You don’t need to be an artist to create great UI – most of the principles of user interface design are the same as the basic design principles taught in any elementary art class. The elementary design principles of composition, color, and so forth apply equally well to a computer screen as they do to a sheet of paper or a canvas.
But other than that there are tons of other things every designer should keep in mind. The importance of User Interface Design is that you want to create a website or app that is easy to navigate, efficient to use, and gives your users a really pleasurable experience. It should also be as free from errors as possible. This is how you can more easily guarantee that they will continue using your products and will recommend it to others as well.
In terms of interface design we decided to ask a man who knows all the angles of this notion and that is Arturo Toledo.
Arturo Toledo is an Architect. He runs a boutique design studio attending clients in the United States, Europe and Asia. His work explores the convergence of human arts and science to give shape to an ever evolving design practice. With a particular commitment towards design education, Arturo is permanently engaged with the international design and development communities and often travels the world to exchange ideas about design with other designers and developers. Prior to his current venture, Arturo worked for Microsoft in Redmond for 7 years driving design evangelism.
Lilian: To begin with, tell us about your greatest achievement (regarding anything.)
Arturo: My greatest achievement? Hmm I hope I haven’t seen my greatest achievement in my life yet to be but so far I’d say it was probably making it to an ice hockey league as a right wing. You have to understand I am from Mexico. It’s like when Jamaica debuted in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics with a bobsled team! So, yeah, it felt pretty good being on the ice and driving the puck around and scoring a few goals.
Alex: We know that you worked at Microsoft for a while. Tell us please about your job interview there. They say applicants are asked some weird questions, what were they like?
Arturo: Before my interview I reviewed tons of sites that talked about the hiring interview in Microsoft. I read all the crazy questions would get. Why is a manhole round? How are M&Ms made? How many traffic lights exist in the U.S? – I was ready and prepared. Got to Redmond and for 8 hours and 8 interviews I never got such type of questions I later realized those more strange questions were asked apparently to engineering candidates while I was applying for evangelism and marketing so I guess they didn’t care much about how M&Ms were made.
Lilian: You’ve been developing interfaces for Windows phones, but what’s your forecast, which mobile platform will finally take over the world: Android, iOS or Windows?
Arturo: Well, iOS already took over. It’s the number one choice for 99% of startups I know or have read about. Android usually comes in second place in terms of the need for a startup to have an app for. Then Windows Phone. How do I see the future? I see Windows Phone (or any future Microsoft mobile platform) reaching a competitive 20% within 5 years. This means that startups and companies will have one out of five users using a Windows Phone. That’s pretty significant. I think this is the right time to jump into Windows Phone as a developer or designer because the enterprise, businesses, agencies and startups will every day, more and more demand more Windows Phone apps, and who’s gonna build them? Lots of creative and business opportunities in this space. All this said, I also think that in 5 years, the concept of a smartphone will have already migrated to the next stage of technological evolution. The attention will shift from “smartphone” – to “the next thing”… what will that be? That’s what we have to keep track off. The smartphone will not be the star of the show in less than 5 years so I hope Microsoft is not playing catch up and instead is inventing the future. I’m sure Apple is.
Lilian: What do you think are some of the main UI differences in designing desktop apps for PC and Mac?
Arturo: I haven’t had the opportunity to design a desktop app for Mac OSX but given OSX has embraced many similar concepts to iOS then I’m thinking the design mindset is similar. It’s about skeuomorphism. Or it has been. As we know, Jonathan Ive from Apple now owns both hardware and software design. Ive is a modernist (Vignelli, Gropius, Meier, Rams) so there is a general expectation that he will sponsor a new era of UI design in Apple. Let’s see what happens. My personal expectation is that Apple is working on enabling iPhones, iPods and iPads to be plugged in to large screens (24”-30”) immediately turning all these devices into “PCs” or “over the desktop computers”. This would be a massive shift in the industry as it would mean the conversation won’t be anymore about phones or tablets or notebooks but about the experience than spans across them. To accomplish this Apple (or Google and Microsoft) will have to have a unified UI layer and application platform across devices so the tiny Instagram in iPhone can leverage the real state of a 27” screen when plugged in. I personally think Apple and Ive might be leveraging this next stage of evolution to propose a new UI metaphor that is modern and not cheesy like today’s leather or wood texture driven UIs.
