Interface design literally determines the success or failure of a web-site or any digital application. As Smashing Magazine (one of our favourite publications on the web) points out – the user is the only person who clicks the mouse and therefore is the decider of everything. It’s for this reason that user-centric interface design has become a standard approach for digital development success.
How do I get started?
The first thing to do is to try to understand how users interact with web-sites, how they think and what their basic patterns of behaviour are.
Here are a few things we’ve learned about web users along the way:
- Web users are impatient. They want to get to the right stuff, fast.
- They scan, rather than reading. Reams of copy are lost on them – in fact it’s alienating.
- Users follow their intuition to try and speed things up, rather than making logical choices by trawling through all the available information.
- Users want to have control and know where they’re at, at all times.
What’s the second thing?
The second thing is actually a whole bunch of things, in no particular order of importance. Because they’re all important. These are the Thinkun rules of interface design:
- Krug’s first law of usability: Don’t make users think.
- Further to the point above, convention is your friend. In your interface, strive to employ the ‘standard’ things that make the web familiar and usable. We promise they won’t get bored.
- Remove as many barriers as possible to getting things done and don’t test their patience with awkward stuff like internal scrolling, and silly little buttons.
- Think twice about usage of Flash. It’s not that we hate it; it’s just that (like vegemite) a little goes a long way. Also, Flash doesn’t work on iPhones and iPads.
- Use the abundant scientific knowledge available about how the human eye works to ensure the user’s attention is drawn to the important information on your pages first.
- Help them understand the system/benefit/process in simple 1-2-3 steps.
- Spend a lot of time refining your copy so that you end up with less. Get help from people who understand writing for the web.
- Strive for simplicity and don’t be afraid of blank space if it works for you.
- Test early. Test lots.
If you’re developing a digital application or a website and you’d like a hand from Thinkun with the interface, just get in touch. It’s better to think about it early, but even if you’ve finished development and gone live, there are things that you can do enhance the interface and improve user experience.