Anastasia Kryzhanovska

Role of Web Application User Interface Design

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How do you choose a new smartphone? Is it the simplicity of use, design or technical characteristics that most influence your choice? Most probably it’s all three and it’s safe to say that same applies to the choice of web apps. So, when designing a web application, there are two key aspects to keep in mind — user interface (UI) and user experience (UX).

A web application UI design aggregates all functions and defines the way you will be interacting with the software or, in other words, the UX. The user’s experience is the overall experience you have when interacting with a system. Web application user interface is the very first thing you see when opening any application. Therefore, the first impression and the subsequent user experiences are critical here. To develop a beautiful and user-friendly web application interface design you might need to consult online with a technical partner.

Why Good User Interface and Experience Design Matter

User interface and user experience design are the defining ones when it comes to the profitability of your app. With the number of current products on the market, yours has to meet and exceed expectations in order to surpass them.

The benefits of good UI and UX are listed below:

Boost customer satisfaction.

If you offer a smartphone with an inconvenient web app UI design, users will most likely choose another app with more simple UI. The clearer interface and the better UX — the more satisfied customers.

  • No learning curve to struggle with.
    Some web application UI designs require some getting used to. It creates a direct connection with a so-called “learning curve” — the term that graphically represents the common saying “Practice makes perfect”. With the modern fast pace of life, few people are ready to practice in order to master just another app. So, the simpler the user interface, the fewer problems customers will face and, therefore, the higher the possibility that they will choose exactly your product.
  • Increased user adoption.
    User adoption is all about switching from an old system or product to a new, more efficient one. It is also about using it to fill some need. Customers who have been using similar apps may well switch to a new one designed by you, but only if it’s easier in use and more efficient.
  • Natural growth.
    The organic growth will be achieved if your customers start using the app after it had been recommended to them. This natural way, in contrast to artificially created adverts or paid links, is cheaper and more effective. However, it works positively only if your users have a satisfying UX.
  • Increased profits.
    A clear and easy-to-use UI design for web applications is a benefit for both you and your customers. They have an application that works perfectly, meets their needs, and ensures a great experience. Hence your customer base grows thanks to word of the mouth which gives more opportunities to profit from the results of your work.

The Rules of Good User Interface in Web Design Projects

If you are developing an app from scratch, you will definitely need some useful tips. Let’s discuss some principles that professional developers follow when engineering a new UI.

1. Make everything a user may need easily accessible

It doesn’t matter what kind of app you are designing — if users can’t find what they want in a matter of minutes, they’ll leave. This is why making things easily accessible is a fundamental rule. Use the shortcuts, hover tooltips, and tabs to make your interface clear and simple.

Tooltip

2. Give a few options for contacting you

Such toolbar options as Help, Support, and Contact should be easily accessible as well. At some point, your customers will need to get in touch with you and it should be as simple as possible.

toolbar options

3. Be consistent

Your product has to work, look, and feel like one single unit. Therefore, being consistent is another crucial rule to follow when creating user interface design for web applications. The consistency of your interface is where the consistency of the entire app begins.

Consistency refers to everything from the font, colors, and design that users see on every page to the menu on the front page which has to be perfectly structured. It would be a great idea to make the interface feel more intuitive so the users are able to navigate easily.

4. Approach the design with utmost clarity

People who use your app don’t have to wreck their brains to understand what to do, where to click, and what to choose. It should be clear from the very beginning. One of the ways to make things obvious is to create a new page for every new step of the process. Here is a good web application user interface design example:

Geonaute

5. Provide users with feedback

Make sure that your users receive small feedback on whatever actions they are taking. Once they click on something it would be useful of the system let them know how much time is left to upload the next page or download the file. Keep in mind that most people are impatient, but it’s less frustrating for them to see that the system is processing something.

6. Use recognition instead of recall

No one wants to guess what icon they should click. Hence, all icons should be as recognizable as possible, so their usage becomes intuitive. Recognizing instead of recalling makes UX much more satisfying.

7. Choose stable ways of interaction

This point connects to consistency because the ways a user will be interacting with the app have to be logical. Every page has to have the same way of interaction and include only functional images. This way users will avoid the confusion and frustration, and you — loss of customers.

8. Give users a clear understanding of what to do

When Siri was designed, voice input was chosen as the main way of using the app and it never changed. Users just need to talk to the app, can’t get much clearer than that. Make instructions understandable to the users.

9. Heed the design standards

There are certain graphics and icons that stay unaltered such as a question mark (?) indicating Help and hamburger icon ( ☰ ) representing the menu bar or a magnifier for the search bar. By following these UI standards for a web application, you will avoid users’ getting disoriented.

Search Icon

10. Mind the elemental hierarchy

If you want to simplify the use of your app, follow the elemental hierarchy. Traditionally, things go from top to bottom and from left to right. In terms of app UI design, it means that the most important objects must be placed at the top of the page. This makes the UI clearer and process of using more natural and intuitive.

