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UI Won't Fade Away Anytime Soon

Invisible_UI.jpgAre user interfaces disappearing? One of the current design trends is the “invisible app”, which replaces traditional buttons and menus with a SMS-style interface. By replicating the familiar actions people perform when sending text messages, users seem to be able to interact more directly with the apps. Is this the future of UI, or is it just a passing fad?

In reality, it’s neither; this type of interface serves its purpose for certain types of apps, but it won’t completely replace the way we use websites and apps anytime soon. However, one thing we can learn from this trend is that user experience (UX) design should be transparent to the end users.

Invisible vs. Transparent

What do we mean when we say that UX should be transparent? Rather than remaining “invisible”, good UX clarifies the different intentions that users have and provides a path that users can follow to accomplish their tasks. Making these paths intuitive and easy to understand is the key to providing transparent UX.

As an example, consider a banking website or app. Some users may want to go directly to a page where they can pay a bill, while others may want to compare the different banking products available on the site For users who want to access their accounts, finding a way to log into their account is the most important task, and the website needs to accommodate this need by prominently featuring a way for users to log in from anywhere on the site. For users who want to learn banking products, presenting all the options with every possible detail would probably overwhelm them, so it would make more sense to organize and divide up the content by product or type and let users learn more as they please.

Users should be able to easily follow the path that will allow them to accomplish their desired tasks. Providing hints such as status bars or breadcrumbs, including prompts showing where to go next, and avoiding dead ends will help users understand where they are in the site’s structure without having to memorize a complicated path to their goal.

Creating Transparent UX

One of the most important parts of creating transparent UX is defining a site’s information architecture (IA). Structuring a site in a way that makes the purpose of each page clear, maintains consistency across the site, and lets users know what they need to do next is key to creating a successful site or app.

In addition to IA, here are some other principles of good UI/UX:

  • Minimize the gaps between what people want and what they can do.
  • Reduce the number of clicks needed to accomplish tasks, and make each click intentional. Sometimes, it's better to have several pages rather than over-simplifying a task. If a task requires several clicks, make it clear to users why this is necessary.
  • Streamline the process by which users meet their goals.

In addition to following these principles, performing user testing to determine how people interact with a site, how they accomplish their goals, and what struggles they face is essential for creating the best user experience.

Putting all of these pieces together will result in a website or app that, rather than maintaining “invisible” UI, provides users with the transparency they need to determine how to accomplish their goals. Do you have any questions about how to follow these design principles and create a successful site or app? Do you want to know more about how WSOL’s designers approach the goal of creating transparent UX? Please contact us, or feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. We look forward to hearing from you!

Image credit: "Invisible Man" by dan121314, used under CC BY / Modified from original

About the Author

Britney Na
Britney Na
As WSOL’s Interaction Designer, Britney assesses the overall health of websites that we will be redesigning by performing usability testing and assessing user experience issues. She works to prioritize improvements and design new page templates and navigation structure for these sites, making sure the intended design pieces are built properly throughout the development process. Britney’s efforts are an integral part of the Discovery and Design process, and she provides essential value to the team through tasks including user and stakeholder interviews, contextual inquiry, UX heuristics, information architecture, personas, wireframes, paper prototyping, and online prototyping. Britney has a wealth of experience in the Interaction Design industry. With a Master of Design degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology, Britney’s background includes working on the interaction design for the navigation consoles of General Motors automobiles and a variety of other high-end projects. Her specialties include User-Centered Design, User Research, Interaction Design, and User Experience Design.