UX Design Basics

It takes more than just being creative

Being a good artist is not the only thing you need for a career in graphic design on the internet and for applications. Modern graphic and user interface design is all about making interactive designs that people will use efficiently. It really helps to have a solid understanding of business and grasp the goals of the web interface you are creating. Aren't there interfaces that are not on the internet? Sure, there might be some, but these days just about everything is connected to a web of some kind, even if it is just on a local network within a company.

The difference between graphic design and UX design

Interface design is basically graphic design that intended for user interaction that can be a purpose or to perform a special function. Examples can include delivering educational information, selling products, or advertising a service. UX design can range from website design, non-web software design, kiosk interfaces and website software design.

The most common type of interface design is that for the web. If you have ever designed a website, you have some experience in interface design. However, there is a lot more to UX design if you want to be good at it. The best rule of thumb to keep in mind is to make it very easy for people to find the information they need....and in some cases, tastefully including things that will help accomplish your business goals. Let's start by talking about the process for making a smart website interface design.

The Good 'Ol Drawing Board - UX design step 1

The first step in web interface design for a website is designing (or being given) an outline of the pages and content for the site. This outline is often called the information architecture design, or "IA". It should consider the goals you are wanting to accomplish. For example, if you are building a website for a medical office or a group of doctors, then your goal might be to get more patients for the medical office. So, to accomplish this through a website you want to get the user to fill-out a contact form or call the doctors office to set-up an appointment. You also want to "pre-qualify" a lead so that the business you are working gets inquiries from people that are a good match for them. Here is a list of common goals for a medical office:

  • Goal 1: Get patient to contact the doctor's office
  • Goal 2: Provide accessible information about the practice and services
  • Goal 3: Streamline administrative operations such as patient registration
Make your interface design effective

So now that we have established some goals for this example, we will decide what the other pages on the site will be in order to design our interface to accomplish our goals. So in the next step, we will consider what our website visitors will want to find out about the business before they will take action and contact the office. Some examples of things they will want to know can include:

1) Can their insurance can be used at the doctor's office?
2) Where is the office located and is it within a reasonable distance of the patient?
User Question
3) What fields of medicine do the doctors practice (internal medicine, physical therapy, cardiology, etc.)?
4) What is the track record and experience of the physicians in there are of practice?
5) What do their previous patients have to say about the doctors?
6) How easy is it to set-up an appointment and transfer medical records to them?
7) What resources are provided by the office including patient education?
There are many ways to find out the answers to these questions. The best way is probably going to be either talking with the managing partner of the practice and/or office manager.

Once we have verified the answers to the above questions, you can decide on the sections of the website and get started on the actual wireframes and design of the site. Based on this example of a medical office and the information we gathered up to this point, we could decide the main links on the website would be:


Secondary navigation (can be links at at the bottom of the page) should include legal information to protect the practice from lawsuits. This can include HIPAA comliance information, Terms of Use Agreement and Privacy Policy. Any contact forms or are methods that the patient can contact via the website should be secured via 256+ bit SSL encryption and follow all other HIPAA compliancy guidelines and include verfication that the user has read and agrees to the privacy policy, and in some cases the terms of agreement.).

Your design should not try to re-invent the wheel too much. Keep it clean and simple. Also, remember the fundamental principles of interface design: keep information accessible and easy to find. Anything you do while designing that distracts the users from this goal is usually going to be counter-productive to the goals of the business.

Overall, the more simple you keep your design, the more user-friendly it will be. Just because you have the ability to create an interface with the latest and greatest technology does not necessarily mean that your audience is ready to use your UX design. You have to make your graphic interface usable and accessible so your audience can interact with it.. In the real world, the latest and greatest techniques are not always what they are cracked up to be. They should be used only where absolutely appropriate and should not be thrown in just for the sake of satisfying the ego of the designer. HTML5 and robust javascript are great and are slowly becoming standard.

Back in the early 2000's building flash websites was really popular. Most of the the "new" interface design techniques that are out at this time have actually been around for a long time, but they have simply been sitting on the back burner until the general public was ready for them. Keep in mind your user is your #1 focus when creating a usable interface and the most important thing to remember is that you are creating something FOR them, not yourself.

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