3 Different Ways to Approach UX/UI Design
A company’s website is often the first thing a customer sees and interacts with. If you’re selling a product or providing a service, you want your site to make a good first impression, so chances are high that a great user interface (UI) plays a critical role in establishing your brand.
So how do you design a great UI? While most of us can recognize it when we see it, it turns out there’s more than one way to answer that question. Here are three different approaches to UI design.
1. The aesthetic approach
One way to approach UI design is to directly engage a user’s sense of aesthetics—what would your target audience think looks good?
“There is a phenomenon that social psychologists call ‘the halo effect’. It means humans tend to assume that good-looking people have other positive qualities aside from their looks. The same is valid for product design. Good looking products and user interface are perceived as more valuable and having more qualities.”
— Anton Nikolov, UX Designer
In “Aesthetics and the Power of Beauty in Design,” user experience (UX) designer Anton Nikolov covers the broader field of aesthetic design, how to engage all the senses, and design for aesthetic pleasure.
2. The minimalist approach
Minimalism is an abstract concept that spans a variety of fields including art, music, literature, design, and philosophy. It achieves elegance by using simplicity to accentuate that which is meaningful. “Lean and Mean: Power of Minimalism in UI Design” gives a thorough overview of the minimalist approach, covering common design topics such as:
- Flat design, a particular style that involves the use of flat two-dimensional visual details in UI elements like icons and buttons.
- Monochrome or limited color palettes, which help avoid distracting users from core elements such as content.
- Typography—color, fonts, and typefaces are often bold and expressive, serving as a core visual element.
- Choice limitation, which involves eliminating unnecessary elements or functions to guide the user’s attention to the core feature of a given view.
- Negative space or whitespace is the hallmark of the minimalist look or feel—it provides contrast that allows the important parts of a site to stand out.
3. The technical approach
At the end of the day, the goal of any UI is to provide a means for people to communicate with computers. In “How the Study of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Helps Guide Better UI Design,” Carey Wodehouse explains the broader field of HCI, its history, and how it continues to inform modern UI/UX design today:
“Before laptops, smartphones and mobile applications; before graphical user interfaces (GUIs), browsers and search engines; before [UI] and user experience (UX) design, there was [HCI]—the study of better, more intuitive ways for humans to interact with technology.”
Wodehouse takes us back to the 1970s to trace the origins of UI/UX design in HCI, a field that combined cognitive and computer engineering together to pioneer the first user-driven interfaces: Things like the mouse, keyboard, and the rudimentary UI’s of the first computers.
She then dives into HCI concepts like GOMS (Goals, Operators, Methods, Selection Rules), a model that can be used to map the way in which a human interacts with a computer. HCI models can help designers quantify the usability of an app so they can optimize its UI and UX accordingly.
In an increasingly digital world, it is often the products themselves that are in need of good UI design. The better app is often the one that strikes that key balance between form and function—pleasing to behold, easy to use, and effective. Use the design approach that best suits your web project’s needs.