11. Keep it simple

The easier it is to navigate through the app, the more confident and happy your users feel. So, make sure they don’t need to think twice on ant step. Here is a mockup of the first page which may serve as a source of inspiration for you.

How can we help you today?

12. Make everything for the user frictionless, as much as possible

Simplicity might as well be the motto of UI/UX design. Users shouldn’t have any problems proceeding from one point to another. Think of the navigation, for instance. A convenient one would have fewer elements and familiar titles.

13. Empower your users

Whichever UI designs for web applications you are considering, they should not restrict or take control away from the users. Empower them with your UI instead. The very first thing you can do is locate the most important tools and buttons next to the users’ working area. Let them feel that they can do or undo any action at any time.

14. Design with the users in mind

Sometimes you need to give them the freedom to use app comfortably. One of the ways to do this is to add buttons Cancel and Undo to certain pages where they may need to make changes.

There are some technical partners that you can find online in case you need professional help or advice. For example, Gearheart’s has an experienced and skilled team which can guarantee your security.

10 UI Design Considerations for Web Apps

You may use Photoshop or Pixelmator, hire the most creative illustrators, yet there are some points you should always take into account and monitor how they are done in your project.

Blank State

The state of your app before the user makes any action is critical, as it gives a general understanding of what the application is about. There are some templates you may find helpful.

Here you can use media to demonstrate how things work.

Fitbit FreshBook

Provide some tips for first-time users as FreshBook

Basecamp

Start with a video tutorial like Basecamp

DropBox, on the other hand, suggests ticking off the steps:

Dropbox1 Dropbox2

While Gearheart provides general information about the company and its projects:

Gearheart

Displaying the Usage and Quota Information

Those apps that have limited storage should inform their users about it in advance. They should have an opportunity to consider an upgrade before they run out of storage space.

This is how Gmail deals with it, by showing the information about the storage space left as a simple text:

Gmail storage left message

You have to open Settings to see the calculation of quota/usage in Evernote:

Evernote

And Gearheart gives a clear idea of what the software development process is like:

Software development process diagram

Displaying Pricing, Up- or Downgrade Plan Information

This must be done simply and seamlessly within an application itself.

The FreshBooks located its upgrade reminder in the footer:

FreshBook

BaseCamp informs you of what you can get by upgrading the plan:

Basecamp

DropBox offers a great overview of its upgrade policy:

Dropbox

Gearheart provides a pricing and payment schedule:

Gearheart

Easier Navigation with UI Elements

The look of UI elements adds vitality to your app and helps users navigate.

This is how it looks like on Breakfast, with indications of what you can and can’t use:

Breakfast

Gearheart gives some visual ideas on how to simplify navigation:

Gearheart

Making the UI Intuitive and Simple

Keep your UI as understandable as possible. Hide the buttons and icons which users don't need and use the approach of progressive disclosure.

This is how it looks like in Dropbox. The inactive state:

Dropbox Inactive

That is what you get when hovering over your file:

Dropbox Active

The contextual menu gets progressively disclosed offering additional tasks to use in your file.

Gearheart shows more details after you click on a pointer:

Gearheart Gearheart

The Right Use of Visuals

Icons, images, charts, graphs, and other visuals are great for making the interface more user-friendly. They make data more readable and simple.

The trash icon on Basecamp is used to draw the attention and it gets disclosed when you hover over it:

Basecamp trash icon

Basecamp trash icon disclosed

Gearheart uses visuals to demonstrate what services it offers:

Gearheart

Easy-to-find Instructions and Information

Call boxes and notification areas are quite helpful, but it is important to locate them at the places where they will be convenient for the user and won’t interfere with the workflow.

Choosing the Proper Speed for the User Interface

Fast means efficient and this is what every user looks for in an application. Therefore, it is crucial to make sure that the app operates with the best speed. It would be a great idea to reduce the use of Java and utilize CSS when possible.

Creating Clickable Element and Add Alt Attributes

Don’t forget to style clickable elements. For example, it could be a cursor that changes into a pointer when an element is interactive.

Also, add alt attributes to all images. They describe what the image is about (or what an icon should be used for), help avoid ambiguity, make it more convenient for visually impaired people who use screen readers, and simply show up when an image failed to load.

Basecamp trash icon disclosed

Finished State

It does matter how your application looks once the data is entered.

CompVersions has done it this way:

CompVersions Basecamp Fin Dropbox Fin

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of rules and principles to consider in order to create a functional and easy-to-use application interface. Once you have created the UI, which translates into a satisfying UX, your product is certain to hit a home run. Hence, it is a great investment in a functional web app UI design.

Remember that everything should be easy to consume and mind the UI/UX design principles, even if you hire a highly rated designer.

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