When visiting your website, the user interface is the first thing your customers interact with, so a having good website interface is vital.

In the digital world, nothing can be more frustrating for a user than a poor website interface. Have you ever stopped using a website, tool, or device simply because navigating from one function to another was too frustrating? Or perhaps you've been unable to use a program without looking up dozens of tutorials because the user interface design was terrible. In the rapidly growing online world, a good website interface is a must.

What is user interface design?

User interface design refers to the process designers go through in order to create a computer interface that is both easy to use and nice to look at. Everyone wants their site to look good, but if its navigation and operational capabilities are lacking, then users simply won't want to use it.

If you're a provider in particular, considering user interface design principles and the user experience (UX) is vital to keeping visitors and users wanting to try out your product or website.

With that in mind, let's take a look at what makes a good website interface.

The history of the user interface

Before we get too deep into user interface design considerations, it's probably best we start off by looking at the history of user interface designs.

The original user interface was the command-line interface (CLI), where a computer could only take input from a predefined set of specific instructions. It required users to learn specific commands but offered little to no assistance in understanding what these were. Most computer software developers have since abandoned this unintuitive method, but the Linux operating system still centres around the use of a CLI (which also goes by the names terminal, shell, or console to name a few).

Next came the text-user interface (TUI), which, while having an appearance similar to a CLI, allowed for scripting and plugin support. It also included the first graphical interface elements such as boxes and grids created through text characters.

Nowadays, almost everything uses a graphical user interface (GUI) design, where the user interacts with a visual interface on a screen via a mouse, keyboard, remote control device, or touch screen.

Also growing in popularity are voice-user interfaces (VUI), such as Siri on Apple devices, and home assistants such as Google Assistant and Alexa. These allow devices to be controlled through speech, making it easier to use certain devices hands-free. This is a major step forward for accessibility, making it easier for disabled users to navigate devices.

With natural user interfaces (NUI), users interact with the device through movement and gestures. NUIs have been most commonly used with video game consoles like the Nintendo Wii and now the Nintendo Switch. They are also now the primary mode of navigation in virtual reality (VR) environments.

Good user interface design principles

A good user interface design is characterised by 3 main things – aesthetics, ease of use, and functionality. The main thing is that you want the user to feel in control. This means making a user interface design that allows for reversible actions if they make mistakes, seamless navigation of the site and a general consideration of the various skill levels of potential users.

Ideally, a website interface should be minimalistic with its interactions, requiring as few actions as possible for a user to complete their desired process. Avoid using any complex jargon the average user might not understand and protect the data a user has filled out in case the page crashes.

Clear simplicity is key. An overload of content, images, and buttons can confuse users. Especially ones who might otherwise search unnecessarily around the screen trying to find the parts that are relevant to them. Remember to include whitespace (empty areas without content) to break up the page. This makes everything seem less cluttered while enhancing page readability. Throughout all of this, make sure that your user interface design is consistent to avoid any potential confusion.

You can make buttons and options easily recognisable by using existing icons. For example, your user wouldn’t need lots of computer experience to understand that the trash can icon means to remove or delete something, as that's what it's always meant. The same goes for the floppy disk save icon. Although younger users might never have seen a floppy disk in real life, they recognise that the floppy disk icon is synonymous with saving.

These icons haven’t changed over time because they’re so recognisable that users immediately know what they do. That’s a fundamental of good user interface design – making the experience intuitive. Users expect certain icons in certain places, so there’s no use having a wacky, well-designed icon in place of the traditional, simple, and effective one, especially if no one instinctively understands what it means or does.

How does user interface design affect search engines?

The bounce rate of your website can have a dramatic effect on your search engine optimisation (SEO). If someone lands on your site and leaves straight away because they’re overwhelmed by a poor website interface, then that increased bounce rate will negatively influence your search rankings.

This is particularly relevant on mobile devices, as many websites are often not optimised for the smaller screen size. Good user interface design considerations mean encompassing the design of your site on mobile at every turn.

Also, make sure that your internal linking is intuitive and easy to follow. Search engine web crawlers will look at the internal navigation structure of your site and analyse its effectiveness when deciding on your search ranking.

As well as that, having a page cluttered with too much content or too many features can increase your page-load times, which can also have an effect on search engine rankings.

The most important thing to remember about user interfaces is that best practices are always changing. Keeping up with the latest design trends is the best way of keeping your customers happy.

If you're looking to upgrade or build an entirely new website interface, there are loads of pieces of user interface design software out there for you to use.

Adobe XD is excellent for prototyping, as well as having the added benefit of being cloud-based and cross-platform. However, you will need to pay a subscription in order to get all the software's features. Weebly is also another subscription-based user interface design software, though it is cheaper than Adobe XD, friendly for Ecommerce and mobile, and highly customisable.

If you're looking for a single payment option, then bootstrap is a great choice, being very responsive and up to date with with all the latest user interface design best practices.

Here at Fasthosts, we're constantly keeping our customer control panel up to date with all the current best practices. So, whether you're managing your web hosting, cloud servers or email hosting, you can be sure our user interface will be clear and intuitive.

For other tips on improving your website's interface and online business, you can explore our blog. We already have an article highlighting the benefits of voice search for businesses as well as top tips for making your website more accessible.