The user interface design of a software product is crucial for startup success. No matter what a superb idea is created by the team and what top-notch were technologies used by the software development team, the product won’t be successful if the users are confused and cannot figure out how to use it.
The software product should be created for its users rather than for the team. But what exactly is a good user interface? Is it an eye-catching one with animation and funny icons? Imagine, your product is a business application to manage, for example, the financial reports system. You can create a “great” design for this product with astonishing animation that George Lucas would be impressed with, but if this doesn’t meet your business goals and your users’ needs all the efforts will be wasted.
Perhaps, animation and bright colors shouldn’t be used in a good UI at all? What if, your product is a digital library for the children. If you created a simple interface using black, grey and white colors and standard elements like a search box and some search options, for example, by author or by title (these options are enough to achieve the user’s goal) the probability of successful users’ experience, in this case, would be very low. Why? Kids – your potential users – are more likely to have no idea of the author or the title or even both. They would know the color of the book cover and if it contains any pictures or not and other very specific information. Need any proof? Go and ask your kid.
So, what a good user interface is? The truth is that there is no ultimate answer to this question. Your goal is to launch the product that is useful, engaging, and as user-friendly as possible. To achieve this goal, you need to follow three steps of the user interface design.
Three main stages of the user interface design:
- User Research
- Design and Prototyping
The goal is to define who the customers of your product are and how they are going to use it. At this point, you should explore:
- User’s needs, challenges, and problems;
- User types, their experience, level of knowledge and skills;
- What activities they can do using your system.
This stage is required in all software development projects and in all methodologies. If you have already had all this information you are ready to start the user interface design. If the information about all the points above is inconsistent or incomplete, then there are a lot of risks that your attempt to design the user interface won’t be successful.
Suppose that important information about the users and the product requirements has been successfully gathered. Now we are ready to start the designing process.
Design and Prototyping
A good way is to start from the simple sketches and low-fidelity wireframes and to continue with high-fidelity wireframes, mockups, and prototypes.
A wireframe is a sketch of the system to be built. Wireframes should clarify exactly what elements realize the different features on all pages or screens of a future product but without full details. The actual screen design will be produced at a later stage by referencing the wireframe.
The wireframing stage doesn’t require a lot of time and efforts, but it can come in handy when designer communicates with customers, users, project team, as it allows them to visualize first ideas more easily when he or she just describes them verbally. Wireframes can easily be revised or changed. It helps to do all the process more cost-effective.
Therefore, wireframes should come first. What’s next? It depends on the type of software product that is going to be produced. If your product is a business app with many business processes, users’ types, and features, then it probably would be very important to build the prototype at the next stage after wireframes.
A prototype, in this case, is a semi-functional layout that can give a high-fidelity preview of the actual app or website user interface (front-end) functionality. While the prototype might not have full functionality, it generally gives customers and/or end-users an ability to click around the elements of the interface and simulate the way the app will actually work. Prototypes may or may not include completed design elements. At this stage, we can demonstrate and discuss how the element s and features would work. It helps to test the ideas and make some changes at the early stages of the project.
After wireframing and prototyping we can focus on the visual design of all elements.
To produce the mockups after reviewing the wireframes (but not instead of the wireframes) is the right decision. The mockup model demonstrates all the graphics, typography, colors, and other page elements. Mockups are generally just images.
There is a very popular question:
What is the difference between wireframes and mockups?
The answer is:
- the wireframes are about functionality;
- the mockups are about presenting how what the final product would look like.
The evaluation should be included in all stages of the design process. Its major purpose e is to assess the quality of design, analyze how it fits users, meets their needs.
After several series of iterations, sketches, wireframes, mockups, prototypes, discussions, brainstorming sessions with the stakeholders, end-users, and project team, the probability of creating a compelling user interface significantly increases. The success is knocking on the door.
Have issues with your product design? Let us know because every challenge has a solution.