The 5 Principles of User Interface Design

Author
Jack Griffiths, Created

User Interface Design isn’t just about luck and guesswork.

UI designers need to ground their decisions in how users interact with design interfaces. This is why the five key principles of user interface design exist.

The principles guide UI designers as a connected set of criteria that intertwine and overlap. Apply them all correctly, and you’ve got yourself a great user interface.

This might sound a little intimidating. Thankfully, Nuria Quero, freelance designer and Created mentor, is here to help us explain things in a little more detail.

So, what are the five principles of user interface design?

Visibility

It might sound straightforward, but in order to interact with something, users need to see it first. This is the visibility principle.

But what does that mean in practice?

Well, applying the visibility principle requires optimising the elements of the design that help users fulfil their goals. You can’t make everything visible, as your interface will become too cluttered. What separates the wheat from the chaff is the ability to identify those key elements that’ll get the user to where they need to be.

Ultimately, users should be able to clearly see how and where they can achieve their goal.

user-interface-design-visibility

Consistency

The consistency principle refers to how easy it is for users to make sense of what they see on your interface.

In a nutshell, it means keeping all the repeating elements of your design the same, whether it’s colour, typography, function or location.

For example, does your menu bar stay in the same position on different pages? Is all your typography consistent across the interface? Factors like these contribute to a positive user interaction.

Applied through elements, visual design or interaction, consistency builds trust and helps users feel in control of their experience.

When consistency is applied correctly, users will understand what all the elements of the design will look like, where they are located and how they can interact with them.

UI-consistency-graphic

Learnability

The third principle of UI design is learnability.

Users must be able to understand products and design systems easily and quickly. As a designer, it’s your job to create an interface that facilitates this, so users can reach their goals without needing further help.

But how do you achieve learnability in your design?

Well, you can learn the full story on our UI Design course, but using commonly recognised design conventions and helping users to complete tasks by giving feedback are good places to start.

user-interface-design-learnability-principle

Predictability

Predictability refers to a user’s ability to forecast what will happen next.

If a user can predict the outcome of a certain action before they do it, then you’ve successfully applied predictability.

Without it, users won’t know what to do with an interface. And if they can’t figure out what actions to take to reach their goal, they probably won’t stick around long enough to figure it out.

UI-predictability-graphic

Feedback

The fifth user interface design principle is feedback. The feedback principle requires designers to communicate whether the user has completed an action correctly or incorrectly.

Feedback is important, as users need to know whether they are moving closer to their goal. By using visual signals, designers can guide users through their experience with an interface.

Most importantly, feedback should be clear and meaningful, so that users can interpret it in the desired way. For example, using a tick when an action has been completed successfully is a globally recognised way of saying “that’s correct!”.

To design with the feedback principle in mind, designers must help their users answer four key questions:

  1. Where am I?
  2. What is the current status of the system?
  3. What will happen next?
  4. What just happened?

If a user can answer those questions correctly, they’ll know they are heading in the right direction, therefore they’re more likely to keep going!

user-interface-design-feedback-principle

Fancy delving further into UI Design?

The principles outlined in this resource have been taken from our UI Design courses.

If you want to learn more about UI design principles from industry professionals like Nuria and others, then this might be the course for you.

Studying UI Design with Created prepares you for a career designing great user interfaces. Sprinkle in some branding and Figma, and you’ll emerge as a well-rounded designer!

Head to the course page to find out more.