An outstanding user interface can and often does make all the difference. Interface quality has a direct impact on both usability and the perceived professionalism of the respective web business.
Not that this is surprising, given how UI design accounts for literally everything seen on any website or mobile application.
This importance isn’t lost on most business owners. In fact, the vast majority of amateur and experienced web business owners alike invest heavily in the creation of a solid UI. The only problem being that while some achieve excellent results, others fall well and truly short of the mark.
Even when you think things are going in the right direction, you could be making any number of mistakes made by thousands of webmasters on a daily basis.
The Secret of Great Design
Is there one ‘silver bullet’ secret to great UI design? The short answer is no…it all depends on your target audience, the type of business you run, what you intend to achieve with your website and so on. But at the same time, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t several universally applicable rules to follow at all times.
Not to mention, common mistakes to avoid at all costs.
Get it right with your UI design and you will be looking at the best possible ROI. By contrast, fall foul of any of the following mistakes and you’ll be facing an uphill battle you may never win:
- Random Design
First and foremost, there’s a difference between adopting a flexible approach and simply making things up as you go along. If you decide to ‘wing it’ with no specific road map or strategy to work with, it just isn’t going to work. In most instances, the key to successful UI design lies in comprehensively visualising exactly how every key element of your website will look, before actually building it. If something doesn’t look or feel nearly as good as expected, feel free to change it. Nevertheless, to take a haphazard approach from start to finish is almost guaranteed to produce chaotic results.
Don’t make the mistake of focusing too much on outstanding visuals and rich media in general, as doing so means compromising page loading times. Particularly in the case of high-resolution imagery, nothing deals a blow to UI design quite like unacceptably sluggish performance. In terms of trading one for the other, it’s actually better to reduce resolution and quality parameters in general for the sake of improving site performance.
- Chaotic Colour Use
The psychology of colour can make a big difference to the overall appeal and impact of your website. Nevertheless, you also need to ensure that the colours (and combinations thereof) that you choose are appropriate for your business. Ensuring your content and key messages stand out is important, but so too is ensuring a sense of consistency throughout your entire website. Brands like Coca-Cola have clearly illustrated how you don’t have to get too fancy or complex with colour combinations to become instantly recognisable.
- Forgetting Feedback
On the subject of UI design, feedback refers to some kind of indicator that clearly communicates the user’s interaction has been noted and is being processed. A common example being to receive a ‘processing, please wait’ message after hitting a payment or order button of some kind. In the absence of feedback, users often find themselves hammering away at the same button dozens of times, having figured it hasn’t registered their interactions. Even if it’s something as simple as a spinner or moving circle, it needs to be made comprehensively clear that their action has been actioned.
- Confusing Navigation
Or if not confusing, unnecessarily complex. The larger your website and the greater its number of pages, the more dependent the user will be on the search facilities you provide. Ideally, you need to make it as quick and easy as possible for them to get from where they are now to where they need to be, with no complications or unnecessary delays. Feel free to use multi toggles, slides navigations and all such other options at your disposal to help refine the search process. Just be sure that in doing so, you don’t make the search system itself confusing and complicated.
- Too Much Text
Research has shown that one of the most universal turn-offs among today’s web users is being presented with too much textual content. If the user in question has voluntarily accessed your blog, clicked on an in-depth article or decided to research something very specific, essay-style posts may be appropriate. When it comes to your website’s primary pages and static content, text should be kept to the absolute minimum you can get away with. It’s a case of assuming that the user in question knows what they want and is simply looking to get it done as quickly as possible. Always focus more on visuals and less on text, using things like subheadings, headings, boxes and bullets to give your textual content greater impact.
- Tiny Clickable Links
One of the most cardinal UI design sins to avoid at all costs is that of assuming every user will access your website via the same device and screen size. An awful error to make for a variety of reasons, particularly when it comes to those tiny links and buttons that are almost impossible to press on a small smartphone touchscreen. Particularly with Google’s new mobile-first indexation system coming into the mix, it is imperative that you ensure your mobile experience is every bit as outstanding as your desktop UX. Keep things clear and accessible, make sure your links are easy to click and pay plenty of attention to smaller screens.
- Hidden Contact Details
The more difficult you make it for your customers to get in touch, the more they’re likely to believe you don’t want them to. There are two huge mistakes to avoid in this instance – the first of which being the complete absence of contact details. These days, to offer nothing more than a generic contact form and promise a ‘timely’ reply just isn’t going to cut it. But at the same time, make your customers jump through hoops to find your e-mail address, telephone number, business address etc. and you can’t expect to instil a great deal of trust. A mistake even some of the biggest companies in the world are guilty of, but a very big mistake nonetheless.
- Poor Headlines
Headlines can be used to somewhat bridge the gap between textual content and imagery. They may be textual in nature, but are nonetheless engineered and positioned to grab the attention of the user and bring a visual break/accent to the page in question. This is precisely why it is of crucial importance to ensure your headlines are as effective and attention-grabbing as possible. The problem being that lousy headlines have the potential to dilute the quality and appeal of everything else on the page. Headlines should be carefully thought out and strategic in nature, rather than random or pulled out of thin air.
- Infuriating Forms
Last up, absolutely everything you offer via your website should be free and easy to access, without the need to sign up. Even if your visitors decide to go ahead with a purchase, they should still be able to do so as a guest. Don’t misconstrue – providing the option of signing up in exchange for whatever perks and privileges you can think of can be fantastic. Nevertheless, mandatory signups and the requirement for heavy provision of personal data are simply unacceptable these days. Regardless of the quality and value for money of whatever it is you have to offer, the very sight of a mandatory sign up form is enough to send most people in the opposite direction.
The key to successful web design lies in striking the perfect balance between two seemingly contradictory priorities – creativity and simplicity. On one hand, you need to ensure you come up with a website and UX that separates you from the competition and gives you the opportunity to build your brand. On the other, the whole thing needs to be comprehensively simple, accessible and intuitive in the extreme. Not the easiest balance to strike, but the key to successful web design nonetheless.
Of course, you can’t expect to nail everything flawlessly with your first attempts. Instead, it’s a case of using on-going A/B testing processes and general website analytics to find out what works and what doesn’t. Even when it comes to things like colour choice for one of your most important CTA buttons, switching from one colour to another really can make a huge difference. Examine your competitors, determine where they’re falling short of the mark and do whatever you can to provide something your target audience cannot already access elsewhere.