Alex: Is this your job?:) Tell us about an interesting project that you have completed in your current job.
Arturo: My current job is leading a boutique design shop in Mexico City. We attend clients in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia. I work as an experience architect and user interface designer. I also do account management, sales, marketing, evangelism, blogging and twitting Basically between my brother and I we do it all right now. You know? For one or a couple years I wanna keep it small. No hiring. I want to enjoy the moment of calm after having worked for Microsoft for 7 years. As part of our job we have the opportunity to participate in the full range and spectrum of software development, we are helping startups around the world with architecting and designing their apps, we are helping larger companies that have strong backend needs but we do it all from the point of view of a designer. We’ve had the chance to travel and talk about design and we will continue to do so. We mostly work for developers (engineers) acting as an extension of their team, as their design team. This means we don’t really work or are looking to working for clients like Nike, or Starbucks, or Procter & Gamble. We work for the engineering shops that work for them helping them be successful with UX and design. So far it’s going great and we are having a lot of fun.
Alex: What software, besides Creative Suite, are you using to design UIs?
Arturo: My number one tool to design UI is actually a non Creative Suite tool called Microsoft Expression Design. It’s like a mini Illustrator. It does 20% of the things you need 80% of times in Illustrator. I particular love how spectacularly fast it is to sketch out or wireframe ideas. I produce high fidelity comps with it as well. The two key features I love in Expression Design is the color picker which is a big panel, always open and available (compared to PS or AI where you have double click on the color swatch to access it). This makes the process of selecting colors very fast and easy. The other thing I like in Expression Design is it exports nicely to XAML which, if you are creating apps for the Microsoft platform it becomes a blessing when collaborating with developers. It has a terrific one-click export feature for selected objects and the best image slicing in the industry. I also use Photoshop a lot for bitmap editing, composition and creation.
P.S. I hate Illustrator… it feels more like a tool for print design not for UI or digital design.
Alex: Some people say that much of your success depends on your workstation. Would you please describe your workplace or share some photos?
Arturo: I work with my brother in a spacious room, all painted in white. One of the walls is made out of glass so we get some nice AM and PM sunlight. We have a bar made out of white desks along one of the walls. We both sit down on one and the other end of this bar. I like facing a white wall as it is neutral and allows my screens to stand out. I have a SONY VAIO notebook plugged to a 27” screen. That gives me dual screen capabilities. I have a JAWBONE Jambox (black) where I play my favorite tunes. That’s it. I like to keep my desk clean. I like visual neutrality as I feel that helps me focus on what I’m creating much better. In our little studio my brother and I have a dozen different devices, from iPads of various generations, iPods/iPhones of various generations, a SAMSUNG 7 series tablet where have Windows 8 loaded (I still have Win7 in my PC, my bro has Win8 in his PC plus he has a Mac). We have a number of Windows Phones (Samsung and mainly Nokia 800 and 920). We use all these devices to test everything we design in various systems and resolutions. We will probably expand this collection to a couple dozen devices this year as we get closer to the Android ecosystem.
Lilian: What music do you listen to while you work, or you prefer quietness?
Arturo: Right now I’m only listening to Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience. Yeah that’s right JT for the win! But my repertoire is a bit more diverse. To me music is like food, sometimes you feel like getting a delicious greasy double cheese burger and other you feel like getting some nice fine sushi dinner. So you will hear me listening to pop, electronic (chill, trance, electro, dubstep), 70’s rock (i.e. Creedence Clearwater), as well as heavier stuff like Slipknot (this is when I have so much energy after a RedBull).
Lilian: What’s your best time-saving trick? Any other tools or methods UI designers use to increase their speed and efficiency?
