Illuminating Design and UI/UX Terms for Busy Business Owners

Businessman and businesswoman at meeting

Article Highlights

In the world of design, particularly User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) design, there are numerous terms and acronyms that can sometimes be confusing or intimidating to those who are not familiar with the field. As a professional designer, I understand the importance of simplifying industry jargon.

Today, I’ll explain some common UI and UX terms, unraveling their meanings and significance to help you navigate the fascinating world of digital design.

Explanation From a UI/UX Designer

User interface refers to the visual and interactive elements that users engage with when using a digital product or application. It includes everything from buttons, menus, icons, and forms to typography, color schemes, and overall layout.

Businessman and businesswoman at meeting
Professionals exploring design possibilities

User experience focuses on the holistic experience users have while interacting with a digital product or service. It involves understanding user needs, conducting research, and designing solutions that align with those needs.

What are the laws of UX?

Let’s explore 21 fundamental laws of UX in four categories, each providing valuable insights into human behavior and cognition. These laws shed light on various aspects of design and user perception.

Heuristic

Heuristics are guidelines or rules helping UI and UX designers identify and solve usability problems. They are based on past experiences and best practices and help ensure that a system or interface is user-friendly.

  • The Aesthetic-Usability Effect suggests that users perceive aesthetically pleasing designs as more usable and efficient, regardless of their actual functionality.
  • According to Fitts’s Law, the time required to reach a target area with a pointing device is determined by the distance to the target and its size. In essence, larger and closer targets are easier to select, while smaller and farther targets require more precise movements.
  • The Goal-gradient Effect suggests that people become more motivated and engaged as they approach a goal. In UX design, this principle can be leveraged to encourage user behavior by visually indicating progress and providing incentives, such as progress bars or achievement badges, to enhance user engagement and completion rates.
  • Hick’s Law says that the time it takes for a person to make a decision is logarithmically related to the number of options available. In other words, the more choices presented to users, the longer it takes for them to make a decision. To reduce decision paralysis, UX designers should provide clear paths for users to follow.
  • Jakob’s Law declares that users’ expectations and mental models of how digital interfaces work are heavily influenced by their previous experiences with similar interfaces. That’s why the best UX designers create intuitive interfaces that align with established conventions and familiar patterns.
  • As Miller’s Law describes, the average human can hold approximately seven (plus or minus two) chunks of information in their short-term memory. This principle underscores the importance of chunking information and breaking down complex tasks into manageable steps, aiding user cognition and reducing cognitive overload.
  • Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. In the context of UX design, this principle reminds designers to be mindful of setting realistic deadlines and establishing a sense of urgency to maintain focus and efficiency.

Principle

Design principles are fundamental concepts that guide the creative process.

  • The Doherty Threshold proposes there is an upper limit to the speed at which users can comfortably interact with digital interfaces; pushing the interface too fast can lead to errors and reduced usability.
  • Occam’s Razor, a principle attributed to the philosopher William of Ockham, states that when faced with multiple explanations or solutions, the simplest one is often the correct or most effective choice. Predictably, adhering to Occam’s Razor means keeping designs as simple as possible.
  • The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, suggests roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This principle implies that focusing efforts on optimizing these key elements can lead to substantial improvements in the overall user experience.
  • Postel’s Law, also known as the Robustness Principle, claims that systems should be accepting of the input they receive while staying specific in what they send. This law encourages designers to create interfaces that gracefully handle a wide range of user requests and give clear feedback.
  • Tesler’s Law, coined by the computer scientist Larry Tesler, states that “every application has an inherent amount of complexity that cannot be removed.” This law reminds UX designers to be mindful of the inherent complexity of any system and strive to clarify it.

Gestalt

Gestalt is a psychological theory suggesting that humans perceive each object as a whole rather than individual elements. In design, it means that the overall arrangement, grouping, and visual harmony of elements can greatly influence how users perceive and understand the interface.

