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Home Guide What is User Interface (UI)? (Types & Features)

What is User Interface (UI)? (Types & Features)

By Tom Collins, Community Contributor -

The user interface works as a medium between human and computer procedures. Simply put, it enables seamless communication through the visual representation of any app, website, or device. It contains elements like texts, colors, menus, buttons, and videos – everything that is visible and usable for users.

What is UI design, and why is it important?

UI design creates the appearance of an app or website’s user interface. Also, it includes the interactivity and connectivity between different elements of the UI. It’s important because it provides the user experience (UX) followed by UX design testing.

The design of the UI becomes unsuccessful if a user doesn’t have a good experience after using it. A good UI should be user-friendly and easy to understand for the users. So a UI design aims to provide consumers with a good user experience.

UI vs UX

  • UI and UX are the concepts that work parallelly to make a website, service, or any software product. UI (user interface) relates to the visual properties of a product, which includes the look, feel, design, and structure of all the elements to interact with.
  • Whereas UX (user experience) implies the behavioral properties of the UI and, more precisely, sets how a user can interact with your product and makes them feel them by using it. But they are depending upon each other. The absence of one of them will make the other useless.

What does a UI designer do?

The UI designers handle a multitasking role that includes –

  • First, they should understand how people work with interactive visual elements. Then they build confidence between those elements.
  • They should make sure the UI is attractive and effective while aligning with a business goal.
  • They should regularly test the UI design- considering the color, size, scalability, and spaces between different elements.

What are some of the most critical elements of a user interface?

1. Navigation and layout

The navigation menu helps to move users in an app or web UI. It drives the user to the correct resources without any complexity. It contains a list of internal site pages using breadcrumbs.

A correct layout supports the proper alignment of visual elements on a UI. It helps to highlight the most important data within the content. The layout is invisible to the users but essential for navigation.

2. Input and output controls

For input, the UI takes some data from the user by an input device like a keyboard, mouse, or touchpad and then transfers data to the user as a form of output through an output device- a monitor. 

Ex. you give some input on the ‘username’ field by keyboard, and your monitor shows the username as a form of output.

3. Feedback mechanisms

Providing feedback on the user interface is a brilliant idea to increase users’ confidence. Typical examples are order confirmation messages, order shipping confirmations, and confirmation of time for delivery from e-commerce UI. Visual testing is essential in this regard. 

4. Visual design

Visual design should be attractive to the users and makes them willing to use the UI. You should maintain proper layout, design, spacing, colors, brightness, and text to create a strong design. This design creates your brand value.

5. Accessibility considerations

Make sure your UI is easy to access in every situation. So, add section headings, link texts, and easy navigation to UI. This will make the UI reach better search results and a larger audience. Also, an accessible UI should have good speed.

6. Error handling and recovery

Every UI must be capable of handling and resolving errors. A simple example is the ‘incorrect password’ error message on the login page. Side by side, it provides two types of solutions- either inputting the correct password or resetting the password.

7. Consistency and standards

Consistency maintains the standard of UI elements. Also, it provides the experience of your brand identity to the users. For example, providing ‘send’, ‘submit,’ and ‘next’ buttons on every page. Every button has a different meaning that helps the users comprehend the UI’s usability. 

This is internal consistency; external consistency is the ‘Home’ label in the navigation menu. It aids users in concentrating on the UI and ensures they will not divert to the other UI when using the current one.

8. Personalization and customization

Personalization is UI’s ability to deliver content, service, and experience based on the user’s priority. For example, e-commerce sites provide a ‘Recommended for you’ service for users.

Customization allows users to control the settings of the UI as per their choice. Ex. you can show or hide a post on Facebook as per your interest.

Types of User Interface

1. Command-line Interface (CLI)

CLI is a UI to interact with computers- run programs, manage files, etc. ex. command prompt. It accepts inputs as a form of a command from the user. Then your computer runs the commands and delivers outputs.

2. Graphical User Interface (GUI)

GUI allows users to interact with devices by using images, icons, symbols, and other visual representations. The UI of your desktop is the best example of GUI.

3. Web User Interface (WUI)

The WUI allows one to access software running on a remote server through a web browser. GUI contains a set of linked menus and displays to manage your tasks. Any kind of website is an example of WUI.

4. Natural Language Interface (NLI)

This UI allows interaction with a device through humans’ natural voices or spoken languages. But using NLI becomes difficult due to the ambiguity of human speech. Ex. Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, etc.

5. Virtual Reality User Interface (VRUI)

This UI creates a virtual reality environment through 3D graphical representations. It consists of large screens, 3D input devices, and 3D head tracking. Ex. 3D gaming consoles, 3D TVs.

What are the principles of good UI design?

  1. Keep your UI simple to use. Make sure the users can use it with little effort.
  2. Every element should be obvious and discoverable.
  3. Elements should perform as per the expectations so that users can use them unconsciously.
  4. Use proper alignment for the elements. Draw attention to the key features by color, and brightness.
  5. Save your users’ time by minimizing the number of tasks in every action but focusing on the main function.
  6. Provide a user guide/ ‘help’ menu.
  7. Always provide the next step to make it easily understandable.

What is Responsive UI design?

‘Responsive UI design’ means to make your design automatically adjustable with various screen sizes, platforms, browsers, and orientations. You can do this by using CSS media queries, grids, layouts, and images. When you see this content on the desktop, its alignment will be horizontal. But when you see it on your smartphone, it becomes more vertical.

While responsive designs work on multiple devices, it  takes longer to develop and adds another challenge when it comes to testing. Hence thorough responsive design testing is the solution. 

What are UI Design Patterns?

Design patterns provide solutions for the common problems related to the UI. It makes the users understand what to do to solve a particular problem. In this way, the designers reduce the time spent by a user on UI. They do it by prototyping, developing, and testing the UI consistently.

Best Practices for creating website UI

  • The most important thing you should understand- is users’ expectations and the challenges they face to complete their tasks.
  • You need to do enough surveys, user acceptance testing, and interviews to understand their needs.
  • Identify the proper design pattern and make a prototype of your web UI. The prototype is the wireframe of your actual web UI.

Best Practices for creating app UI

  • Place the top-level menu and frequently use actions wisely.
  • Use different message types – in-app notifications, email, etc.
  • Make sure there are no replications of web UI. So use specific patterns and elements for mobile applications.
  • A UI/UX mockup will assist your design teams to bring in predictability to the final product. 

Wrapping it Up

Now you know about the UI and its types and features and the process of developing one. Teams can opt for BrowserStack for web and app testing with 3000+real browsers and devices from anywhere.

What is User Interface (UI)? (Types & Features)

Opt for responsive testing, front-end testing, Percy Visual Testing, and even visual regression testing for highly scalable products. 

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1. What does user interface mean?

It means the interaction between humans and computers with the proper associations of input and output controls. A well-designed user interface can enhance the user experience, increase user satisfaction, and make the software or application more efficient and effective to use..

2. What is the difference between UI and GUI?

GUI is a subset of UI. It contains graphical representations- images, animations, icons, etc. that make it easy to use. But a UI has a non-graphical representation like- a command line interface that uses text commands. So, it’s complicated over the GUI.

3. What is the primary purpose of the user interface?

The primary purpose of the user interface is human-computer interaction, and this interaction should be easily accessible, understandable, and satisfy users’ expectations.

4. What is the difference between UI and UX?

UI reveals the visual representation of the user interface. It contains elements like buttons, menus, links, texts, etc. The UX states the experience gained by the users after using the UI.

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