Throughout the several applications developed at Prominic, we have marched through a series of problems on how to visualize our data, big and sometimes ugly. Not only does the application need to look good, but it needs to ‘just work’ without getting in the user’s way of doing what they need to do.
Working with unwieldy data
One of the most challenging parts of user interface design is deciding how to appropriately fit your data into the display of the application. How large or small should this information be? Does it belong here? When does the user need to see it? How important is it in the process of getting the user from point A to point B? These are all questions you will be asking yourself as you’re setting up the canvas for your application’s interface. In most cases, the less data you need to display, the easier your life will be. Which brings me to my next point…
Less is more
In user interface design when you’re starting a new project or designing a new interface, you’ll eventually confront the thought of ‘how do I make this as simple as possible while still looking good?’. This is why so many minimalist UI design styles exist today over each platform- people’s creativity and need to cram information into small spaces spawned beautiful minimalistic GUI concepts that ended up being used worldwide in popular platforms, like Apple’s flat design that was introduced with iOS7. Or Window’s Metro which makes use of a series of boards, cards, and grids to display the data to the user. Both are minimalistic and share some basic styling choices, but use fundamentally different design layouts.
Getting the user what they need
Finding out what is most important to the user and what they need to see or where they need to go to get what they want is one of the most crucial parts of designing a good user experience. You should focus on building a user experience that you would use a hundred times and still be delighted by its ease-of-use. You actually should become a user and understand what kind of thought pattern or visual cues will be taken when you run through the experience. Naturally, this should happen in the testing phase, but it’s always good to drive this home. Too often we get caught up in our code or the ‘look’ of things without taking a step back and looking at the experience as a whole with wide eyes.
The last component of user experience design that I wanted to talk about that I hadn’t mentioned earlier is consistency. Having a consistent and predictable user interface makes it easier to use and also makes it look better. From the styling and animations to the layout between views, the design should follow a pattern. Just as good as the design looks and feels, it should also be easily understood – reinforcing the idea that the interface shouldn’t be getting in the way of what the user needs to do.
Thank you for reading! For fun, I included a few GUI concept examples below that I wrote in Flash a long time ago that I thought would be relevant to this topic- they are different animated GUI interactions to show the different ways that elements can be treated. One of them experiments with fitting larger data into smaller spaces.
NOTE: Requires a web browser with Flash Player enabled