills a good UI designer should possess are:
- Knowledge of design principles and colour theories.
- Ability to use industry tools such as Adobe and Figma.
- Wireframe and prototype creation.
- Creativity and eye for detail.
- UI design knowledge and understanding.
- Great communication.
- Problem solving skills.
There are various routes you can take to becoming a UI designer including enrolling on UI specific design courses or taking on apprenticeships or learning opportunities with existing UI designers.
UI web design is a cornerstone of any website agency and here at KIJO, our team of expert UI designers are able to take briefs and ideas and transform them into a website that’s visually appealing to users.
This article has showcased everything there is to know about UI design but if you’d like to find out more about how the KIJO team can create the online presence you need, then contact our team today.
Posted on by Jordan Thompson