Thoughts On Simple Interfaces

Ny Times - Simple

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo Da Vinci

I spend my time obsessing over simplicity in web design and everything else for that matter, it surround us everywhere if we choose to observe – it interest me to create interfaces that can truly be innovative, immerse the user into an experience, especially one that draws consumers back to the business they love and admire. I often wonder what it is about simplicity that attracts me. Is it the precise pixel coding and rendering in the browser, the stark typeface staring at me inticing me to read, the intuitive navigation system, or the white space that surrounds and snugs the elements ever so perfectly that catches our eyes.

I’ve come to the conclusion that building simple interfaces isn’t all that easy, though it looks quite the opposite. Why should it be, that would take all the fun and learning out of it.

Simple Interfaces Come With Practice, Patience and Research

The only way to learn how to create these interfaces is to build something. When I say build, I don’t mean just a blog, or a normal website. Build a product (this is the best way to learn), plan the design thoroughly, read about how neuroscience can radically change the way we look at UX, understand what attracts user to a digital page, try and retain your users with unique content that draws them back – time and time and time again.

As with almost everything else in the world there is a science behind it and you have to perfect that. There is no limit to innovation, especially in modern front end web development.  How many different ways are there to create a responsive website? I can already name you 3 off the top of my head. Why not create your own?? Dive into the theory of things and master the tools you need to get the job done.

The most important rule is to understand the minds of users, it’s the user that is the sum and end all of everything.

Fail & Fail Often, Yet Remain Consistent

Most people give up after they see a failure looming. Fail and fail often is my mantra; that will eventually teach you to learn from your mistakes and succeed the last time you try-the most vital of them all. If you see something you like, try and take inspiration from it and re-create it.

Sounds like alot of work? It is, however when you get into the groove there are no limits to what you can achieve. Just think, no more cookie cutter designs! There are a plethora of tools out there to help you out: Twitter Bootstrap, Grids, Boiler Plate, Pure IO, Modernizr, and more that can help you in your visualization process. Seek clarity in your thoughts and designs, the more confusion you have in your mind the more confusion you will create in pixels.

Often, it helps taking a break from things, retaining the information you have in your mind and then diving right back in. The passionate ones will never give up..

Read, Read and Read More

I’ve seen people using the same patterns to create the same clunky interfaces and mimicking modern front end development by faking techniques. You can easily spot a design which hasn’t been thought through or one that hasn’t been researched properly. Online reading from credibale sources will help you understand modern principles which you can practice to improve your UI techniques. Interested in understanding how a website loads asynchronously? Sure, we all are. You can start with some of these blogs: NN Nielson, Cooper, Usability Post.

We all embark on new journeys in our lives. I wish you well on your way to hand crafted designs, away from the cookie cutter look and to stuff that you can really be proud of for a lifetime – designs which feel authentic decades to come….

The Shape Shifting Future Of The Mobile Phone

This is a wonderful video and well worth sharing, I loved the concept and the way it was presented with the robotic prototype. For technology dreamers and innovators such as Fabien Hemmert (a PhD student at the Design Research Lab, in cooperation with Deutsche Telekom Laboratories) it all starts there. He shares a fascinating talk on TED about the future of Mobile phones and technology behaving more human-like and although the video is brief and this might be quite far into the future the results are mind boggling.

Fabien talks about making digital content graspable, and how to get the digital to the physical. I’ll let him explain as he does a far better job, but I really wanted to share this quote as it made alot of sense to me as we progress into the future of mobile touch and technology.

Humans should get more technical in the future, rather technology get a bit more human.

I found this video whilst browsing to one of my favorite sites, TAT. If you’re not aware of TAT The Astonishing Tribe AB, you should be. They are an extremely innovative growing group of engineers, visual artists and interaction designers who eat, sleep, and breathe user interfaces. The do lots of cool things and to describe a couple of them I wouldn’t miss (a) Astonishing and free Android wallpapers (b) The future of screen technology

Excellent Learning slides from multiple authors

Good information is where its at. Filtering out that information can be a little time consuming lest you know where to go so I just wanted to share what I thought would be useful to designers out there.

If you check slide # 51 in Object Oriented CSS you will see that you should never specify an element first. This is a practice i didn’t know about. Sometimes learning yourself can lead into bad practices and thats why I like to learn from the pros. Thanks Stubbornella..

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Fundamental Principles of UI Design

User interface design or user interface engineering is the design of computers, appliances, machines, mobile communication devices, software applications, and websites with the focus on the user’s experience and interaction.

Where traditional graphic design seeks to make the object or application physically attractive, the goal of user interface design is to make the user’s interaction as simple and efficient as possible, in terms of accomplishing user goals.

  1. The Principle of User Profiling:
    You need to “Know who you users are.” Before we can answer the question “How do we make our user-interfaces better”, we must first answer the question: Better for whom? A design that is better for a technically skilled user might not be better for a non-technical businessman or an artist.
  2. The Principle of Metaphor:
    Borrow behaviors from systems familiar to your users.
  3. The Principle of Feature Exposure:
    Let the user see clearly what functions are available
  4. The Principle of Coherence:
    The behavior of the program should be internally and externally consistent
  5. The Principle of State Visualization:
    Changes in behavior should be reflected in the appearance of the program
  6. The Principles of Shortcuts:
    Provide both concrete and abstract ways of getting a task done
  7. ThePrinciple of Focus:
    Some aspects of the UI attract attention more than others do.
  8. The Principle Grammar:
    A user interface is a kind of language, know what the rules are
  9. The Principle of Help:
    Understand the different kinds of help a user needs
  10. The Principle of Context: Limit user activity to one well-defined context unless there’s a good reason not to.
  11. The Principle of Aesthetics:
    Create a program of beauty
  12. The Principle of User Testing:
    Recruit help in spotting the inevitable defects in your design
  13. The Principle of Humility:
    Listen to what ordinary people have to say

Above are the underlying principles of user design and have been around for a while now (it’s nothing new). For me its important to stick to the basic concepts and plan out your interface well in advance.

The good news is nowadays UI designers are well sought out for as many companies have realized that the data stores for any given application or website should remain consistent. The fact that your presentation layer keeps changing with different functionality for different clients thrusts UI designers into a whole new level of importance.

Whats funny here is that while I was writing this post I was called by a colleague for prospective UI Design work. Talk about ironic.