Published on March 13th, 2018 | by Emergent Enterprise0
The Square Blue Stop Sign and Successful User Interface Design
When you travel in a country that doesn’t speak your native language, life can get pretty confusing. Conversations become difficult as the discussion becomes hand motions, drawn out words and pointing to photographs on a menu or on a mobile device. Traffic signs might as well be from another planet at times if there are no iconic symbols included to make the message clear.
Think about that. What if a country or state decided to change traffic sign iconography and messaging? What if one morning the stop signs were square and colored blue? Drivers and pedestrians would be forced to make potential split second and even dangerous decisions on what the new signs mean. No one wants motorists “experimenting” on how they interpret the commands from the signs along roads and in intersections.
As crazy as that idea sounds, there is a similar danger in “getting creative” in user interface (UI) design. The user experience is greatly influenced by a UI (if there is one) and if the design challenges user expectations. Then the creator of the product can expect confusion, frustration, experimenting and maybe even a little chaos. The worst result of a poorly designed UI, of course, is a user that closes the app or bails out of the site.
There are some some user interface design practices that can keep your user from” driving off the road.”:
- Stick to the standards. Both Apple and Android supply comprehensive user interface guidelines. The Apple Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) stress clarity, deference and depth. The Android OS guidelines are defined by Material Design, a design language developed by Google in 2014. Material strives to be “bold, graphic and intentional.” Following these guidelines will result in intuitive interfaces for your audiences.
- Consistency is mandatory. Consistency needs to be part of your solution’s DNA. Consistency in functionality, typography, branding, hierarchy – you name it. You can’t have a document download button on one screen be an orange rectangle and a red circle on another screen. Many designers use design patterns to maintain consistency throughout a deliverable. Design patterns are strategies for functionality and positive user outcomes.
- There is strength in simplicity. Steve Krug, the author of Don’t Make Me Think says, “Making every page or screen self-evident is like having good lighting in a store: it just makes everything seem better.” A user should be able to easily discern where they are in a deliverable and where they can go next with little to no confusion. That typically means a user interface free of clutter and ambiguity. Minimize the touches or clicks for the audience to get things done.
Consistency and simplicity within a proven set of guidelines is the key to success. Without these priorities, the user experience suffers. Too many choices or lack of clarity is like a traffic sign with too many commands. A driver will just decide not to understand the entire sign and make their own decision on where to go next. Or next time, they will take another route. You can guide your users on a safe and happy drive by providing a smoothly paved user interface.