Simplicity in GUI Design

We’ve all been there. You load up your favorite website, your vendor’s new e-commerce portal, or that fancy new application your company purchased for three years’ worth of your salary. At first glance, you are impressed; it has a modern, sleek look, flashy graphics, perhaps an animated home page. You think to yourself, “Wow, the software really has all the bells and whistles!”

Then you start to use it. You can’t find the “New” button. Oh wait, there it is, buried in between the scrolling news ticker and the search box. You click it. You wait five seconds. The screen finally loads. What next? What does this field mean? How do I submit my request? Where do I…?

You get the picture. The designers of that expensive software surely spent a fortune on graphic artists, but clearly dismissed what is likely the most important factor in the success of any application intended for regular, day to day use: GUI (Graphical User Interface) usability.

The GUI of a successful application must, first and foremost, be intuitive and easy to use. It can have all the fancy graphics and latest technologies, but if it doesn’t let the user accomplish their tasks quickly and naturally, it will never gain acceptance.

The GUIs of most thriving applications will have many features in common. They will be intuitive. They will be tailored to the workflow of the users. They will be quick and responsive to user input. They will be neat, clean, and generally uncluttered. Most importantly, they will inspire confidence in the users that they are doing things correctly, because the application guides them through the workflow in an obvious and expected way.

At LBi, when we begin designing a new application, the first thing we ask ourselves is “How can we help the user accomplish their goals as easily as possible?” We then design a system based around the answer to that key question. The user interface will be simple and require little to no training. The menus and page structure will be based on the desired workflow so that users can complete their work correctly and quickly. The major navigation controls will be prominently displayed in logical locations. Navigation between screens or pages within the application will be quick.

This is not to say the application will not look good, or will be based on antiquated technologies – just that these things will not come at the expense of usability.

It all boils down to function versus glitz. Salesmen and advertisements will promote impressive graphics and new-fangled technologies. Satisfied users will speak of simplicity and usefulness. When designing your system’s GUI, which side are you on?

  • Kristen says:

    Have you ever seen a site that can do both – use fancy graphics and technologies but still be useful?