Great User Interface Design – Part One

There are ten widely accepted principles of interface design that should be considered when creating content for online access. This week, we will look at five of these principles, and continue the topic next week.

If working with a team, you might want to make a checklist for all members. Remember, what may seem intuitive to a programmer or designer may not be to those who will interact with the design.

Affordance – An object’s physical characteristics should suggest how it is to be used. For example, a block of blue text which is underlined may suggest an active link. Good design will discourage improper use (by avoiding a font convention that will be misunderstood) and increase ease of use by making labels or buttons seem obvious.

Alignment – Visibly lining up elements sends signals to the brain on how to interpret or interact with the objects. In Western societies, it is generally expected that content will be read from left to right and top to bottom.

Chunking – You should break information into manageable components. The brain can handle four (plus or minus one) pieces of information at a time. This is why phone numbers and Social Security numbers can be readily remembered. By chunking a phone number (123-111-1423), it has been converted into three manageable pieces of information.

Color – Color is used to convey mood and appeal to an audience. It is also used to organize elements. Cautions: Too many colors will be a distraction. Certain color combinations can cause visual discomfort by vibrating or create an after-image. Color-blind people may not be able to see what you’ve presented, and/or, if working with a cross-cultural audience, inquire if the selected colors have any specific associations that might derail your intended message.

Consistency – The greatest feedback an interface designer can hear is that the design is “intuitive” (in fact, this is what we routinely hear about our SavvyAcademy™ Learning Management System). Use consistent navigation controls to reduce any learning curve.

Good interface design should be attractive, without drawing unnecessary attention, intuitive, and comfortable, yet still engaging to the user. By following basic design principles which focus on the user, a single module, series, or a full website can enhance the desired result of engaging with the user in an apparently effortless interaction. As we see, a great deal of effort is actually required for the end result to appear effortless.

Watch for Part Two where we will cover: Proximity, Readability, Recognition, Similarity, and Visibility.


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