Before even beginning to draw a single pixel, think about the users to whom the interface is destined – to which age group they belong, how digital-savvy are they or their professional background (among other factors). This should be the starting point of the planning that will follow. Other usability choices, like the position of the elements on the interface, the language used or the simplicity level of any tasks, should all be based on the user’s characteristics.
Consistent and Organic
The creation of an interface structurally solid and consistent will allow the users to know how and where to go to complete their tasks faster, without getting lost along the way. Have in mind some basic steps to guide you through the building of the interface, like placing the menus in strategic points where the user would intuitively look and direct his hand movement at; give an homogeneous feel to the buttons and icons (according to their purpose); and assign several status to the clicking elements. You must spare the user from “mental efforts”; the user should adopt a “do” focused activity and not a “how to” attitude.
(Steve Krug “Don’t Make me Think”)
From a structure point of view, the information displayed, whether textual or graphic, should obey to a hierarchy that will be the unspoken, invisible guide to the eyes of the user. All the sizes, colors and placement connections (included, but not exclusive) should be thought through according to their contextual relevance. You also need to take into account that, when developing an interface, the human brain follows the instinct to group random elements according to their visual and positional placement (similar colors or size, etc.). All we have to do is use this knowledge to our advantage, seamlessly guiding the eyes of those who are watching.
Adopt a straight to the point approach. As I’ve mentioned, you need to simplify as much as possible. It sounds easy, but is gets complicated as soon as you realize that there are way more than one type of user; which means lots of specific approaches to the same interface. Creating a “prêt-à -porter” interface that fits everyone is impossible. The “trick” is to know what deserves to be kept at eye-sight and what needs to assume a secondary position.
Inner beauty is the best, but the truth is that no one wants to use a visually unpleasant product. A vibrant interface conveys positive vibrations to the user and creates the will to use the interface once again. It is extremely important that they feel comfortable when using it regularly. In some cases, for example in a professional software interface, the user can be forced to contact with this display during his whole working day, making it important to think about a warm, welcoming and light software that unfolds a pleasant experience. You know, no one goes back to that place where the kitchen was filthy looking. At the end, you should combine the best of both worlds: functionality and aesthetics.