In this article we share a few quick win tips on how to improve the interface of your web application, portal or intranet and highlight the business benefits of upgrading...
Designing an effective and engaging graphical user interface (GUI) that will help your digital presence to shine in today’s competitive online marketplaces is a much more involved process than you might initially imagine.
Let’s begin by taking a quick deep dive into the anatomy of an effective user interface.
Stretching far beyond simply assembling a selection of elements into a single design, graphical user interfaces should also strive to add genuine value to the user experience of every single one of your visitors.
The very best user interfaces enhance the relationship between brand and audience and importantly, this value can exist in a variety of forms, including for example:
- Simplifying the communication of information
- Providing additional clarification to enable seamless engagement
- Introducing a sense of drama that intrigues and delights
- Persuading users to complete a specific action that will deliver a tangible reward
- Illuminating unexpected, under-appreciated or previously unknown information
- Offering an entertaining escape from reality, at least for a short time
The benefits of effective user interface design are myriad, but here are 7 of the most compelling.
Advantage #1 - GUIs enable interaction through clarity and control
The primary objective of every GUI is to deliver the kind of clarity that will allow its users to rapidly begin engaging and interacting with it in meaningful ways. This doesn’t mean that GUIs cannot be designed to introduce a sense of mystery and intrigue, but it is essential to avoid confusion.
Well, because clarity inspires confidence, and confidence inspires additional engagement.
Remember, a single cluttered screen will always be considerably less effective than fifty crystal clear screens with an obvious motivation and purpose. As humans, we seek out comfortable environments that we can control and we don’t always respond well to being forced to perform a task in an overtly prescriptive way. So, with this in mind, one of the primary benefits of good user interface design is that it can be shaped to ensure that users remain in control of their experience every step of the way.
Oh, and if you are at all concerned about stating the obvious…don’t be. Seemingly obvious things are almost never obvious to all and in most situations, delivering as much insight as possible will always be appreciated.
Advantage #2 - Effective GUIs facilitate a seamless user journey
Most online interactions are not meant to be final and should instead facilitate and actively promote progression. By designing an effective user interface, you should find it possible to deliver seamless user journeys that consistently support logical next steps and encourage additional interaction in the process.
In simple terms, this means that when a user does something that you want them to do, don’t leave them hanging. Provide them with an additional logical next step that will help them to achieve their objectives.
Are you currently wondering how your interface can achieve this successfully?
Building on a variety of design disciplines is an excellent place to start, from typography and copy to information architecture and graphic design. Great GUIs use the best qualities of every discipline to shape an interface that helps your business to continue to move forward and ensures that your audience finds it simple to achieve their objectives during every visit.
Advantage #3 - Good GUI design can be shaped to anticipate audience needs
Of course, the greatest interface is no interface at all, but what exactly do we mean by that?
Being human means that we have the ability to directly interact with an array of physical objects within a familiar material environment. These interactions are often things that we do every day, so we understand the parameters of these experiences. As such, we find them simple, seamless and enjoyable.
But of course, we cannot interact with things online in the same way as we do in 'real life' and this is where interfaces come into play.
Interfaces exist to help users to interact with non-physical things within the digital space. The very best GUIs deliver intuitive and enjoyable experiences that have been designed for a very specific intended audience.
This level of specificity ultimately improves the usability and efficiency of the design by enabling the integration of relevant features that your users will want to use, such as voice control, gestural interaction and intuitive navigational structures.
Tailoring GUI design to the intended audience will improve key engagement metrics and enhance the overall likability and practicality of what you are offering to the people you most want to impress.
After all, the reason intuitive interfaces exist at all is to facilitate meaningful interactions with your content.
With all this in mind, one of the primary advantages of user interface design is the ability to ensure that every screen supports a single action that will deliver genuine value to the user. Screens that directly support more than one action can very quickly become confusing or unnecessarily complicated. Screens with a single clear purpose will always deliver tangible value and facilitate meaningful interactions.
Advantage #4 - GUIs capture attention, and keep it
We exist in a time of almost constant distractions and one of the core benefits of user interface design is its ability to use hyper-engaging visual elements to capture and hold a user’s attention for an extended period of time.
Purposefully avoiding the integration of redundant features and inclusion of extraneous information will result in a visually striking and highly functional GUI. An effective interface will remove the temptation to over-explain everything and instead help you to disclose information only when it is necessary.
This is important because:
Maintaining a focus on clear communication always results in a design that presents information in the simplest and most user-friendly way possible.
BUT this level of visual engagement gets even better.
GUIs can also provide users with instant visual clues and feedback which communicates that the action they have just taken has been registered effectively.
What does this mean in practical terms?
If a small animation appears on the screen when a user enters their email address to sign up for a mailing list, they will immediately understand that they have been signed up successfully and should expect to receive future communications from your site in their inbox.
Remember, audiences like reassurances, even when they are delivered in seemingly subtle ways.
Advantage #5 - GUIs deliver consistency . . . consistently
We particularly like things that behave in ways we can anticipate. We find it easy to develop a positive relationship with things that meet our expectations and well-designed GUIs incorporate elements that outwardly look as they will behave.
This means that users should be able to reasonably assume that if they click on a button that says ‘home’, they will be taken to a homepage that contains the type of information that one would expect to find on this type of webpage.
This core foundation of interaction is something that you cannot afford to get too creative with. Remember, sometimes an element needs to, and therefore should, behave in a completely predictable manner.
Advantage #6 - GUIs foreground storytelling and organisation with visual hierarchies
Fun fact: one of the least noticed design elements is actually one of the most integral. So, let’s jump into a few reasons why the development of a first-class visual hierarchy can transform your entire interface.
The establishment of a clear visual hierarchy helps to guide the eye through all the information contained on a page, which aids storytelling and creates a sense of harmony and balance. When a visual hierarchy appears out of sync, it almost always weakens a design.
Smart organisation will reduce the cognitive load placed on your users by removing the requirement for them to have to think about the connections between each element. Why? Because you have already done all the hard work for them. Your users should not be forced to figure everything out on their own, so give them those important visual clues by signposting important relationships and connections within your interface.
This might sound like a lot of work for something your users won’t necessarily notice, but this is what you should be aiming to achieve.
If you take one key takeaway from this section, let it be this:
Your users shouldn’t necessarily be consciously aware of how they are interacting with information, but it should be easy and seamless.
Advantage #7 - Effective GUIs heighten engagement with integrated contextualised clues
Colour is integral to good design but a well-designed user interface will help you to avoid relying too heavily on colour to differentiate between each core element on a page.
This is important because when you have the freedom to use colour solely to guide user attention and to highlight particularly important elements, the communication of key messaging becomes more effective.
Critically though, these contextualised clues can work much harder than just facilitating more effective communication by also ensuring that assistance is in-built and accessible whenever it is needed by users.
Your interface should NOT require your users to know in advance the kind of assistance they need before they visit a dedicated ‘help’ section to find the answer to their query. Instead, built-in assistance can be designed to appear when it is relevant and required to enhance the experience of every visitor. With the ability to boost conversions in the process, anticipating user needs is something that can deliver considerable benefits in the long term.
In short, the advantages of customised GUI design are myriad and it is not an overstatement to say that this can revolutionise the digital landscape for the better.
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