What it Means to Build an Intuitive UI

June 2018
 minute read
writing down design ideas with colored highlighters and pens next to smartphone

Is website design a service industry? You bet it is. A successful website, much like a successful restaurant or hotel, will anticipate and cater to its visitors’ needs. As a website designer, you can think of yourself as a concierge: it is your job to make sure the visitor’s experience is as good as it can be.

Don’t worry if you aren’t quite sure where to start. This article will cover everything you need to know:

  • What a user interface is
  • What a good user interface is
  • How to design a user interface that keeps visitors coming back

User Interface Fundamentals

What is a user interface, anyway?

Simply put, the user interface or UI is anything that allows a human to interact with a computer. This can mean physical objects like keyboards, touch screens, or trackpads. It also refers to any of the intangible, digital tools that help a user interact with their computer, like applications and file management systems. When it comes to websites like yours, the user interface refers to the elements of your page that visitors can interact with like toolbars, links, images, and so on.

That’s all well and good, but why does it matter?

Your user interface is important because it can make or break a user’s experience on your website. We’ve all been to restaurants whose service flat out sucked, and we’ve all been to websites we couldn’t even begin to understand how to navigate. Those are not the sorts of places we return to. Developing a great UI will ensure your site does not share that fate.

thinking at a computer
If you have a good user interface, your visitors won’t have to think too much about how to navigate your site.

Making your UI intuitive

Lately it seems like the entire web development world is obsessed with the intuitive user interface, but what does that even mean? The definition of an intuitive interface is pretty straightforward-- that users are able to understand the interface’s behavior without requiring assistance or special training. In practice, there’s a little more to it. Developing an intuitive user interface means finding the right combination of factors like explorability, efficiency, and responsiveness, and it takes some practice to get the balance just right.

Top Five Tricks for Building an Intuitive UI

1. Know your audience

When you’re building a website, you should have your users in mind every step of the way. A good place to start is by figuring out who they are from a demographic standpoint, but pulling data with an analytics app (or even two or three) won’t be enough if you want to develop a truly intuitive interface.

individuals standing together

Your users are unique, and figuring out who they are will help you design a website that fits their needs.

If you want to go the extra mile in terms of UI design, you’ll have to understand your users as real people, not just numbers. In order to figure out how they will realistically use your site, understand their wants and needs, and anticipate the kinds of mistakes they might make navigating your website, it can be extremely useful to conduct some usability testing. You can organize your own tests to get feedback on your design from your users, or you can take advantage of a company that organizes usability tests for you.

2. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel

Standards are the standard for a reason-- use this to your advantage. Most of your users have come to expect certain things from the websites they interact with: the menu will include a link back to the homepage, pop-ups can be closed with an “x” in the top right corner of the window, a thumbs up or a heart icon will “like” something. If you’re going to stray from these established conventions, make sure you have a good reason to do so.

computer, tablet, and phone
A well-designed user interface will function beautifully on any device.

Along these same lines, make sure that your website is up to snuff in terms of current web design best practices. If there are rules about web accessibility or responsive web design that everybody else seems to be following, you should probably follow them, too. It can be difficult to navigate all of these requirements, but there is plenty of support out there if you need it. Companies like Responsival create websites that look amazing and are easy to navigate, and opting to hire specialists will ensure the job gets done right.

3. Give feedback ASAP

In the real world, we are constantly getting feedback from our environment that lets us know what we’re doing is right or wrong. Touching a plate of nachos that just popped out of the oven hurts, so we know to stop doing it. We don’t usually have that luxury online: if something we’re doing doesn’t work, we often don’t know why. Creating a UI that provides feedback to your user in the form of loading animations, buttons that move or pop to let them know they’ve clicked it successfully, and screens that tell them when they’ve done something correctly can make a huge difference.

two people shaking hands in agreement
In the real world, it’s important to provide feedback to the people you work with, so don’t forget to provide feedback to your online users, too.

4. Keep it simple

Buttons, pop-ups, and banners may be fun, but they can also get overwhelming fast. To ensure that your users don’t get bogged down with all of your extra elements, make sure that everything you put on your website has a distinct purpose. Guide your user through your website instead of throwing everything at them at once. This will make your interface easier to learn and decisions about how to navigate easier for your users to make.

digital watch
You should strive to create a simple, elegant user interface that is easy for users to interact with.

5. Don’t ignore the numbers

Set up analytics for your site, and actually use them. Google Analytics is a great option for this. Pay attention to how users are interacting with your site: what links they click on, what pages they visit, and how long they stay on a page. Keeping track of how your users are getting around your site will help you pinpoint anything that might be confusing them. If you find it, you can fix it.

analytic tools on tablet
Analytic tools provide valuable information about your users, so don’t be afraid to make changes to your interface based on the data you see.

Creating an intuitive UI doesn’t have to be difficult. Try out some of these tips and tricks on your website today, or visit Responsival to find out just how easy and affordable building a brand new responsive website can be.


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