At Etna, we design, write, develop and engineer every website to be beautiful, informative and easy to use. It is imperative to us that every site has a great user interface (UI). In the first post in our series on UI, we went over what user interface is and why it is critical to a site’s success. Now we are going to cover how to make great UI.
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When we are planning a Web system, we investigate who we are dealing with and what we are trying to achieve. More than anything, it is important that we know our user, their needs, habits and tastes before we can even begin to plan the functionality of a site.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
Most computer users are acquainted with Facebook, Google, and Apple designs, to name a few. Do we need to alert users that something needs attention? We might think about our iPhone apps’ little red alert bubbles. Does the site need a scrolling image feature? We might consider modeling the interface after Netflix or Pandora. No, we are not ripping off anyone’s design, but it follows that borrowing familiar functionality from high-profile sites will make our user feel immediately more comfortable.
Be consistently consistent
Once a user figures out an interface, that knowledge carries over to the whole site. Because of this, we aim to stay consistent in our design. A red action item on the homepage should not become a green action item on the back pages.
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Our UI team uses visual clues like colors and font-sizes to aim user focus. By emphasizing key functions and deemphasizing secondary functions, we can stealthily hold our user’s hand as they navigate through our systems.
A reaction for every action
As our users are interacting with our system, we provide them with both good and bad feedback. This comes in the form of thank you messages, updates ( “This account is now active”) or even progress messages (“You are on step 3 of 4”).
A nudge in the right direction
As our programmers develop a system, they must account for user error. Did the user’s action lead to the expected result? If not, why? And (this is important!) how can we help them get back on track?
Keep it simple, silly
The most essential thing our programmers keep in mind when it comes to UI is this: keep it simple. We know we’ve got it right when no one notices the interface. It should just make sense.
In the next post in this series, we will be discussing what code our developers and engineers use to program great user interface. We will also give you a few examples from Etna’s portfolio. Stay tuned!