Arturo: Music + Headphones. That’s what really takes me into my own world. I also like going outside now and then to take the sun. I feel like a solar energy cell, I recharge and come back inside where it’s cooler. I’m very involved with Twitter, Facebook et al, so I really have to pull myself back throughout the day to focus on work without any distractions. Music is the key. My brother and I are getting to the point of being so in sync that sometimes we both feel like we need a break. We go to our lounge area and chat about the projects we are working on for an hours. Great brainstorming sessions.
Alex: Question on an abstract topic, have you seen the “Fight Club”? There was one interesting question “If you could take a fight with anyone? Who would it be?”
Arturo: With Brad Pitt’s character. SPOILER ALERT! I like the idea of fighting against myself. I’m my number one competitor and always try to do better than myself did yesterday, whether in design, running, playing drums or other things I do. I also think it is myself that sometime trips me into trouble or worry. I pay a lot of attention to being calm and centered. This allows me to leave more bandwidth for other people I care about. This is all something I try doing but not always succeed. It’s a constant fight.
Lilian: How would you comment on the following phrase: “The focus will shift from designing individual interfaces for particular devices to creating a proactive UI framework for the environment…”
Arturo: Totally agree. I mentioned this in a previous question and yes, we will quickly move from doing design for a single use to creating design systems that many designers can use to produce many apps that millions of people can use. Apple, Google and Microsoft are already doing this with their respective design guidelines and resources but I think we will see more of this coming out of the community little by little – most possibly in the shape of open source or collaborative efforts.
Alex: Can you mention some of your favorite UI/UX case studies?
Arturo: I’ll mention two of them. The first is Windows Phone itself. It was a breakthrough for the industry. It attempted to adopt the modernism movement design principles (think Massimo Vignelli, Walter Gropius, Jonathan Ive, Richard Meier, Josef Muller-Brockmann) in a product that is accessible to millions of users (granted Microsoft would like it to be in the tens of millions). As an experience, Windows Phone has been awarded with numerous design prizes for its bold commitment towards a modernist approach to user interaction and user experience. Windows Phone changed not only Microsoft as a whole (all products now intend to follow the same design principles) but is recognized industry wide as a product that kicked off a design trend. I would just to take advantage of this opportunity to clarify something. Windows Phone and it’s Metro design language (or Microsoft design language) is not “minimalism” and it is not “flat” design. Both minimalism and especially “flat” are incorrect terms that unfortunately many authors and design have adopted. The right term to describe this design is Modernist (as in the Modernism design movement that started in the 20th century).
The second example is in the iOS field. The WTHR app for iPhone is absolutely gorgeous. I like it because it tried to break with the traditional iOS design guidelines and attempted a more Dieter Rams design principles. Other apps in this category are Path and Clear. I think all these apps illustrate a clear trend in the iOS world where designers are recognizing Modernism as a more reliable approach to UI design than the leather, wood, rusty metal like skeuomorphic approach we’ve seen coming out of Cupertino in the past. Luckily, today we have Jonathan Ive taking care of both software design and hardware design at Apple. He is a Modernist. No more leather stitches with him as the skip
Lilian: “The UI should be there, but not begging for attention…The UI should almost blend into thebackground.” What do you think should rise to the top of the visual hierarchy – content, form or what?
Arturo: The best UI is the one that is not needed. Have users operate directly over content. Content, not chrome. Totally agree that the UI should not be the star of the show. The user is the star of the show, and the number one thing a user wants to manipulate, produce, edit, compose, share is content. Content is king. Users are not static entities; they move, talk, evolve and change so in order to successfully make content king, designers have to rely more and more on storytelling. If you are a design or work with a design who can’t tell stories – run away, run to the mountains, because you want a designer than can help you tell user stories that are fun, engaging, smooth. So in a nutshell, this whole UX/UI professional activity is more about story telling than UI design per see. In our design studio we spend way more time telling stories than designing UIs. UIs come naturally when you get the story straight. This in turn enables you to have the minimum set of UI elements on screen to accomplish a task.