  • The Law of Common Region states that elements grouped within a visually defined boundary, such as a box or a container, are perceived as related or belonging together. This principle is often employed to visually organize information and create distinct sections within interfaces.
  • The Law of Proximity says that elements placed close to each other are perceived as related, while elements spaced farther apart are perceived as separate. By remembering this law, designers communicate relationships and hierarchy, guiding users’ attention and understanding.
  • The Law of Prägnanz, also known as the Law of Good Figure or the Law of Simplicity, states that people tend to perceive and interpret complex shapes and patterns as simple and symmetrical. It emphasizes the importance of clarity in design, as people are more likely to gravitate towards visually coherent interfaces.
  • The Law of Similarity suggests that elements that share visual characteristics, such as shape, color, or size, are perceived as related or belonging to the same group. By utilizing this law, designers can create visual associations and highlight relationships within interfaces, enhancing user comprehension and efficiency.
  • The Law of Uniform Connectedness says that elements that are visually connected or grouped together are perceived as related or belonging to a single unit. It helps designers visually convey relationships, indicate interactive elements, and create a sense of continuity within an interface.

Cognitive Bias

Cognitive biases are tendencies or patterns of thinking that can affect our decision-making and perception. Understanding cognitive biases helps designers anticipate how users might interpret and interact with interfaces.

  • The Peak-End Rule suggests that people tend to judge their experiences based on its peak moments (the most intense points) and the final moments. This means designers should focus on positive and memorable moments throughout the user journey, as well as ensuring a satisfying and delightful ending.
  • The Serial Position Effect suggests that people are more likely to remember and pay greater attention to the first and last items in a series or list, compared to the middle items. carefully designing the first and last elements within an interface to capture users’ attention, convey critical information, and facilitate effective navigation.
  • The Von Restorff Effect, also known as the Isolation Effect, suggests that when multiple similar elements are presented, the one that stands out or is unique is more likely to be remembered. In other words, visual contrast, distinctiveness, and novelty can all aid information retention and engagement.
  • The Zeigarnik Effect says that people remember incomplete or interrupted tasks better than completed ones. In UX design, this principle can create a sense of curiosity, anticipation, or progress by displaying partial progress, reminding users of unfinished actions, or providing visual cues that encourage them to continue their interactions.

Understanding and applying these 21 laws of UX can significantly contribute to the creation of engaging, intuitive, and user-centered digital experiences. By considering these principles and their implications throughout the design process, designers can optimize usability, enhance user satisfaction, and deliver effective solutions that meet users’ needs.

What is UI/UX information architecture?

Information Architecture (IA) refers to the organization, structure, and labeling of information within a digital product or website. It involves creating logical hierarchies and navigation systems that enable users to find and access information efficiently. IA plays a vital role in shaping the overall user experience, ensuring content is well-organized, easily discoverable, and intuitive to navigate.

What is responsive design?

Responsive design is an approach to UI design that ensures a digital product or website provides an optimal user experience across different devices and screen sizes. With the ever-increasing use of smartphones and tablets, responsive design is crucial for accommodating various resolutions and orientations, allowing content to adapt and reflow seamlessly for improved accessibility and usability.

What is prototyping?

Prototyping involves creating interactive models or simulations of a digital product’s functionality and user interface.

Prototypes can range from low-fidelity (basic sketches or paper prototypes) to high-fidelity (interactive and clickable representations). Involving UI/UX research, they’re valuable tools for testing and refining user interactions, validating design decisions, and gathering feedback before moving on to development.

Wireframes

A wireframe is a simplified visual representation of a user interface, often presented in grayscale or with limited details. It outlines the basic structure and layout of a digital product, excluding visual design elements. Wireframes provide a clear framework for UI/UX designers and stakeholders to discuss and refine the layout and content hierarchy without being distracted by aesthetics.

Wireframe from a UI/UX designer
Wireframe sketched in pen

Mockups

Mockups are high-definition visual representations of a digital product’s user interface. They typically include detailed visual design elements such as colors, typography, and images, showing a realistic depiction of the final project’s appearance.

Website designer choosing colors for UI/UX
UI/UX designer considering colors for mockup

Interactive Prototypes

Interactive prototypes go beyond static representations and allow users to interact with the interface to simulate its actual use. These prototypes can be created simply by adding interactive elements, such as links or buttons, to mockups, which make a big difference in providing an even more realistic representation of the final interactive experience.

Education website mockup
Interactive prototype of a website

What is usability testing?

Usability testing involves observing users as they interact with a digital product or prototype to identify usability issues, gather feedback, and evaluate the overall user experience. Usability tests can be conducted through various methods, such as moderated sessions, remote testing, or eye-tracking studies. The insights from usability testing help designers identify areas for improvement and make data-driven design decisions.

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By uncovering common UI and UX terms from information architecture to usability testing, we hope to empower you with the knowledge to engage with design professionals and better appreciate the intricacies of user-centered design. There’s always more to learn as the field continues to evolve, so stay in touch!

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