5 UI principles for a winning website
If a user interface (UI) is good, it will go unnoticed.
If a UI is bad, it will be glaringly obvious.
Website design can differ greatly. It all depends on the industry, the audience, the brand, and the product.
However, there are UI principles that should remain a bedrock throughout all websites. Fail to follow these and you could end up with a site that fails to hit the mark.
But what exactly is UI?
UI is how users are able to interact with software, a digital product, websites, apps, or machines.
It allows people to interact with whatever it is they are using. For example, the UI of a website will consist of how the content is laid out, the use of the navigation bar, and interactive elements such as buttons.
It’s intended to make usability easier and to guide users towards a desired action.
To help you understand how UI can help your website, here are five principles to follow for a great UI website design.
1. Ensure your website is clear
Clarity is essential.
If it’s not clear, it’s confusing. If it’s confusing, you’re limiting business.
People online don’t have the time nor the inclination to sit around and figure out how they are supposed to use something.
That is why you have to ensure that above all else, your website is clear.
- Make navigation easy.
You want to make users feel confident that they are able to approach your website and know how to work through it.
Relax your visitors by ensuring they know where they’ve been, where they are, and where to go next.
The use of visual clues can be helpful. For example, using highlights when hovering over a potential navigation option can be a good feature, as well as descriptive page titles and useful links to other pages.
2. Leverage familiarity with your website UI
Familiarity is a powerful tool to use.
Visitors to your website have used websites before that have taught them how to interact with them.
There is no point in trying to reinvent the wheel. You can use the knowledge people already have to improve the usability of your own site.
- Use existing web design patterns
There are many patterns that already exist. You don’t have to try and think of something new when you have available a proven set of techniques.
For example, you could adopt something called breadcrumbs navigation. This design pattern allows users to know where they are exactly on a website.
Typical uses of this include history-based breadcrumbs. These serve the same purpose as a back button, but can be more intuitive and reassuring by using wording such as “Back to results”.
3. Keep your interface consistent
Consistency is a key element when it comes to usability.
It allows users to recognise how to use your website.
From interacting with your website already, they will know how to do this again for future pages they visit.
If this isn’t kept consistent it can again lead to confusion.
- Utilise functional consistency
Functional consistency takes advantage of people’s tendency to act in the same way as previous behaviours. This means that mechanisms used within a website should stay the same, as visitors will use them as before.
This can be used for simple controls, such as buttons and menu items.
If these change how they operate, it can cause frustration as the user is unsure how to correctly interact.
It’s useful to follow something called, the principle of least surprise. Put simply, it’s the principle that a function shouldn’t astonish or surprise a user. If it does, then it needs to be redesigned.
4. Allow your UI to forgive users for mistakes
We’re not talking about your website offering hugs and kisses (not yet anyway). This principle is about users being able to easily reverse any mistake they make.
It gives the visitor a sense of control and allows them to fail without fear. For example, if they knew a slight slipup could lead to unwanted consequences, it will cause them anxiety and to navigate slowly through your site.
One common example everyone is familiar with is the undo/redo option when writing text and creating graphics.
- Allow your website to cope with errors
This can be used used in a website that uses search functions.
Even if you only have a search bar it is still a useful feature to have.
For example, if a user makes a typo when searching instead of just providing “No results found” you could allow the website to make suggested results based on what the search term would likely have been.
This is something Google does very well by showing results of what it guesses you to mean, however it also allows you the option to search for exactly what you typed in, in case the AI is incorrect.
5. Make your website efficient
An efficient website allows users to put in minimal input to get the desired result.
If someone is having to jump through multiple hoops to get to where they want to be, it can make an unpleasant experience, meaning they are less likely to visit again.
When you reduce the pain you are able to retain visitors.
- Perform task analysis
Every website is different and can have different functions.
By performing a task analysis it allows you to put yourself in your user's shoes and imitate the process they are trying to achieve.
It can be an enlightening experience and can highlight any issues you can fix in order to make things easier.
A common example can be allowing people to log in via their Google, Apple or Facebook accounts.
Following these five principles will allow you to ensure your website design is the best it can be.
When it comes to how, there are many different things you can try, and the examples we’ve provided are in no way an exhaustive list.
But the principles behind them should always be followed.
You may feel like you have a good understanding, but if you want really good UI, then get in contact.
You’ll benefit from our wealth of experience and receive a website that gives you the results you want.