We all understand the importance of good design and how it can help improve the overall user experience of a product. Well-designed products and interfaces leave a positive first impression and show users that they were created with great care.
Creating both a pixel-perfect and user-focused design at the same time can help get your product to the next level. We’re here to show you how to optimize user experience using design principles.
Although we will focus mainly on UX principles, let’s start with the difference between UX and UI, two commonly confused terms:
What does ‘UI’ stand for?
User interface (UI) refers to anything a user interacts with to use a digital product or service. A screen or touchscreen, keyboard, and sound fall under this category.
In simple words, a user interface (UI) is the surface on which interactions between humans and machines take place.
What does ‘UX’ stand for?
User experience (UX) is the relationship between a product, system, or service and the person using it. The practice of UX design focuses on building products that someone can easily use and enjoy using.
UX design is also a human-first approach to web design, and therefore it consists of a range of disciplines. Those are interaction design, information architecture, visual design, usability, and human-computer interaction.
What is a ‘good’ UX design?
UX design is all about designing (digital or physical) products that are useful, easy to use, and delightful to interact with. It’s about enhancing people’s experience while interacting with your product.
So, good UX design takes the user to their destination or purpose with as few clicks as possible.
Let’s dive into the core of this practice!
10 UI UX Design Tips to Win Your Users’ Hearts and Minds [+Bonus Tip]
1. Do your research
Pablo Picasso is often quoted saying: “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” you don’t need to go as far as stealing, but you can learn something from Picasso. Competitor research allows us to form the big picture of what clients expect from our product.
Before starting any UI UX projects, do your research and find inspirational materials online. Study how other similar companies present their product, how they interact with their target audience, and what makes them stand out (or not).
2. Make your users feel at home
If that’s not enough to convince you to go and do your research, maybe the Familiarity Bias effect will. The familiarity bias, often referred to as ‘the familiarity heuristic’ or Jakob’s Law, was discovered by the psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman; it happens when the familiar is favored over the new or the unknown.
Simply put, users spend most of their time on other sites, and they prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know.
The Familiarity Bias effect can be applied to various situations and certainly can be applied to the UX decision-making process:
When interactions appear similar to previous or familiar interactions, especially if the individuals are experiencing a high cognitive load, they may regress to the state of mind in which they have felt or behaved before. Users will transfer expectations they built around one familiar product to another that appears similar.
As designers, we can be inspired by big brands that set the tone for UX interactions. For example, if you’re designing a video-based platform, you might be influenced by big names like Netflix, Youtube, or Vimeo. If you’re creating an e-commerce platform, Amazon, eBay, or Asos might be your role models.
It’s essential to set a familiar base, so we can create a user experience in which the users can focus on their tasks rather than on learning new interactions and models.
3. Utilize ‘above the fold’ – your prime location
“Location, location, location.” Harold Samuel coined this phrase in 1944 when he founded Land Securities, one of the UK’s largest property companies.
From a UI UX perspective, when we talk about “the fold,” we’re talking about the upper area of a website that is immediately visible to users when it loads on their screen. Moving your content around, so the most engaging piece is above the screen fold can help ensure visitors stick around, subscribe, and buy, regardless of the screen size on which it is being viewed.
While there are no hard and fast rules for above-the-fold placement, some best practices often work as helpful guidelines. Some of these are common sense ideas, such as ensuring the most engaging content is above the fold.
Though it’s certainly true to say that user habits have changed enormously from the early days of the internet when due to the slow connection speed it was common for most users to rarely read anything below the fold.
These days people are far more likely to scroll through most of the page, and yet on different heatmaps, it shows that most clicks occur above the fold area of the site.
*Pro-tip: if the amount of information you’re putting can cause the user a “Cognitive Load” (=total amount of mental effort required to complete a task), you might try splitting your information or steps into accordions. Accordions lessen visual complexity and let users focus on their tasks and goals.
Additionally, accordions allow designers to add more information on a page without overwhelming users at first glance and can help manage page length by collapsing content on mobile.
4. Start with Mobile
It’s not a secret that Desktop and Mobile user experiences are different. Hence, your design should be adjusted to the device as well. A great tip we have in store for you is designing the UX and UI infrastructure for mobile-first and only then for desktop. Designing for the small screen first and then working the way up allows designers to focus on the core functions of their product.
Mobile requires its own dedicated UI UX design. The thumb rule is to remove unnecessary content compared to the desktop version.
5. Thumb Zone as a thumb rule
Liked the wordplay? Seriously now, when designing for mobile, make sure to use ‘the thumb zone’ rule:
Important content needs to be aimed toward the thumb, where it is natural for the thumb to be. Stretch areas are in reach but can be considered a relegation area for less important touch interaction.
However, ‘Out of reach’ areas should be avoided. Your user can see it but would rather not touch it. Keep that in mind.
6. Follow The F-Shaped Pattern and the Z-Shaped Patterns
We have all heard of the term ‘F-shaped’ and the ‘Z-shaped’ patterns. But what do they mean?
