What is User interface (UI) design? Conventions and Elements


Design Tips & Resources UI/UX




elements ,mobile ,UI ,web

The understanding of User Interface (UI) Design is fragmented across the web and mobile industry. There are thousands of articles about UI design available on the internet. It becomes more confusing when you jump from one book or article to another. Everyone presents different detail, but my article is going to cover everything about, what is user interface (UI) design? By the end of this article, you’ll have a good understanding of user interface design. You will get effective user interface info based on psychological, scientific, and technological considerations.


User interface design (UID or Surface) is the way, process, approach or science of converting low fidelity design to high fidelity design. The UI design concerns efficiency, effectiveness, animation, responsiveness, usability, accessibility and arrangement of elements in an aesthetic way using colors and graphics. 

Example: If you imagine a product as the human body, it’s bone structure and organs by nature represent to User Experience (UX) design. User Interface (UI) design represents to cosmetics of the body, its presentation, its senses, its color (black, white, brown) and reactions.


The UI design is a part of UX design so UI design is the bridge between the user and user experience. The user interface is a space in which the user and system come together and interact. UI design enables end-user to control the software as well as a hardware component of a system.
The UI aims to make a product aesthetic, easy to use and pleasurable. The user interface design refines to the structure or skeleton plane by applying graphics and colors. The UI design is responsible for enhancing the user’s experience. It getting the user faster to their goals with fewer mistakes.

Which functions setup on which screen is a matter of UX design, how those functions are realized on the screen is the realm of user interface design. The UI design brings content, functionality, and aesthetics come together for a finished design that pleases the user. Successful interfaces are those in which users immediately notice the important stuff. Some of the successful user interfaces are defined below. 

1)CLI (Command-Line Interface)
2)GUI (Graphical User Interface)
3)NUI (Natural User Interface)
4)RUI (Reality User Interface)
5)OUI (Organic User Interface)
6)VUI (Voice User Interface)

CLI: Command-Line Interface also known as console user interface(CUI) or character user interface (CUI).CLI or CUI is a graphic less user interface design. It used to perform specific tasks required by users, these days used in the banking field and by the Hacker community.

GUI: A graphical user interface is a form of user interface that allows users to interact with the computer using icons, menu, and navigation.

NUI: A natural user interface is a user interface that is effectively transparent and remains invisible it has bit complex interactions.

RUI: The reality user interfaces further divided into two categories.
i) Augmented reality:  A technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.
ii) Virtual reality: Virtual reality is an interactive computer-generated experience take the user in a simulated environment

OUI: An organic user interface is a type of user interface that involves a non-flat display, Where users control an object by manipulating an actual physical shape.

VUI: A voice-user interface makes human interaction with computers through a voice.

Conventions and Elements:

UI is an umbrella term that has many, conventions, and elements, it includes layout, animations, images, graphics, color theory, It also includes
Input control: Checkboxes, radio buttons, dropdown lists, list boxes, buttons, toggles, text fields, date field.
Navigation: Breadcrumb, search field, pagination, slider, tags, icons, and interaction.
Informational components: Tooltips, popup, progress bar, notifications, message boxes, and text.

Similarly, UI design includes a bunch of different conventions (principals) such as Visibility, Real-world mapping, User control, and freedom, Consistency, and standard, Error Prevention, Recognize rather than recall, Flexibility and efficiency, Aesthetic and minimalist design, Help user recognize, Help and documentation. Some important elements and conventions are defined below.

UI Elements:

Input Controls

Checkboxes: Checkboxes allow the user to select one or more options from a set.  It is usually best to present checkboxes in a vertical list. More than one column is acceptable as well if the list is long enough that it might require scrolling or if comparison of terms might be necessary.

Radio buttons: Radio buttons are used to allow users to select one item at a time.

Dropdown lists: Dropdown lists allow users to select one item at a time, similarly to radio buttons, but are more compact allowing you to save space. Consider adding text to the field, such as ‘Select one’ to help the user recognize the necessary action.

List boxes: List boxes, like checkboxes, allow users to select a multiple items at a time,but are more compact and can support a longer list of options if needed.

Buttons: A button indicates an action upon touch and is typically labeled using text, an icon, or both.

Dropdown Button: The dropdown button consists of a button that when clicked displays a drop-down list of mutually exclusive items.

