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First Impressions Matter: 8 Surefire User Interface Design Tips

Your app’s user interface makes the first impression with your user and is vitally important to its success. With today’s modern development tools, it’s easy to create great user interfaces for your app.

Here are 8 proven tips to help ensure you create a user interface that your users will love.

1. Limit choices.
Don’t provide an overwhelming number of options or preferences for your users. Too many choices can be intimidating and confusing and can make people not enjoy using your app. Your job is to design the software, which means choosing what it should do. Don’t take the easy way out and provide loads of options for your users all at one time.

2. Be familiar.
Sometimes you may need to implement an entirely new user interface metaphor in order to design your app. But typically this is unnecessary. Though it can be fun creating new and snazzy UI layouts, your users will likely not appreciate them much. Why? Because they won’t understand them or won’t know how to use them. A unique UI design isn’t always practical – stick to what people are familiar with.

3. Be consistent.
Your app should be consistent within itself. Don’t use UI controls in different ways on different screens because that is just confusing. For example, don’t use buttons on one screen to indicate actions, but then use link text on another screen to indicate the same action.

4. Put the user in charge.
Let the user feel like they are controlling the software. This means don’t force them down a single path to solve something. Let them try things and make mistakes. Have an undo feature so that they can easily fix their mistakes.

5. People can’t.
Don’t spend time writing long text for the user as they likely won’t read it. Keep the language short and simple. Make it easy for people to enter text because they are not good at it. If the user has to enter lots of text, give them lots of room, enable a spell checker and use a larger font to make it easier for them to read the text.

Make your UI targets easy to find and use because people can’t control the mouse, trackpad or even their finger for touch devices. And lastly, users likely won’t remember how they did something the last time, so make it easy to figure out.

6. Design first.
Have a design process – it doesn’t need to be anything complex. Sketching designs on paper or a whiteboard is a great way to get a feel for things. Software to mockup UI designs (such as Balsamiq) can also be quite useful. You can also use development tools like Xojo to mockup UI designs, but be careful not to make your mockup too functional or the users might think it is nearly complete!

7. Time is relative.
Users perceive time differently than you might expect. For example, they typically hate waiting for tasks to complete. But if you make it seem like they are not waiting, they often don’t notice how long a task takes. For example, if your main window takes 5 seconds to appear, that will irritate your users. If you instead display the window immediately with a loading indicator, users are far less likely to notice the delay. In general, users more easily notice delays when the UI becomes unresponsive so try to minimize that.

Also keep in mind that features you have spent a large amount of time creating may only be used for a very short period of time. Don’t let yourself become comfortable with a difficult design because you use it frequently.

8. Help out.
Your app should provide assistance to your users. Tips and guides are a great way to gently remind users how to use your software. It’s also a great idea to provide default data for the first launch of your app so that users can see how it is actually used in the real world. Another strategy is to prevent the user from making a mistake in the first place. Disable things when they cannot be used and enable them when they can be used.

For more tips like these, I recommend User Interface Design for Programmers by Joel Spolsky.

If you want to try your next app in Xojo, download it free anytime.