What is a user interface?

Literally translated, user interface means “user interface”. The definition of user interface refers as a generic term to the interface between man and machine, in relation to software applications to the interface between man and computer. The aim is to design the user interface in such a way that the user can control the machine effectively without being constantly “obstructed”. An optimally designed user interface is therefore efficient, intuitive and easy to use for the user.

User interface design

In connection with user interfaces, one inevitably encounters user interface design, or UI design for short. This design area focuses on the user interface that a user is faced with. As with the PC, this can be an interactive system, but it also includes systems without interaction, e.g. pure information systems such as an ÖVPN route plan. After all, the user has to find his way around here as well, in other words: The information has to be conveyed in a way that is easy to understand and understandable.

When developing a UI design, the conditions, goals and obstacles in user interaction and reaction play a role. The optimization should adapt the system as far as possible to the requirements and expectations of the user.

Difference between UX design and UI design

The terms UI Design and UX Design (User Experience Design) are sometimes used synonymously. Although they are very closely linked in that they are crucial for the perception of a website or an online product, strictly speaking they relate to different approaches to the user experience:

User interface design

  • Refers solely to the graphical user interface and therefore solely to the interface design.
  • Objective: To enable a pleasant interaction for the user, which ensures a seamless interaction between user and product.

User experience design

  • Refers to the level of the user experience.
  • It’s less about whether something works smoothly, but more about how it feels to use the website.
  • Important questions here include: Where does the user expect something? How could one shorten certain ways for him? What options are there to make processes on the website more fluid?

An appropriately designed user interface has a positive effect on the user experience. So if the basics already fit with the UI and all interactions work smoothly, this is a good starting point for a positive user experience.

Improve interaction between humans and computers

The user interface is not about simply offering the user a beautiful, attractive surface, but about making it as easy as possible for them to use the system. Even if this entails very different design developments depending on the application scenario, there are some general rules that every designer should observe when it comes to “good interface design”. Ben Shneiderman, an American computer scientist, has summarized these in “8 golden rules”.

These include:

  • Consistency: The entire surface should be structured consistently, e.g. the colors, geometric elements and typography of a website. If these corner points remain constant, it is much easier for the user to find their way around. In practice, this means, for example, arranging the navigation on every page in the same way.
  • Simple error handling: In the best case scenario, the system is designed in such a way that the user does not make any mistakes, which is, however, as good as impossible. Therefore, troubleshooting should be made very easy for the user.
  • Relieve the user’s short-term memory: operating elements should be presented in a way that is easy to understand, clear and reduced, so that the user does not have to memorize too much information.

Additional information:

8 golden rules of interface design

Development of the user interface

The further development of PC systems always entails further developments in user interfaces. While at the beginning of PC development only text-based input was possible, today there is even the possibility of controlling software with your thoughts.

An overview of the different types of user interfaces:

CLI – Command Line Interface

In the beginning, user interfaces were only text-based because the computing capacity for graphic elements was not sufficient. The input was made via text input or key combination commands. The users either knew which ones were necessary by heart or they had to take them from command tables. An example for CLI is the DOS system.

TUI – Text User Interface

The TUI is also a text-based system, but as a rule no commands are required here, as is the case with the CLI. The user acts with a menu that he operates with the keyboard or the mouse. Only the 256 character set elements are available in text mode. The file manager Norton Commander and Turbo Pascal are examples of TUI.

However, the term TUI is also used for the Tangible User Interface:

TUI – Tangible User Interface

With this interface, the user interacts with the machine via a physical object, i.e. a tangible interface. This interface can be used as input as well as for output. The TUIs can hardly be found during “normal work on the PC”. There are more areas of application in the exhibition area. For example, objects can be offered in a museum with which the visitors can control a program or interact with it.

In contrast to touchscreen or mouse operation, this is a livelier, more memorable experience. This is why the user interfaces are often used in the educational field or in areas in which an abstract phenomenon is to be explained to visitors in an understandable manner.

GUI – Graphical User Interface

The graphical user interface is the one known from most software programs and is now the standard user interface for computers. Here the user no longer has to enter any commands by hand, but simply clicks on menus or symbols to carry out a function. It can be controlled using the mouse, function keys or key combinations. As a result, it is basically no longer possible to execute nonsensical commands because they are not available for selection at all. To put it simply, the user with the GUI only acts according to the principle:

Look, point to it (mouse, finger) and click.

The success of the GUI goes back to the simple operation via the buttons and the design in the form of desk metaphors, which was introduced in 1984 with the Apple Macintosh. In 1990 this design became the industry standard for PCs. To this day, the floppy disk is used as a storage symbol (even if the floppy disk hardly plays a role today) or the folder symbol for the logical digital order of documents.

VUI – Voice User Interface

This is a voice-controlled user interface in which both voice input and voice output are possible. The possible uses are very diverse:

Connection with a phone number: VUI can be used to establish a connection to a phone number using voice dialing. Either the user speaks the number into the terminal or he just says the name of the person who is to be called (in the latter case, of course, the prerequisite is that the name is stored linked to a number).

Conversion of speech into text (speech-to-text) as an app, part of operating systems or application programs

Voice output as an operating aid, e.g. for navigation or as voice output of text documents for the blind

NUI – Natural User Interface

With this user interface, “natural” means that it works interactively and reacts to inputs via speech, touch and movement. A NUI is thus a combination of GUI, VUI and gesture control. Face recognition is also possible with a NUI. A common area of ​​application are game consoles such as Xbox or Wii, which are controlled by your own body movements or by moving a controller.

A further development is the OmniTouch from Microsoft. This means that the touchscreen can be projected onto any object and can of course also be operated there by touch.

PUI – Perceptual User Interface

The PUI are based on the natural forms of interpersonal interaction and therefore combine GUI, VUI and electronic gesture recognition. The perception and processing of these stimuli is currently still being intensively researched.

BCI – Brain Computer Interface

With a BCI, the computer should react directly to thoughts without the detour of an input device such as a mouse, keyboard or gesture. Research in this area relates to very different applications, for example:

  • Assistance systems in the car
  • Prosthesis control
  • Game applications

The interface between the brain and the computer consists of an EEG device, a computer and a device / application that executes the “commands”. The EEG device picks up the electrical signals from the brain, the computer translates them into a specific command and forwards this to the application. A computer program, a wheelchair or an artificial arm can be controlled with your thoughts.

Research in the field of the brain computer interface could make life easier for many people with disabilities in the future, as it enables them to carry out activities that are otherwise only possible with the help of other people.

Additional information:

With the power of thought

User interface and SEO

According to technology-wiki.com, the user interface is not directly linked to SEO, but it can indirectly influence the success of a page in the SERPs. Search engine optimization does not just mean “luring” the user to the desired page by searching, but also providing content there that corresponds to the search intention. If the user has to navigate and search for a long time from the page reached in order to find what they are looking for, it is very likely that they will jump off during the process and switch to the next search result.

That is why a good user interface combined with a good user experience is extremely important in order to not only get “pure” visitors, but users who also convert.

Points like:

  • a lower bounce rate
  • a long dwell time (of course, always depending on the type and content of the page)
  • clear page structures

Google can now measure very well and include it in the ranking. And this is precisely where a well thought-out user interface plays a major role.

What is a user interface