User Interface (UI) Design analyzes dictating what users might have to do and ensuring that the interface has components that are easy to access, understand, and use to facilitate those actions. UI brings together concepts from interaction design, visual design, and information architecture.
Before we take a closer look at how to assemble an expert level UI Style Guide, it’s necessary to understand that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. The significance of style guides extends beyond big brands with huge product teams. Mid to small-sized businesses seeking a consistent digital experience also benefit when UI Style Guides are custom-made to their specific needs.
UI Style Guides are a design and development tool that brings cohesion to a digital product’s user interface and experience. At their core, they:
• Record all of the design elements and interactions that arise within a product.
• List essential UI components such as buttons, typography, color, navigation menus, etc.
• Document fundamental UX elements like hover states, dropdown fills, animations, etc.
• Contain live elements and code snippets for developers to reference and use.
Choosing Interface Elements :
Users have become common with interface elements acting distinctly, so try to be consistent and reliable in your choices and their layout. Doing so will help with task completion, efficiency, and satisfaction.
Interface Elements Include But Are Not Limited To:
• Input Controls: buttons, text fields, checkboxes, radio buttons, dropdown lists, list boxes, toggles, date field.
• Navigational Components: breadcrumb, slider, search field, pagination, slider, tags, icons.
• Informational Components: tooltips, icons, progress bar, notifications, message boxes, modal windows.
• Containers: accordion.
There are times when multiple components might be appropriate for displaying content. When this happens, it’s essential to consider the trade-offs. For example, sometimes elements that can help save you space, but more of a burden on the user mentally by forcing them to guess what is within the dropdown or what the element might be.
Include These Important Design Components in UI Style Guides:
Designers familiar with brand identity guidelines shouldn’t have a problem transitioning to UI Style Guides because there’s ample overlap with many of the crucial design components that must be included.
Pro Tip: Only document relevant design components. Extraneous information makes UI Style Guides bulged and hard to work with.
1. Typography Scheme:
Typography is one of the most popular interface design elements, so it’s not almost sufficient to list the names of typefaces used in a product. Clear instructions should be given for Titles, Subtitles, Headings (H1, H2, H3), Body, Text, and Captions.
Additionally, font sizes should be provided, weights indicated, and styles defined. Line height and kerning are also needed, and it’s a good idea to single out a go-to font to be used when special circumstances arise.
2. Responsive Layouts:
When digital products are developed around responsive grid systems, UI Style Guides must address interface layouts across screen sizes. This means including notes and examples for spacing, padding, and placement. It is also useful to show overlays of the product’s grid system about different screen sizes. The big objective here is providing enough context to prevent the need for one-off screen designs. Over time, these add up and undermine a digital product’s cohesion.
Almost every interface includes buttons, so take time to document their sizes, styles, colors, placement, spacing, and typographic elements. If several buttons are used in different contexts, make that clear as well.
4. Color Palette:
One of the fastest ways to ravage an interface is inconsistent color use, so color combinations need to be completely defined. Listing colors and their values (HEX, UIColor) is a good start, but certain pairings and use examples should also be given.
In addition to a large color palette that includes a range of lighter secondary colors, IBM’s UI Style Guide illustrates how to apply specific schemes (like this triadic example) to its products. If the UI Style Guide is referencing a set of brand identity guidelines, check to see if a secondary scheme of lighter accent colors is available. If not, create your own and document. A selection of gray values is also beneficial.
Additional UI Components That May Be Needed:
• Data Tables
• Navigation menus
• Charts and data visualizations
• Date and time pickers
• Loading indicators
• Dropdown menus
• Tooltips and popovers
• Form elements
• Data Tables
• On-off switches
• Content grid lists
• Vertical lists
Best Practices for Designing an Interface:
Everything stems from knowing your users which includes understanding their goals, skills, preferences, and tendencies. Once you know about your user, make sure to consider the following when designing your interface:
• Keep the interface simple.
• Create consistency and use common UI elements.
• Be purposeful in page layout.
• Strategically use color and texture.
• Use typography to create hierarchy and clarity.
• Make sure that the system communicates what’s happening.
• Think about the defaults.
Do’s and Don’ts:
Do’s and Don’ts prevent debate and save web design and development time, but it’s always best to provide a note of context like this:
Oftentimes, it can be beneficial to certainly outline design Do’s and Don’ts. For instance:
• “Do use the white wordmark version of a company’s logo in the interface footer.”
• “Don’t use alternate color versions of a company’s wordmark on black backgrounds.”
In Apple’s UI Style Guide, Do’s and Don’ts are clearly explained with illustrations and context notes.
For designers today, it’s essential to shift their focus from aesthetics to usability and accessibility. This enables them to ensure that their design makes their software easier to navigate for those with disabilities.