Designing Great UIs

A developer recently asked for UI design guidelines. While I’ve worked to a set of design principles evolved over years of developing products, I didn’t have a “Go To” manual of the key design principles to show others.

A Google search followed. After all, there are certain principles that great UIs embody and UI designers I’ve worked with have followed these same principles. Surely someone wrote a book on the “Laws of UI Design” that I could refer to. I found volumes of information. Literally, volumes. One document was 384 pages, another 760, still another over 500 pages. With such lengthy standards on UI design, they miss the first and most important point: make UI designs simple. If it takes 500 pages to define simple, they’ve missed the boat.

Detailed standards serve large corporations well and serve an important purpose, ensuring that everything produced in the company meets a standard. At the same time, the very essence of good UI design is lost in the immense detail. While it’s good to sweat the details to achieve perfection, defining the details loses sight of the over-arching goal: to satisfy customers so they buy and use software, and the very principles one must follow to achieve that.

In the volumes and volumes of information, I found a couple of documents on UI design that covered important data. While several important points are covered, they did not include key elements that I’ve learned and applied over the years. To remedy that, I wrote a Guide that pulls together twelve fundamentals and defines the essence of what makes a UI great. This blog will cover each chapter of the Guide. And since I can’t stop once I get going on a topic, I’ll probably add more detail–resulting in updating the guide to version 2.

The principles of good UI design apply to web pages, web apps as well as installed programs. There are differences in execution, as web apps and installed programs are designed to be used, while web pages (not including on-line shops) are designed to interest as a Marketing tool, to sell as a pre-Sales tool, or assist as a post-Sales or Support tool. This difference in function dictates differences in content as well as look and feel, however the twelve key points still apply.

Here’s to your next great UI.

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