The New Era of User Interfaces
User interfaces, redefined
In the broadest terms, user interfaces, or UI, represent the touchpoint between humans (the users) and the technology that was built to address their needs or solve their problems. In the early days of IT, interfaces were simple, basic and visually unattractive – the equivalent of brutalist architecture in terms of design, if you will. The focus was on functionality and velocity as computer processing power and speed were limited. Now that we’ve gotten over that hurdle, and devices and applications are smooth and fast, the emphasis is more than ever on their look, feel, and ease of use. In a digital, world where functionality and features are uniform, superb user interfaces can mean the difference between choosing one application and app provider over another.
The value of good UX and UI
How did user interfaces become so important in the eyes of the user? The unfortunate answer is that it took years of bad user interfaces (UI) and user experience (UX) for users to start distinguishing the good from the mediocre. App designers and developers today are expected to provide attractive, intuitive, and easy-to-use IT tools, programs, and applications. They should never leave the user hanging, wondering which option to select, or subconsciously prompting them to select the wrong one due to the inappropriate use of color, placement, or prominence. As a best practice, good UI should not stand out in any way – it should blend in with the rest of the environment, be unobtrusive, intuitive and predictable. If a user notices the interface of an app at all, it should be due to its exceptionally smooth and sleek design – not because it is confusing, deceiving, or unusual.
New user interface principles to adhere to
While classic UI manifesto principles are still valid today and should be followed in all development projects, there are some new and emerging trends to heed when aiming to build cutting edge designs and tools. For example, when it comes to websites and portals, we are seeing the visual user experience being enhanced by features like full screen video, gradients, innovative typography, animations and illustrations.
New generation UI tech and interaction principles are moving off the screen and into the physical realm more and more. In these interactions, commands will be understood contextually rather than provided by the user, meaning we can expect future user experiences to be much more intuitive and subliminal.
Futuristic user interfaces that are yet to stick
Before touchscreens, there were buttons, and before that there were rotaries. User interface continues to evolve as do technology and our sense of beauty and utility. There are some promising new technologies that could redefine user interfaces and experiences for good, while others might disappear altogether.
While voice user interface (VUI) has been the rumored future of UX for a few years now, we are yet to see it cut through the familiar touchscreen devices we’re so accustomed to using. Voice assistants (VAs) embedded into smart devices, such as Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, or Cortana, are gaining popularity in daily usage but they are yet to fully replace traditional search or task execution engines. As their ability to recognize different voice commands and accents improves, so will their utility.
Augmented reality (AR) environments have various applications in business and industry, though this type of UI is yet to be widely adopted, too. So far, it has mostly been used for niche purposes and boutique campaigns, where novelty trumps utility.
Tangible user interfaces (TUI) enable a fusion between the user’s physical and digital environments to aid in the recognition of physical objects. A good example of TUI is Microsoft’s Pixelsense (previously Surface), which can recognize and provide intelligence on objects placed on its screen or within its infrared camera’s reach. This technology is still in its infancy but is expected to gain wider traction and commercial attention as it advances.
In contrast to touch, gesture interfaces do not require physically touching anything, which could come in handy in times of viral epidemics, such as Covid-19. Controlling devices takes place through simple gestures of the body, hand, head, or fingers.
Mastering good user interfaces
When building new tools and solutions, whether they’re B2B or B2C, it’s important to follow the classic principles of good UI and UX, as well as pay attention to any emerging trends that could improve the way the user interacts with the application. Of course, superb design and UI should not come at the price of functionality or speed – rather, they should enhance the overall usage of the tool and make it more pleasant and user-friendly. When outsourcing your development, it’s important to choose a development and IT partner who understands the importance of designing and building in superb user interfaces and journeys, such as Pegus in Belgium.
Contact the Pegus team of experts for a no-obligation consultation.