Here is a set of 3 golden rules for designing a good user interface. Just like everything else in life, it’s all about balance and it’s much easier said than done. But anyway, here they are:
1. Respect the user
- Don’t be evil: don’t fool the user to do something that they wouldn’t normally do. Don’t limit their freedom even if their freedom means less profit for you.
- Don’t force the users to do something: no one likes being forced to do something, specially if it is by a robot or a software. Try to do as much as possible to keep the user happy. Don’t waste users time. Don’t make them do repeated tasks. Use a polite tone in your messages. Also don’t show useless messages to the user. Keep the interaction minimal and only down to essentials.
- Take user’s privacy very seriously: if you can’t guarantee safety of user’s don’t even ask for them. Always give complete control to the users on how they want to use their data.
2. Make it functional
- Don’t ever make the user feel stupid: users have a tendency to blame themselves when things go wrong. Don’t ever make people feel bad about themselves because they associate these emotions with your software. Make things as simple as possible. Let them feel smart and effective.
- Have a graceful error handling: errors happen all the time. Deal with it as much as possible and only show an error if you can’t fix it anyway. Give a clear error description in simple language and make sure that there is at least one good solution that the user can do (the more the better).
- Do as much usability test as possible: it doesn’t have to be expensive and long. Do as many tests as possible. Get feedback and improve things. Don’t design for yourself and your grandma. Don’t assume you know people. Let them tell you what you want.
3. Make it beautiful
- Make it an emotional experience: research has shown emotions have a big influence on our decision making. Visual aesthetic is a good tool to create emotion. Use colors. Try using animation to show motion. Use sound. Use light, 3D effects, shadows. Of course all of this should be used very carefully by a professional artist.
- People judge faces be it software or other people: maybe it’s the evolution but humans are visual creatures. They judge a product based on how it looks. That’s why every decent software project has a live demo or snapshots of their app. People judge a book from its cover. They shouldn’t but they do. Be prepared for selling software to people.
- Don’t overdo it: don’t push beauty to an extent that it hurts the previous two basic principals (respect and functionality). People don’t want to be forced to press “Skip” on a useless Flash splash screen before they can see the software. They don’t want to download a 100MB calculator just because it has a lot of chrome.