Lilian: Do you feel a new tendency in UI towards a flatter and more graphic type of design? Away from skeuomorphic elements, mimicking some real-life things.
Arturo: As mentioned previously, it’s not about being “flat”. That’s an incorrect term. It’s about following Modernist design principles as established in the 20th century by lighthouse creative minds like Massimo Vignelli, Dieter Rams or Walter Gropius.
Lilian: What about this pinch thing? Do you think there is any future for a pinch interface?
Arturo: I personally consider pinch just another gesture. So no, I don’t think the pinch gesture will take over the world. What I think is our vocabulary of gestures is still quite limited and primitive and I think that throughout the years the world will be “trained” little by little to deal with more complex gestures. Think about it, Apple’s iOS is almost 100% about single taps to accomplish tasks. Some swipes and pinches here and there but most it’s taps. Very simple yet powerful. Then look at Windows 8… It is a “finger ballet” – you have all these gestures, you swipe from edges and each edge gives you something different, you slide, you tap, you pinch, you expand and contract… One of the reasons I think people have in general (not everyone) found Windows 8 more complex to use UI wise is that the gestures to accomplish success are more complex than in the iOS world. To be honest, Windows 8 gestures are not that hard but the little bit harder or more complex they are I think raise the instant gratification curve significantly. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Jakob Nielsen or Don Norman who are fundamentalists IMO when it comes to dismissing the Windows 8 UI as something unusable but what I think is that the Windows 8 gestural metaphors might be a few years ahead of its time. I know it’s also cliché but have my mom learn to operate a Windows 8 tablet and then have her use her iPad where everything gets done with “a tap” (or at least it is perceived as if) and she will end going for an iPad. Imagine going back to the 1980’s and giving yourself an XBOX 360 control to play in your new Atari system which has one joystick and “one” button… same thing. You’d be puzzled with all the joysticks, pads, buttons and so on that this “ahead of time XBOX control device” has. It is incredible to think that we humans take so long to adopt technologies… On one side back in 2005 no one had smartphones. Today everyone does. 8 years. Not bad. But maturing on new UI paradigms is complex.
Lilian: What do you think is the next UI design trend?
Arturo: It’s almost a cliché but I would continue to embrace the concept of thinking in terms of experiences and not devices. Don’t think about the app for sailing, or the app for banking or the app for running… think of the experience of sailing, banking and running. This experience is by definition not restricted to a phone, a tablet or a desktop… it transcends all these devices. So as designers we have to think without constrains. I also think that Design as a profession will continue to evolve. The title of Architect (Experience Architect) will rise as part of the obvious need to understand and execute design from a more architectural view as design systems continue to grow. You call it trends but I think trends is not what it is about or will be in the future. I think Microsoft, Apple, Google, Samsung, Sony and hundreds of startups are all creating their own design languages. I think this is what will be big, not designing an app or two but creating a design system, a design language that enables that company or startup to build a consistent experience across screens. Look at Facebook and Twitter today. They are already after this – whether you are using an iPhone, Windows Phone, Android phone, a tablet or the desktop, what they are designing is “the Facebook experience”.
So, this is what Arturo wanted to tell everyone about what has happened in the sphere of interface design, how things are shaping up with Windows 8 app design. Anyways, if you feel that you want to know more, as always, express yourself and ask questions in the comments.
There are many nicely designed websites on the internet. There are great infograhics too! But this webpage and the way you interact with it, will definitely leave your jaw dropping and hopefully, won’t make you hate the current design of your website. Click on this image and enjoy design at its finest!
Are you about to get a new eCommerce website? It mustn’t be a website with too many items before you consider it an E-commerce website. If you are selling less than 10 products, this applies to you as well. Let us know if you need assistance with your next new website and come in or call us for your first TWO FREE website consultation meetings.
Elaborate on Product Details
With an eCommerce site it becomes almost impossible to touch or feel the actual product. Online retailers must always provide descriptive yet interesting information about the product on their web pages. Offer competitive descriptions about the range, color, shape, size, weight and the value that the particular product can provide to its users. Though this sounds extra work for the product writers, there is a simple way to achieve this. Use product demos like videos or include 3D imagery to emphasize on the dimensions of the products especially for apparel.
