Design is all about flow and perception. Be it graphic, web, logo or layout design, the aim to have the eye flow naturally along a progression while having a certain aesthetic to the design. Humans are highly perceptive beings and an overload of sensory stimulation can throw our brains off, which is why good design needs to be subtle.
Our brains constantly detect information and filter out the unnecessary signals. It is important for designers to be aware of sensory stimuli such as movement, colour and peripheral vision. All of these inputs work together to create a coherent design in our brains, and too much stimulation can cause confusion.
Subtle UI design is key for a website
Design is a key function of any product – real or digital. It should always make the product better and allow a natural ease of use. When it comes to web design and, more specifically, user interface (UI), a subtle design is what makes it feel right and intuitive to use – leading to a better user experience (UX).
The movements on-screen need to mimic the mouse or touch inputs. The shadows need to make the screen look three-dimensional without being too obvious. The typefaces and icons need to direct the user but be subtle enough to be ignored when not needed. The best UI designs are intuitive and replicate how we react to objects in the real world.
A tacky design is instantly recognisable – even to a user with no design experience. Our brains go into overdrive and our senses jar when presented with an obnoxious design or interface. This is why flashing banner adverts on websites are so distracting – our subconscious mind is always aware of the ad and it tries to alert our conscious brain to the movement.
Rather than drawing attention to itself, the design should make the usability of a website easier. It should only be apparent to our subconscious until we actively look for it. In UI design, the aim is to make it so simple that the user doesn’t have to think about what they are doing. The design should be invisible.
Three types of invisible design
The trend of making a design more invisible has three layers; aesthetics, interactive usability and product design. Less is becoming more and more with all three types of invisible design:
- Aesthetic invisibility – This is basically the look of an app or website. The trend is to make apps more simple by removing text and replacing it with icons (websites often have three horizontal stacked lines instead of the word ‘menu’ nowadays). The favoured designs for new apps and sites are well-balanced but minimalistic.
- Interactive invisibility – This refers to the usability of the app or website. Navigation is the main concern for UI designers. Tabs and menus have been replaced by intuitive swipes and gestures. Features run autonomously in the background now, such as maps automatically updating when you take a wrong turn, or Gmail suggesting useful replies to emails.
- Product invisibility – This is the extreme form of invisibility where entire products become automatic and intuitive. For example, health apps such as Fitbit and Apple Health track your steps, runs and heart rates without you knowing. These products run in the background and demand no attention from the user.
Web products such as apps and sites are all starting to integrate themselves into our lives behind the scenes, in a more helpful and human-centered manner.
Designers work tirelessly to make the user interaction smooth, natural and polished. Replicating how windows and objects behave on-screen as in real life is a tough challenge. On-screen movements and objects need to behave the same way we expect real-life objects to behave, and getting these animations right is no easy feat.
The way objects and windows overlap and cast shadows should look real. Three-dimensional objects should look as if they are contained inside the device rather than projected on the screen.
These may seem like small issues that no one will notice, but that’s what separates professional design from tacky design. It all makes the UI intuitive and act like it belongs in its environment.
Sorted Design Agency is a creative company that constantly looks for solutions to other people’s problems. These problems come mostly in the visual format, such as graphic design, logo and illustration, but we’re experts in brand development, website design, and digital SEO campaigns as well.
Based in Pretoria and Cape Town, Sorted has been in the content marketing industry since 2006. We assist your company with its corporate identity by communicating core values through content and articles written for your website, blog and news area. This content is supported by AdWords and social advertising, which facilitates wider reach and audience growth. Turn your website into a business tool.
Sorted also owns two other businesses; InkFish Print Studio – a printing company that handles a range of promotional materials for businesses and other services for individual customers, and Pampiri + Kie – a gifts and stationery store selling online and in-store. Both of these companies operate from Cape Town and Pretoria.
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