Users see the UI, not the code

UI design is hard. Like, it’s way hard. And it’s also a very important piece of the software puzzle. In fact, some might say it’s the most important piece because to users, it is the software:

A good user interface is one of the most important aspects of an enterprise product. While the underlying architecture is extremely important to deliver the functionality, to the end-user, the interface is the product. They don’t know, (and don’t care, usually,) of what goes on behind the scenes, other than that they expect things to work. Every way they interact with the product is through the interface.

When a user opens an app, they see the interface. They don’t see the code behind it, the layers, the interfaces, the helper libraries; they see the UI. That is the software. If you perform massive technical improvements but leave the UI the same, no one will notice. This is why the interface is so critically important, but also why it’s one of the hardest things to do in software. Designing an interface that both looks good and is intuitive to all users takes effort and skill, and is something that Microsoft, Google and even Apple have yet to fully master.

Look, I am in no way a master at UI design. I kind of suck at it. But I can get by if I have to, and one thing that helps me as I’m working is to ask myself this question:

If I was a user how would I expect this to work?

You are a user of many more pieces of software than you will ever write yourself. You, like everyone, will have expectations of how something should function. So tap into those experiences. Put yourself in the shoes of a user and design the feature as you think it should work. Think about the different reasons a user would use this feature and the goals they might want to achieve while using it. Try to come up with something that minimizes the pain of accomplishing those goals. Chances are you’ll come up with something better than these.