Instead of one add four or five images of the same product with different colors, background or models. Offering multiple views will allow your customers to get a taste of the product beforehand. Put up 1024 x 768 pixels size images as smaller than this will withdraw user attention from your product.
It is a known fact that readers only scan through the web pages while looking for products. Thus make the descriptions more vivid by using better quality images and other graphics. Present your content in an active voice just like the way you would talk to your friends or colleagues. Do not over burden the page with unnecessary details like historical background of the product or an elaborate manufacturing process. It will simply bore your users to death! Use descriptive words rather than confusing adjectives. The best way is to place the information about several products in the form of a comparison chart. This will appear more professional and will be quick to scan through.
Tell Them Where You Are Located
To build the trust factor provide the appropriate contact details like email ids, addresses, phones numbers, fax information, chat ids and toll free numbers. Customers must be able to reach the staff anytime throughout the day or even 24/7. Since customers get the product in-hand only after purchase, at the time of delivery, it is crucial that online businesses keep the contact channels open for any sort of immediate communication. A quick response channel helps to reduce chances of grievances, as customers will get their issues resolved as soon as they occur.
Place contact information at the top right corner of the site or in a separate web page which is properly linked with the homepage. Provide a contact form as well there so customers can mail their requests or complaints in writing. This is a must-have requirement if you are selling a product which is technical in nature like gadgets. Giving the option to chat to a customer care representative is an effective way to build an eCommerce business.
Offer An Easy Check- Out Process
More than half of the sales are lost during a clumsy or slow check-out process. Consumers don’t have the patience for hours on their devices for getting their online payments processed. Design a three-step check out process; do not ask them for the same information repeatedly like name, product id instead design an intuitive interface that captures the shopping details from the shopping carts. You can even link pages, and use two-column layouts for certain sections (like putting billing details, and shipping information next to each other) to create shorter pages.
You can cross-sell here by placing a link of the related items on the check-out process. However, do not be pushy and squeeze in a lot of information as it will create a weak impression of your site. Acknowledge the time users spent on your sit by offering a free gift or free shipping option as per your business guidelines. This will work like an invitation for repeat purchase.
Make Shopping Easier and Faster
As per a survey conducted by PayPal, because of forced account registration, online users abandon their shopping carts 26% of the time. As a thumb rule, never ask your customers to open an account with your site before they even start looking for a product or even at the time they wish to buy any. There are customers who may visit your site just once or for only a single product. You can ask for registrations at the end of their shopping, after payments have been made. This way you will be able to generate a loyal customer base as only the serious shoppers will be willing to open an account while others may rush through that section.
Give them the option to check out as a guest if they wish to do so as in any case you will be getting revenue from your visitors. In addition, let users register as business or as private customers, so you know what products to offer during cross-selling. Use up-selling options with dedicated users only or the ones who spend a good amount of time on your site else the whole exercise will be in vain.
Design Unique Shopping Carts
This is the most vital aspect of your eCommerce web design. This is the place from where customers add products, and revise on them during their shopping. Build intuitive, smart and easy to follow shopping carts without adding too much frills.
Provide easy navigation throughout the cart so users can easily switch between multiple products. Allow users to add products to their carts without leaving the current page. Let shoppers modify their cart details in an easy way and give them the detailed preview of the purchase.
Include important information like the payment options, shipping rates and store policies in the cart. Make sure your users are clear about every step of the buying process. Offer as many payment options as possible to cater to a number of different customers. For shipping rates use flat rates or offer shipping calculators, plugins or widgets on your site. Mention about the freight surcharges for normally heavy item to indicate exactly what your customers are paying for. Use an FAQ section to accurately convey your store policies to first-time visitors. This practice will avoid any headache in the long run.
