Application Interface Design Principles All Developers Should Know

No matter how proficient you are in coding, an application will be of little value to the business if it does not have an efficient interface. It is essential that developers understand the fundamentals of application interface design and choose an interface strategy that suits the priorities of end users.

By knowing what is important to your users and what type of interface is most relevant to your application, you can select an application interface design approach that strikes the best balance between different design principles. Let’s dive deeper into what developers need to know about interface design, including some fundamentals and three common approaches to interface development.

Interface Design Principles

For virtually all types of interfaces, applications, and users, there are several principles that lay the foundation for effective interface design.


An interface should be simple. In practice, this means that the cognitive effort required of end users to accomplish a task should be minimized. However, this is easier said than done. Simplicity is subjective. Something obvious to some users may confuse others.

As a developer, your job is to figure out what your target users find simple, and then implement an interface that works accordingly.


Efficiency rhymes with simplicity. Application interfaces should be efficient enough so that users can complete tasks in as few steps as possible. Having an efficient interface also means avoiding redundant elements with the design. For example, you don’t want users to have to click two buttons in a row just to move to the next page or force them to enter information multiple times.


An app interface should also deliver a consistent experience – a fairly objective premise. Consistency, in the context of application interface design, means that the structure and style of the interface is the same throughout the application. As a developer, you don’t want to create an interface that relies heavily on menus in one part of the app and then a forms-driven interface in another part.

Regardless of the specificity app features or components that users access, the interface experience should be consistent.


When users interact with the app interface in some way, they should receive feedback. For example, this could mean that the button they clicked changes color, or it appears as a pop-up window that says, “Processing. Please wait “.

Without comment, developers risk leaving users unsure of whether to accept their contribution. Did they really click the button? Is the application buggy and not processing the request? Avoid this by providing an instant response.

Comments should remain available until the processes are complete. Don’t leave the user in the dark by showing a blank screen or freezing on the previous screen. If your app is taking a long time to process a request, keep a status bar open so users can track the progress.


To the best of the developer’s ability, each interface should be directly accessible to all users. This requires choosing a layout, colors, and font size, among other stylistic elements, which make the interface easy to view and navigate for as many people as possible.

Where many developers go wrong when it comes to accessibility is when they assume that users who cannot easily work with the interface will know that accessibility tools, such as screen readers , are available and will understand how to deploy them. Think of accessibility tools as a backup rather than a central part of the user experience you deliver.

The best interface is one that every user can navigate without needing to accessibility add-ons.

Three key approaches to designing application interfaces

Most applications use one of three interface design strategies. None are inherently better than the others, but each excels at adhering to certain principles of application interface design.

The interface design approach you choose should therefore reflect the design principles that are most important to your users. Although in a perfect world you can meet all principles the same, in the real world you often have to compromise.

Menu driven interface

A menu-driven interface uses menus to allow users to navigate application features. a AT M screen is a common example of a menu-driven interface. The main screen displays various menus, such as Deposits, Withdrawals and Information. From there, users click on the menu that corresponds to what they want to do.

Menu-driven screens are ideal for providing a simple and accessible interface. By allowing users to select menus rather than forcing them to navigate long forms, menu-driven interfaces make it easy to minimize the amount of information on the screen at any given time.

The main disadvantage of a menu-driven interface is that it is not always the most efficient approach to interface design. Users may need to navigate through several menus before they can access the features they need. An ATM interface could be more efficient if it allows users to walk around and tell the app everything it needs to know in one step by saying something like “I would like to deposit a check into my account. savings ”. But that wouldn’t be an example of a menu-driven design – it would be a natural language interface.

Natural language interface

A natural language interface allows users to interact with the application using human language. For example, a modern search engine allows users to enter simple, plain language queries such as “What is the capital of North Dakota?” Search engines do not require the inclusion of queries boolean operators or special configuration data; they interpret the entries by processing natural language directly.

Because of the ability of a natural language interface to accept input in any way users choose to type, this approach – when properly implemented – provides the simplest, most consistent, and user-friendly experience. the most efficient. The natural language design makes it easy to tailor a single interface to the needs of different users, as individuals engage with the application using words that suit them.

When combined with tools capable of translating speech to text, a natural language approach allows users to enter information using speech rather than a keyboard. For mobile apps, this is a critical benefit, as users can interact with your app on the go.

The major challenge in natural language design is that interpreting natural language queries requires sophisticated algorithms. And, when poorly implemented, it can provide results that are not on demand.

Because of this limitation, this design makes more sense when an application focuses on a specific area or offers a limited range of functionality. In this case, it is easier to define the scope of possible queries that a user can type in and write algorithms capable of interpreting them efficiently.

For example, consider a simple digital thermostat app that allows users to adjust the temperature by talking into their phone. It would be a good candidate for natural language design as there aren’t many words the interface would need to interpret to determine user intent. A banking app that offers a range of features – from checking balances to transferring money to paying bills – can be more difficult to run through a natural language interface.

Forms-based interface

In a form-based interface, users enter data into a form to tell the application what to do. In this context, a form can be a literal form where users enter text, or an interface where users configure options with drop-down menus and check boxes. If you are a developer, you are probably used to working with forms-based interfaces in software tools. For example, a network scanner can use a form-based approach to collect the data it needs to start a network scan the way you want it to.

The main advantage of a form-based design is that it is easy for users to send a lot of information to the application from a single interface. This makes it particularly useful for applications that need to collect a lot of information to respond to a user request.

For less complex tools, the form-based design is often overkill. Users may feel overwhelmed when asked to fill in more than half a dozen options at a time or when they are unsure of what values ​​to enter. In addition, it is often difficult to make the form-based interfaces elegant and group all the information on one screen in a way that makes it easy to read for users with accessibility requirements.

Forms are a great option when efficiency is your top priority and when you are building an application that is really complex from a user perspective. Simpler apps often work best with a different design approach.

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