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What is User Interface Design?

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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2017
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2017
    Conjecture Corporation
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User interface design is the practice of creating a usable set of controls for a software product, website, or sometimes a piece of technology. The term "user interface" could broadly be used to describe a wide variety of things, but usually it is reserved for technological purposes. When people design a user interface, there are certain principles they often follow that make things easier for users. The quality of user interface design can make a huge impact on the popularity of a piece of software or other technology.

In most cases, simplicity and functionality are the two most important things that experts think about when developing an interface. Sometimes these things can work against each other, and finding a balance between the two can be crucial. For example, if a piece of software has a lot of options and a wide-ranging functionality, the interface may need to be relatively complex in order to give the user sufficient control of the options that are present. A designer will usually try to find the simplest and most direct way of presenting the options available so that the interface makes the product simpler to use and less intimidating.

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Feedback is considered one of the most important aspects of interface creation. For example, if a person presses a button and nothing happens, he may wonder if his choice made any difference. On the other hand, if he presses the button and a light comes on, then the user knows that depressing the button is having an effect and he will generally feel more comfortable using the product. If the light stays on after the button is pressed, then the user can look up and see that there is a light, and this reminds him that he pressed the button earlier.

Another crucial aspect when creating a user interface design is appearance. Sometimes a slick-looking user interface can help sell a product, so making sure that user interfaces are attractive can often be part of a marketing strategy. For example, an operating system with a fancy user interface can seem more inviting to users, and it may outsell another operating system with a drab interface even if both have the same basic functionality. The idea behind what looks attractive and what doesn’t will generally change over time, so someone in the field of user interface design will generally need to keep up with current trends.

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