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Interface Design Tricks to Impress Users

Interface Design TricksA small search on Google will return thousands upon thousands of interface design tricks to impress web users. Most of these will consist of wild and wacky Adobe Photoshop techniques to create a visually appealing design. While this can certainly boost the appeal of a website on the surface, the art of impressing a web user extends far beyond a few snazzy graphics and a Macromedia Flash logo.

Truthfully, the idea of impressing with your interface design is a little misguided. The trademark of a great design is one that goes unnoticed. You don't want an audience to leave your website with the impression that the interface was the best you had to offer. A successful interface acts as a compliment to the rest of the website and highlights the ease at which a user can browse through your content.

We're going to look at some of the tricks you can use to transform your interface in to an efficient gateway to the rest of your content.

With every interface that you design, there should be one word resounding in your head; consistency. Web users love consistency.

As a developer, you should be looking to implement modelling standards as arranged by the w3 Consortium to tie in with accessibility and usability requirements. To do this, it may be necessary to draw up an interface flow diagram prior to coding.

Flow diagrams can be used to plot out how your website will operate, and they're ideal for arranging the information architecture in to an organized view. Your interface should allow navigation between every major area of your website within one click. This is an example of consistency to settle the user in to the mindset that they're not going to get lost. It sounds ridiculous, but how many times have you visited a website where one wrong click can spring up a completely different page layout? It's extremely common, but don't let that be an excuse for making the same mistake.

If you're a commercial website, you might have three separate sections; Products, Support and Research. A good interface design should allow users to access every parent category from any sub-page ANYWHERE on the website. This is a standard based on the idea that the most likely destinations should be readily available to your web audience, within one click.

Where are you placing the key information on your web page? Western users are prone to reading from left to right so the first place that they'll look is on the left of your interface. This suggests that your navigation panel belongs on that side, simply to fit in with the coordination of your western audience. As a mark of this, if you visit websites of an eastern origin, you'll find the navigation and key links on the right hand side.

You can place your navigation perfectly but it won't improve anything if you fall victim to the Mystery Meat Navigation disease. Ensure that all hyperlink labels are named accurately and not broad sweeping statements with a liability to be misinterpreted. Messages coded in to the interface should be concise and straight to the point.

A popular interface technique over the last few years has been to include layout icons as a means of linking to different sections of a site. Hyperlink icons are a terrible development practice at the best of times, but using them in your interface is unforgivable. Never rely on images to get your user from A to B. Not only does it waste your own time as a web designer, but it wastes the time of the user when they reach your page and have to decipher what a random image is supposed to mean. Text links should rarely be strayed from.

If you do happen to use an icon as a link, or as part of one, always use the HTML ALT tag to provide accessibility in compatibility with w3 standards.

While web icons are certainly risky ground to be covering in terms of your interface's efficiency, that's not to say they can't be a great compliment to user friendly buttons. You can create wonderfully complex designs in programs like Macromedia Flash, and these are good for giving the wow factor to a web page.

Sometimes, it can be out of our hands as developers to control all of the content that reaches a web page. This is usually the case when advertisements are placed on a page from an external source. We can, however, decide what forms of embedded advertisements make it to a page. If you wish to impress your web audience, the use of floating adverts is something that you should fight to the very bitter end.

It doesn't matter how great your original interface is, if you have advertisements appearing over the top of it, your audience is going to have immense trouble navigating from page to page. Consider the types of advertising that you allow on your website. And remember that these companies set out with the specific goal of making a user click on their advert. Are those rewarding banners really worth the effect that they're having on your own website?

Google AdSense is a great provider of non-intrusive advertisements. You can also customize them to fit in with the theme of your page, which is more than can be said for some of the third party companies that distribute code.

Finally, and arguably most importantly, always make sure that your interface complies with the web developing "contrast rule". This means that light text should always be displayed over dark background colors, and vice versa.

Interface design shouldn't be hard to master if you follow the basic guidelines of usability. It also represents one of the areas of web development which is most likely to take off with new technologies in the future. Individuals are constantly striving to produce innovative interfaces. We can expect the presentation of web applications to change dramatically over the next few years, so be prepared to spend plenty of time refining your work for the future!

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