What is User Interface (UI)
User Interface (UI) is the place where the interaction between the system and human happens. Through this, the human can convey what he wants the system to perform and instructs the system on how to perform.
Why User Interface ?
Even though the human can interact with the system, he can only convey and instruct in the human readable form i.e. in english or any language but the system can only understand machine readable form i.e. binary system. So the main use of UI is communicating the instructions from human to system with translation of the human readable form to machine understandable form.
User interface starts with the Industrial Revolution in 17th century when the machines are used to do the works of man. At the initial stages, UI is mostly based on the physical form like pressing buttons, punch cards etc. These also convey the instructions from human to machine but not in a current understanding of the UI.
As the computer and other machines developed, user interface had got a bigger role to play. Because these machines are doing more jobs than human and also in a efficient way. So the more humans depend on them, UI is getting more importance day by day. With the computers, UI is mostly interacting with the system using the input devices like keyboard and mouse. But when the evolution of touch screen displays starts, UI is not only through keyboard and mouse. Now the UI is more interactive with touch screens, audio input, gestures etc.
How to design?
In the olden days, UI is mostly based on the display because all your interactions through the keyboard and mouse will be captured by the display and translated to the machine understandable form with the help of CPU. But now-a-days, UI is not only through display, it includes microphone, camera, GPS etc. So the designing of UI is little bit tougher than before. And also it varies for specific applications.
For designing UI, you need to understand what are the ways to interact in that particular scenario like microphone, camera etc. So based on that you need to include the additional features utilizing the other ways.
Basic requirement in the UI is the Homepage with the links to all the functions of the system. And for specific functions, you can add the additional features to interact with the system.
UI design can be done with many software tools based on the current technologies or advancements like HTML5.0, Android, Dot net etc. But all the designs should use a concept to make the UI more user friendly and easy to handle. Some of the major concepts used in the UI design are given with a brief description.
1. Minimalism – Using a minimal and most important links or grouping similar tasks under a link to provide a simple interface to the user.
2. Skeuomorphism – Imitating the real world things in the UI design like a book shelf for the E-book reader UI etc. This is more user friendly as the user has more experience with the real world objects that you imitate.
3. Laser focus – This is where we will be focusing on one single item to user. This makes the user to be concentrated on that task rather than drifting with the additional information available with it.
4. Context sensitive navigation – This is a more dynamic design as we can select which links should be visible to the user always and which will be visible after certain actions. This can make your UI looks simple with all the links hidden.
5. Collapsed content – This is also a dynamic design where you can group the links under one link which will expand when the user clicks on it.
How better is it:
Currently UI is mostly with the touch screen and camera to minimize the user activity. At most of the times, we have the best experience with the UI like easy clicking on touch screen, exact copy of the given image in the search etc. But on certain scenarios need more accuracy which can be provided only through the keyboard and mouse like Photoshop editing etc. So for the specific scenarios like that we have to improve the UI design to give more accuracy with the touch screen input itself.
What can be future developments?
Currently UI is dominated by the language which makes it accessible only to the persons who know that specific language. So it should be based on the pictorial representation or in other form which should not be constrain for most people.
Nowadays UIs mostly need an attached platform to work with, like screen of the mobile phone. This makes the people to carry the platform with them always. This can be avoided if the UIs can use any platform for the user to interact like the projector uses a white wall instead of the projector screen.
Future UI should have an alternate option for the physically challenged people to interact with, like embedded mark in keys F and J in the keyboard for the visually challenged people.