Mastering the 4 Golden Rules: The Key to Exceptional UI Design

When a UI is done well, people don't even notice it, but when done poorly, it hinders their ability to use the product efficiently.

Intro

When a UI is done well, people don't even notice it, but when done poorly, it hinders their ability to use the product efficiently — plus, they might get so frustrated they spread negative reviews to others.

To ensure success in UI design, follow these design principles.

1. Make the UI consistent

Consistency is crucial for usability and learnability. Consider the following aspects of consistency:

  • Consistency with user expectations: Design the product according to peoples' expectations, following platform conventions, established patterns, and familiar terminology.
  • Functional consistency: Ensure that the behavior of interface controls remains consistent across the product.
  • Visual consistency: Maintain consistent visual elements, such as colors, fonts, and icons, throughout the product.

2. Give people control

A good UI makes people comfortable and allows them to learn and master the product quickly. Here are some key points:

  • Show the system status: People should be informed about what is happening in the system, especially when actions take time to complete.
  • Accommodate different skill levels: Design for the needs of both novice and experienced people, providing tutorials for beginners and shortcuts for experts.
  • Create an easy-to-navigate UI: Navigation should be clear and self-evident, providing visual cues and predictability.
  • Provide feedback: The system should acknowledge peoples’ actions with meaningful and clear feedback.
  • Make it forgiving: People should be able to quickly undo or redo their actions, encouraging exploration without fear of failure.

3. Reduce cognitive load

To reduce the mental effort required to use a product, consider the following:

  • Promote visual clarity: Organize information visually and legibly, avoiding visual clutter and applying content organization principles.
  • Minimize actions required: Strive to reduce the actions needed to accomplish a task.
  • Chunk information or actions: Organize and group information in a way that allows people to process it in manageable chunks.
  • Promote recognition over recall: Make information and functionality visible and easily accessible, minimizing the need for people to recall information.

4. Make it comfortable

To create a comfortable user experience, consider the following:

  • Avoid asking for redundant data: Don't force people to repeat information they have already provided.
  • Use real-world metaphors: Use metaphors that connect the digital experience with the real world, making the unfamiliar familiar.
  • Use natural language: Use everyday language that is easy to understand, avoiding jargon or system-oriented terms.
  • Design accessible interfaces: Ensure the product is accessible to people with different abilities, considering factors like color blindness and visual impairments.
  • Engineer for errors: Handle errors effectively with clear messages and prevention strategies to minimize user frustration.
  • Eliminate unnecessary elements: Remove irrelevant or rarely needed information to simplify the interface and reduce visual clutter.
  • Protect their work: Prevent people from losing their work due to errors or system issues.
  • Make it touchable: Design large targets for essential functions to make them easier to interact with.

Wrapping up

In conclusion, UI designers aim to create user-friendly interfaces that are intuitive, predictable, and forgiving. While the future of UI design may bring more advancements, these principles remain applicable.

Not your average designer.

With over two decades of experience, I’ve not just designed products — I’ve generated record-high revenue for clients with designs that have reached millions of people.

My professional journey includes founding a 30-person design agency, creating and launching my own products, mentoring other designers, and having a long list of satisfied clients worldwide.

"Design isn't just a profession — it's my purpose-driven passion"

What I’ve done.

A few of my favorite projects from recent years.

“If you’re building a product, you must work with Tim.
We’re going to work with him on all our products.”

Mike Greene, CPO at SPL