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10 basic principles of interface design

1. Comfort first, looks second

Oftentimes, designers put aesthetics first, and only after they think about usability. This all comes from the desire of almost every designer to demonstrate their skills and to experiment with the appearance of the interface, looking up to new trends, thereby undermining the user experience.

Never cease to remember that a website or application is primarily a tool that helps users achieve their goals. It should be easy to use. Don’t put aesthetics first, think about the user experience from the very beginning.

2. Don’t waste the user’s time

The main task of a designer is to make the interface intuitive. Time plays a very important role in the modern world. If, while working with the product, your user begins to experience difficulties using your interface, most likely they will give up instead of wasting time trying to figure out how it works. And then, no matter how beautiful the design was, it would mean it has failed the task.

3. Meet expectations

Do not get carried away experimenting with the interface. Your desire to do something new and innovative can make your interface look like a control panel for a nuclear reactor. Your interface should be clear, i.e. it should inherit the user experience gained by using other interfaces. In other words, your interface should already be somewhat familiar to the user.

4. Give more control

First and foremost, focus on giving the user a sense of control over their experience. When a design makes the user feel stupid, it makes your product a failure. Providing a user with controls also means controlling looping animation or automatic video playback. The more control a user has, the more relaxed and receptive they are.

5. Remember the interaction

The Internet is an interactive environment, and our interface must meet and take into account these requirements. Links should look like links and behave accordingly. A button should look like a button, and when pressed, the user should understand that they’ve pressed this button.

It is especially important to remember and consider possible mistakes that a user can make and design them into the interface.

In other words, design the user interaction in such a way so that all the elements that the user interacts with give the expected response.

6. Serve content in portions

To avoid overloading your user, don’t give them too much information at a time. Large blocks of text, a long list of categories, and so on need to be grouped and served in smaller digestible chunks. Break large chunks of information into parts so that the user absorbs the information faster.

7. Group elements

While breaking content down has a beneficial effect on user ability to absorb information, some interface elements should be grouped instead. Don’t make your user search for navigation elements all over the screen. Conveniently put them together in one place.

8. Create a visual hierarchy

Ultimately, breaking down and grouping content creates a solid visual hierarchy for the site. Also, work with accents in blocks, highlight more important elements with color, size, and positioning relative to less important elements.

9. Match the mental capability of a user

Another very significant field where we tend to make assumptions about users is how they organize information in their heads. The issue manifests itself in our assumptions about how to build the information architecture of the site correctly, so that the user would quickly and easily read it.

But our mental models are different from the users’ mental models. This is because our user is usually an expert in a different and very specific field for which we are developing a product. And the more a user is into their field and knowledgeable in it, the more their mental model differs from the general audience.

10. Test your assumptions

Good design is shaped and developed through numerous tests and iterations. Test your assumptions about users on the users themselves, making conclusions, thereby improving your product.