The User Interface

Designing a User Interface (or UI) is something that I consider an art of sorts. There’s such a thin line between the UI being too cluttered (functionality) and being too minimalistic (aesthetic). Sometimes one element makes that difference, while sometimes its the size of the elements. Walking that line can seem easy before you start, but when you really start to design the app, you notice how hard that is. It can start off with an innocent want of adding a button at the bottom of the screen simply because its such an important function that the user needs to needing to have all functionality of the program in the main screen. I’ve struggled with this many times, from making a web application for class, working on a desktop UI for a personal project, or redesigning a form for work where you have to meet the needs of the client. I haven’t found the secret to making a good UI, but looking at different UIs from around the internet (web apps, phone apps, desktop apps, etc.), I’ve noticed that the most important aspect of a UI is great User Experience (or UX). User experience can be broken down into many factors like loading times, but I’m only going to focus on the UI here.

When you look at the UI of different popular apps, you can see why they are so popular. They just are intuitive to use. Take a look at Twitter’s UI below

From Google Play Store

Thankfully its a nice app to look at, and the UI really drives forward the notion of it being really easy to use. Look at the bottom row for example. Four icons which are universal in many other applications. The home button to take you back to the home screen (in this case your timeline), the search button to search, the notification bell for notifications and the email icon for your direct messages. Above that last button is the create Tweet button. And all of that takes up so little space and gives so much more for the timeline you have created for yourself.

Twitter’s app is just one of many, but notice how much the UI lends itself to having a great experience with the app. Your focus is on the main timeline, but can quickly switch to a different panel as needed with the tap of a button. It is something that we must strive to do in our own UIs for the capstone. UI design is not easy, usually you would go through many types of designs in order to find the right one that fit the requirements of the client, but once you do you still have to refine it to the point where the UX is great and the user is not frustrated with how your app is laid out. And this is all before even beginning to start the actual coding of the app and its functionality. Design takes the longest and gives the most reward to your app since it can be the reason a user keeps coming back to your app to use it.

In the end, UI is arguable the most important aspect of an application simply due to how it can take an app from mediocre to a daily used one. There still is always a fine line to walk between functionality and aesthetics, but if you can hit it correctly (like Twitter has in my opinion), the app becomes something that you try to emulate in your own projects down the line.

Now to work on the UI for the capstone!

— Gianluca