Crafting user-interface design for energy management software was one of the hardest challenges for our company to tackle. Tracking and engaging with energy data is complicated enough on its face. Creating a graphical interface system that would balance ease-of-use with total data visibility became a long process of usability testing, user feedback, and trial-and-error to improve our products.
No matter what software application you are designing for, it’s always important to place customers first. Customers must be able to use your software efficiently to reach a defined goal with as little friction as possible. Because in the end, it’s our customer reviews and satisfaction that define our products, not the expensive new graphical interfaces we were able to implement.
That’s why we’ve prepared this list of fundamental UI design principles that will provide unbelievable value for your software design process.
Understand the Goals and Needs of Energy Customers
First and foremost, designers must be aware of the needs and goals of their customers to create interfaces that match their expectations and impress them along the way. User research should be conducted early on in the process, by both the User Experience (UX) and the product team. Through this process, you and your team will be able to uncover problem areas that customers face when using similar energy software applications.
This will help you establish a list of goals that you need to meet to make your software the most attractive and effective solution in the marketplace. At UM Tech, our designers have been able to translate raw energy data into easily digestible visualizations that other software was lacking. By doing this, we were able to provide a robust energy analytics platform that was considerably simpler than the competition and more enjoyable to use.
Keep UI Design Consistent
It’s important that all UI design elements are uniform so that each action is easily understood and anticipated on the user side. Establishing consistency allows you to create a sense of familiarity and control for the user. Users should be able to assume what each function and interaction will accomplish before completing it so that they do not become frustrated or frazzled during the process.
Ensure consistency across all devices. This may require altering different UI elements on mobile or tablet devices to maintain this consistency.
Designers should consider researching various software platforms across their marketplace to discover different ways that designers were able to meet consumer demand and maintain consistency.
Consistency is valuable for many reasons, particularly:
- Increased usability
- Elimination of confusion
- Greater user control
Visualize Conceptual Structure
Structuring content in your software application or website is so important to the user experience. First off, you should probably define your content types and create a list. Next, you’ll need to decide where each content type will be placed on your graphical interface.
Execute proper proximity and symmetry to ensure objects are clearly grouped and spaced. You should also structure content using data organization, complimentary colors, or white-space. By clearly separating and defining each content structure, you make it easier for users to identify page elements that are crucial to their experience and intended application.
At UM Tech, we have leveraged sitemaps and wireframes to execute compelling data level content. With the use of simplified energy data, the user can interpret the information quickly and complete the next steps of their journey.
Optimal Readability and Presentation of Content
By clearly defining and segmenting different page elements, you can begin to work on your presentation skills. User-interface design is primarily made of typography, with a principal focus on usability and readability.
Some simple suggestions at this stage would be to choose a font that is scalable. Establish character styles for all headings and body tags that are consistent with all other page level materials across your software. Remember, the key here is consistency and simplicity. Create headings and tags that clearly define content and are relevant to its purpose.
This tip is self-explanatory, but again we must emphasize the idea of being consistent and concise to clear up confusion. Use clear-cut context on each piece of content so that you don’t leave the user guessing. Make sure interactions use clear-cut questions and confirmations when actions are needed or have been taken.
Finally, don’t overload the design with excessive content, whether its images, text, etc. Always utilize white space when needed to make content readable and non-intimidating. Consider how a company like Apple leverages minimalist design to make its software and website so easily accessible and rewarding to users.
Using these basic guidelines, we have been able to create a foundation for our UI designers that lead to more meaningful and useful software applications. In turn, this foundation, and all subsequent steps that stemmed from this process, were established to provide more value for our users and distinguish our energy software applications from the competition.
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