Your user’s goals are your goals, so learn them. Restate them, repeat them. Then, learn about your user’s skills and experience, and what they need. Find out what interfaces they like and sit down and watch how they use them. Do not get carried away trying to keep up with the competition by mimicking trendy design styles or adding new features. By focusing on your user first, you will be able to create an interface that lets them achieve their goals.
2. Pay attention to patterns
Users spend the majority of their time on interfaces other than your own (Facebook, MySpace, Blogger, Bank of America, school/university, news websites, etc). There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Those interfaces may solve some of the same problems that users perceive within the one you are creating. By using familiar UI patterns, you will help your users feel at home.
Graphic comparing an email inbox with CoTweet's inbox
CoTweet uses a familiar UI pattern found in email applications.
3. Stay consistent
“The more users’ expectations prove right, the more they will feel in control of the system and the more they will like it.” – Jakob Nielson
Your users need consistency. They need to know that once they learn to do something, they will be able to do it again. Language, layout, and design are just a few interface elements that need consistency. A consistent interface enables your users to have a better understanding of how things will work, increasing their efficiency.
4. Use visual hierarchy
from Meet the Robinsons
Meet the Robinsons is one of my all time favorite movies. Throughout the movie Lewis, the protagonist, is challenged to “keep moving forward.” This is a key principle in UI design.
It is often said when developing interfaces that you need to fail fast, and iterate often. When creating a UI, you will make mistakes. Just keep moving forward, and remember to keep your UI out of the way.
Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/lostamerica
This article was written by Kyle Sollenberger.
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