When computers first emerged, only software engineers were able to use them. To increase adoption, software developers needed to find a way to make the whole experience highly user-friendly by incorporating graphics and straightforward layouts to reduce the cognitive load.
Once the idea of developing graphical user interphases came up, operating systems (OS) like Microsoft Windows and software suites like Microsoft Office were born. This resulted in applications that boasted unique icons for migration, drop-down menus, and aesthetically pleasing layouts that revolutionized the industry (by making it easy for almost anyone to use a computer).
What’s a User Interface (UI)?
UI can be described as the visual part of any OS, application, software, or website that enables enhanced interaction and engagement. This approach dictates how information is displayed on the screen to make the whole experience seamless and highly user-friendly.
While UI designs have evolved over the years to influence websites and mobile apps, it still has an important role to play in software development. In fact, UI’s impact on the overall user experience (UX) will have a direct impact on how software products perform in the marketplace.
When developers follow user-centred design principles, it also makes it easier to fix problems, reduce user mistakes, and use fewer resources. So before writing a single line of code, it will be critical to address the UI.
The best approach here is to have a clear understanding of your software, business goals, and the end-user. This will help the development team formulate a highly responsive, straightforward, and simple design. The same is true even if you’re working on only the bare minimum in a minimum viable product.
What Are the Dangers of Ignoring UI Design Principles?
When software engineers jump right into the coding part of the project without addressing the UI, it will a have a significant impact on your time to market and your bottom line. This is because the original interface would probably meet the technical requirements, but without much thought into the layout and user flow, it probably won’t meet the demands of all stakeholders.
After a few iterations, when additional features are added (again) without giving any consideration to the UI, these new features will also be added to the existing interface. So when developers ignore how the software will work and how the end-user will use it, you end up with an application that’s hard to navigate and not user-friendly.
It’s futile to invest a significant number of hours developing software that the end-user will find challenging to use. However, this doesn’t mean that software users will ultimately dictate how the backend code functions. Instead, it will ensure that the software has the correct functionality and workflow.
The basic elements that help create good UX and UI design are as follows:
- Information architecture
- Interaction design
- Multiple points of engagement
- Usability (with clear navigation)
- Wireframing (to engage in testing)
- Visual design (Is it highly recognizable? Is it in sync with your brand image?)
To build applications with good UI, both software developers and designers have to work together to improve the overall design through continuous iterations. Just like writing code, good UI design in software development is also a continuous process.
This whole process will often start with sitemaps, task flows, wireframes, and storyboards. Sitemaps, in particular, provide graphic designers with the vision that drives the complete design of the UI.
When you start the development cycle with sitemaps, wireframes, and designs, you can quickly review the functionality and adapt it according to your business goals. As there’s no coding involved at this juncture, there’s no need to refactor your software codebase.
So a focus on the software UI from the beginning will ensure that your software development project doesn’t turn into a time and resource intensive nightmare. This approach will also ensure that you’re on the same page as the product owner (and other stakeholders).
What’s the Future of UI Is Software Development?
Both UI and UX will continue to be at the core of software development. However, going forward, it will evolve and adapt to meet the demands of the future markets.
For example, with the popularity of Instagram and Pinterest, the use of cards in UIs took the world by storm. In fact, it smart adaptive cards even made its way into the latest version of Microsoft products.
These cards can be described as a sheet of materials that clearly shows an entry point into a more complex data cluster. These can contain text, photographs, videos, and links related to a single subject.
Different cards whose topics and sizes can vary can be placed around UI to communicate multiple messages that are based on a hierarchy.
In the near future, sound design will also play a more prominent role in software UIs. These clicks and beeps will be focused on enhancing micro-interactions and the overall UX. These sounds are expected to boost the navigation process by seamlessly guiding the user through the software.
Going forward, you can also expect UIs to have more vibrant colours and borderless displays to improve storytelling. There will also be an increase in the overlapping of colours, fonts, and graphics to make the UI more distinctive and stand out. This approach can help create the illusion of open spaces to draw attention to important features within the program.
Finally, typography is also forecasted to play a more decisive role in UI. However, this time around it’s expected to be more experimental when it comes to font styles. So you can expect to see new fonts that are bigger, bolder, and fancy replacing traditional fonts that have been overused.
The goal of UI design in software development is to build highly user-friendly interfaces that encourage exploration of a new product without fear. As both software development and UI designs evolve, you can expect it to become more intuitive to meet the demands of changing user behaviour.