Most people don’t read the content; they scan it. To be more exact, 80% of users only scan the text because they want to check what is the primary purpose of the website.
The F-shaped pattern is usually used when designing text-heavy websites, such as blogs.
The Z-shaped pattern is a more common solution for designs with less text.
Users first read in a horizontal movement, usually across the upper part of the content area. This initial element forms the F’s top bar. Next, users move down the page a bit and then read across in a second horizontal movement that typically covers a shorter area than the previous movement. This additional element forms the F’s lower bar.
Finally, users scan the content’s left side in a vertical movement. Sometimes, this slow and systematic scan appears as a solid stripe on an eye-tracking heatmap. Other times users move faster, creating a spottier heatmap. This last element forms the F’s stem.
You can use this concept when designing text. When reading a sentence, the eyes scan the text from left to right. Thus dividing the words into shape clusters by 2 to 4 words at a time would help people scan the text faster.
The huamn mnid deos not raed ervey letter by istelf, but the wrod ad a wlohe.
The concept of dividing big paragraphs of text into smaller rows can work great on hero banners. It’s easier to engage the user when you have their full attention by ‘pitching’ our idea, product, service, or brand.
Most people can only decode 4-5 pairs before needing a break.
7. Minimize The Number of Clicks
Unnecessary steps that add no value to the user experience should be avoided as they only make it more difficult for visitors to achieve their goals.
#1 Example – Amazon’s 1-click checkout
One example we love in which the pursuit of fewer clicks makes a lot of sense is Amazon’s 1-click checkout. If you’re not familiar with this offering, it streamlines your purchasing process by auto-saving your payment and shipping information and allowing you to purchase in… you guessed it, one click.
#2 Example – Microsoft Teams vs. Skype.
Despite Microsoft starting to roll out replacement tools for Skype, like Microsoft Teams, many users remain using the Skype platform because it’s intuitive and straightforward.
You need to sign in to the app and click on a person you want to connect with. You can send an instant message and launch a meeting with the “Meet Now” button.
Skype also simplifies the act of adding other people to your meeting by giving you a link you can copy and paste to anyone. You don’t even need an account to join a Skype meeting because guest access is supported. The user’s learning curve is short and practical.
Microsoft Teams and Zoom, on the other hand, are a bit less user-friendly. Both platforms use extra steps with different approaches to screen-sharing, participant adding, and messaging simultaneously.
8. Use a Single Call to Action (CTA)
CTAs come in all shapes and sizes and use a specific phrase to lead a consumer to take additional action. Hick’s Law dictates that the time it takes to decide increases with the number and complexity of choices available. Long story short – more options lead to more complex decisions.
If your page is centered on a single action or offer and a visitor doesn’t need any more information from another page, go with one CTA.
If you have different offers, you can highlight recommended ones and avoid overwhelming users.
Bear in mind that this doesn’t mean you can’t have multiple CTA buttons, just that they all essentially do the same thing. Be careful not to simplify the CTA you use to the point of abstraction!
9. Less is more
Like everything in life, also in UI UX design, less is more. Any element that isn’t helping the user achieve their goal is working against them because they must process it and store it in their working memory.
Miller’s Law states that The average person can only keep 7 (plus or minus 2) items in their working memory.
That doesn’t mean you have to use the “magical number seven” to justify unnecessary design limitations. Remember that short-term memory capacity will vary per individual, based on their prior knowledge and situational context.
Avoiding excessive colors, imagery, design flourishes, or layouts that don’t add value is crucial. But simplicity comes with a caveat: don’t overvalue it at the cost of clarity.
10. The Aesthetically Pleasing Usability Effect
Last but not least, users often perceive aesthetically pleasing design as a more functional design. An aesthetically pleasing design creates a positive response in people’s brains and makes them believe the design works better (who knew?!).
The aesthetic-usability effect was first studied in human-computer interaction in 1995. Researchers found a stronger correlation between the participants’ ratings of aesthetic appeal and perceived ease of use than the correlation between their ratings of aesthetic appeal and actual ease of use.
The researcher concluded that users are strongly influenced by the aesthetics of any given interface, even when they try to evaluate the underlying functionality of the system.
If that teaches us anything, people are more tolerant of minor usability issues when the design of a product or service is aesthetically pleasing.
Don’t tell anyone, but visually pleasing design can mask usability problems and prevent issues from being discovered during usability testing.
Final Thoughts + Bonus tip
Better Test It Than Guess It
If it wasn’t obvious by now, design plays a crucial role in user experience and engagement. Good or bad design can tilt the scales from the most basic and simple interactions to complicated decision-making processes.
If you’re feeling lost or clueless, you can always count on user testing to provide the correct answers. Give users a chance to put their experience into words. Watch recording sessions of users interacting with your product, preferably with different team members, and deduct conclusions.
Be empathetic to, flexible about, and tolerant of any of the various actions the user could take or any input they might provide. Accept variable input from users, translate that input to meet your requirements, define boundaries for input, and provide clear feedback to the user.