Crafting interfaces that empower users.

Moses Amama

User frustrations with complex and confusing interfaces is a common problem with many mobile apps and websites. This is a common problem that is often the leading cause of reduced user engagement, decreased user satisfaction, lower retention rates, and negative word-of-mouth which ultimately impacts the success and profitability of any product.

On the other hand, a well designed interface makes users feel smart and capable, leading to increased engagement, user satisfaction, higher retention rates and a lot of positive word of mouth.

When designing interfaces it is important to remember that the user is the most important part of the process. We must prioritize empowering them to take control of their own experiences, rather than let them be at the mercy of the product they are using. Users are more likely to stick with a product long term and even recommend our products to other people, when they feel empowered and capable while using our products.

Let’s explore the key principles of creating user-friendly interfaces and how we can apply them to create interfaces that make users feel empowered, capable, and in control:

Keep it simple.

A busy interface is very likely to increase cognitive load, overwhelm users and make it difficult for them to focus and complete important tasks efficiently. This can make it difficult for users to figure out where to start or what to do.

Keeping the interface simple, with a clear focus on the most important tasks creates a shorter learning curve.

For example, white space can be used to create a sense of balance, group related items and help users find their way. Additionally, we can use visual hierarchy to further draw attention to more important tasks and help users to quickly find what they need and complete tasks more efficiently.

Use clear and concise language.

It is important that users are able to understand what the interface is asking them to do without having to think too hard. When users have to spend too much time thinking about how to use a feature or even what it does, it can often lead to frustration and disengagement. Using clear and simple language can help empower your users to understand the interface, what is expected of them and complete tasks more efficiently.

It is also advisable to avoid using complex vocabulary, idiomatic expressions or cultural references. In case there are users who are not native speakers of the language you are designing in, use short sentences, and direct language to convey information.

Use visual aids.

In addition to using clear and concise language, visual aids like icons, images and videos can help to clarify the meaning of text and make the interface more intuitive. Use them to supplement written instructions and provide additional context to help users understand what the interface is asking them to do.

Interestingly, while visual aids can add context and help clarify meaning of texts, using icons and images alone without text can have the opposite effect. An image and an icon can have multiple meanings based on the user’s cultural background and interpretation. For instance, the picture of a heart can mean love, compassion or courage, creating even more confusion for users.

Use familiar patterns.

Users spend less time thinking and figuring things out when they use an interface with familiar patterns because they are able to rely on their previous experiences. It allows users to quickly and intuitively interact with an application without having to spend time learning new concepts.

For example, if a user is familiar with the standard navigation bar at the top of a web page they will immediately understand how to use the navigation bar in a new application.

Provide feedback.

Another very important way to ensure you are making users feel empowered is by providing feedback. It is important for users to always know what is happening when they interact with an interface. Feedback can come in the form of messages, notifications or animations (e.g haptics) to let them know that their actions have been successful or not.

In a situation where their action is unsuccessful, good feedback should let them know why their action is unsuccessful and how they can fix what is wrong, if it is within their power to fix it. Where it is something wrong with the system, good feedback should let them know what you are doing to fix the problem and possibly when the problem will be fixed.

Make it accessible.

Finally, a user-friendly interface should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their abilities. We truly empower users to feel empowered and capable when we do our best to remove barriers that stop them from using digital products or services.

For example, providing alternative text descriptions for images allows users who are blind or have low vision to understand the content of the image and empowers these users to feel included and capable of understanding the content. Similarly, providing closed captioning or transcripts for videos allows users who are deaf or hard of hearing to understand the audio content and makes them capable of accessing the same information as other users.

Remember to always keep the user in mind when designing interfaces, and test your designs with real users to ensure they are effective.

Creating user-friendly interfaces is key to building successful products and services. Focusing on simplicity, familiarity, and accessibility, designers and developers can enable users to more easily achieve their goals and complete their tasks. A user-friendly interface can make all the difference in user engagement and satisfaction. Finally, by designing with the users experience in mind, businesses can create products that not only meet their customers’ needs but also make them feel empowered and capable in the process.