Create Intuitive Search Options
In order to offer interactive user experiences design the search option well. Visitors will use this very often to look for products they are interested in. Comprise a way for customers to filter their search results by category or feature leading to faster purchases. Devise effective search filters to help customers refine their search results.
Create comprehensive navigation bars with sub-headings and not more than seven links to related category pages. Choose different colors for separate options so that the whole process is relaxing to the eye.
As per a report by PayPal it confirms that 71% of shoppers believe they’ll get a better deal online than in stores and the good news is that e-retail will grow to 9% in 2016, up from 7%. Thus there are plenty of opportunities that e-retailers can bank upon with their stores open 24/7 for customers. Thus use the above mentioned techniques to design effective eCommerce sites for your valued customers.
Majority of this article was Originally Written by Helen Thomas
Helen Thomas works for PLAVEB, a leading Ecommerce Web Design Company located in Los Angeles. She likes fishing in her spare time. She also enjoys reading fiction novels. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter. and Google+.
Smartphones offer the unique opportunity to personalize interactions with your customers, creating possibly the most powerful
advertising medium ever! Mobile phones deliver personalized information to your customers at the RIGHT time – ANYTIME, ANYWHERE!
- How can I better myself and my work-life balance?
- How do I start and succeed as an entrepreneur?
- How can we do a better job at growing healthy revenues to move ahead in our industry and not simply stay competitive?
With one private Inauguration event this January and an annual upcoming conference in March, Keadworks and it’s partners will provide a promotional strategy that accomplishes 3 goals:
- Introduces the general public about the Turkic American Alliance and its initiatives
- Streamlines the events marketing process before, during and after the event
- Utilizes mobile, web and social platforms to engage and enhance the ongoing communication between the organization and its current to new online networks.
He has uniquely styled the hair of numerous notable men and women worldwide. One of these clients includes the sister to our President. See what he has to say about the new website design and customer service provided to him by our creative team.
“My name is Dusan A. Grante, owner of The Arthur Christine Salon & Academy . I wanted to take this time exclusively to give extreme praise to the Graphic and web services provided by Keadworks.com . Their team and creative director was always both personally upon request and brought my vision to life. I would highly recommend their services for any business in need of innovative media direction. For ever inspired”
Some videos online were found to promote Washington Redskins defensive players Lorenzo Alexander, Chris Wilson, Kenrick Golston and other teammates that are hosting a beautiful evening at the Reston Hyatt ballroom in Virginia on New Year’s Eve. This occurs the day after they hopefully win the Dallas Cowboys. The mission is to raise awareness and funds to fight hunger in parts SubSahara Africa. They are collaborating with “Every Child Fed“, an organization pioneering a revolutionary solution to this problem. See these videos below:
Watch the video below and stay connected to their Twitter and Facebook (@MINISterlingVA) to see how this MINI dealership in the greater Washington DC/Northern Virginia area, is promoting love for all 3 states. They highlight the John Cooper Works car and give you a magnificent driver’s experience suitable for tourists and residents alike.
As taken from their website, here is a short description of the new John Cooper Works Gp 2013 limited edition:
Built for the track, the limited edition MINI John Cooper Works GP is an uncompromising performance machine that hits 60 MPH from a standstill in 5.9 seconds. With an exclusively engineered powertrain and chassis, extensive aerodynamic styling, adjustable coil-over suspension, massive 6-piston Brembo® brakes, custom embroidered Recaro sport seats and tires developed in a special partnership with Kumho, it takes our world-renowned handling to levels bordering on diabolical.
And with only 500 or so MINI John Cooper Works GPs coming to the U.S. (and just 2,000 being made in the world) you’ll have to move fast if you’re interested. GP fast.
Watch this Trailer Video–>
Dr Michael Wright DDS of the Smiles Design Studio dentist location in Bethesda Maryland has just hired our creative army to assist him with spreading awareness behind the movement to “protect” athletes, student and professional, as well as the everyday active athletic person.
He has a secret tool and method that provides protection for the average athlete while enhancing their current performance. We will share more about Dr Michael Wright and his secret process over the next few weeks and months.