Sunday, October 21, 2007

5 Ways to Make a User Interface Intuitive

Basic usability concepts ...

"When designing a user interface, be it for the web or an application, my core goals are always to eliminate redundancy and make the UI as intuitive as possible. Sounds fairly simple, but like with all subjective processes, keeping those core goals on track can be tough. By no means are the suggestions below written in stone; these are just things that I keep in mind when designing a user interface. I also use simplicity or the KISS principle as a guiding tenet when developing my user interfaces.

1. Eliminate Redundancy

In the old Windows vs. Mac OS debate, most of the time people talk about security, but my biggest pet peeve of the Windows platforms is its overwhelming myriad of ways to do the same thing. With all user interfaces there will be a learning curve, but don’t use that as an excuse to add duplicate functionality.

Be stingy as it relates to adding top-level navigational elements, and make sure adding them is the right choice. A higher-level grouping may be what is needed. I recently came across a book called The Paradox of Choice; it talks about our inability to deal with an abundance of choices. An excess of choice has a paralyzing effect, so keep the UI from overwhelming the users. Make sure everything that’s included is absolutely needed to accomplish the goals of the UI.

2. Nomenclature & Contextualization

A user should have a reasonable understanding of what they will find underneath top-level navigation. Name your navigation exactly what it is and try not to be cute when naming different areas. When developing navigation and content areas, group like items together. This will add cohesion to areas and straighten the users understanding of the content.

Contextualize navigation and certain content elements to limit what the user has to visually take in at any one time. Content having the appropriate context and related information can do a lot to add additional clicks to supporting content.

3. Consistency

Being consistent in placement of navigation is a must. Some of the worst UI’s are ones where navigation moves around the page. Iconography and color can do a lot to improve the UI. Stick with your design conventions and try not to have many variations.

Buttons and typography should have a consistent feel and any deviations should point out special situations to the user. If you have a case where there is a slight change from page to page, like the case of an error message on a form, make sure the user notices the change. This can be extremely frustrating to users who don’t notice the page refresh and the page isn’t noticeably changed."    (Continued via Rikcat Industries)    [Usability Resources]


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