Toggles: A toggle button allows the user to change a setting between two states. They are most effective when the on/off states are visually distinct.

Text fields: Text fields allow users to enter text.  It can allow either a single line or multiple lines of text.

Date and time pickers: A date picker allows users to select a date and/or time.  By using the picker, the information is consistently formatted and input into the system.

Navigational Components

Search Field: A search box allows users to enter a keyword or phrase (query) and submit it to search the index with the intention of getting back the most relevant results. Typically search fields are single-line text boxes and are often accompanied by a search button.

Breadcrumb: Breadcrumbs allow users to identify their current location within the system by providing a clickable trail of proceeding pages to navigate by.

Pagination: Pagination divides content up between pages, and allows users to skip between pages or go in order through the content.

Tags: Tags allow users to find content in the same category.  Some tagging systems also allow users to apply their own tags to content by entering them into the system.

Sliders: A slider, also known as a track bar, allows users to set or adjust a value.  When the user changes the value, it does not change the format of the interface or other info on the screen.

Icons: An icon is a simplified image serving as an intuitive symbol that is used to help users to navigate the system.  Typically, icons are hyperlinked.

Image Carousel: Image carousels allow users to browse through a set of items and make a selection of one if they so choose. Typically, the images are hyperlinked.

Information Components

Notifications: A notification is an update message that announces something new for the user to see. Notifications are typically used to indicate items such as, the successful completion of a task, or an error or warning message.

Progress Bars: A progress bar indicates where a user is as they advance through a series of steps in a process. Typically, progress bars are not clickable.

Tool Tips: A tooltip allows a user to see hints when they hover over an item indicating the name or purpose of the item.

Message Boxes: A message box is a small window that provides information to users and requires them to take an action before they can move forward.

Modal Window (pop-up): A modal window requires users to interact with it in some way before they can return to the system.


Accordion: An accordion is a vertically stacked list of items that utilizes show/ hide functionality.  When a label is clicked, it expands the section showing the content within. There can have one or more items showing at a time and may have default states that reveal one or more sections without the user clicking.

UI Conventions:

Visibility: It informed to the user for some action or goal. The system should always keep users informed about what is going on.

Real-world mapping: The system should speak the user’s language also contains illustrations, icons, and concepts that are familiar to the users.

User control and freedom: Users often choose system’s functions by mistake and will need an “emergency exit” to leave it. User control provides an emergency exit.

Consistency and standards: Design under the same properties for an element, situations, colors, and actions from start to end of the application.

Error prevention: A careful design which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place even better than good error messages.

Recognition rather than recall: The user should not have to remember info from one part of the dialogue to another.

Flexibility and efficiency of use: It’s about speed up user interaction. It is responsible for space where user efficiently accomplishes their task.

Aesthetic and minimalist design: Layout of the application should be more aesthetic and dialogues should not contain irrelevant info.

Importance of UI:

The User interface design is a multidimensional and challenging role. It is responsible for aesthetic layout, interaction, visual guiding, research, content and responsive experience for users. User interface design plays an important role in solving problems.

Sometimes a product looks simple and easy to use but not attractive to users because of its bad UI and strong UX so UI is important and necessary because of the following reasons. If a user interface design is too complex, the user may not be able to find the information or service they are looking for. Some important points of UI design described below.

1) UI design reduces the rate of user’s mistakes.
2) UI design solves the user’s problems.
3) UI design increases user involvement
4) UI design enhance (Optimize) end-user experience
5) UI design Improves the quality of products
6) UI design helps to win the consumers’ confidence
7) UI design makes the application easy to learn and use.
8) UI design enables users to switch quickly from one task to another
9) UI design increase system flexibility
10) UI design reducing the mental effort required users to get in touch with the system

Role of UI in Business: 

Everyone knows the primary goal of any business is to increase its sales. UI design does not just make your application aesthetic and interactive but it also grows your business. UI design plays an essential role in growing and achieving our business targets. The goal of UI design in business is to improve product quality and user loyalty.

If your site or an application consists of web pros, then UI asks to you make the product easy to use, aesthetic, high qualitative, high performance and flexible. An intelligent UI design connects the beauty with the experience. Intelligent UI design happens when we make some effective decisions in a way that understands and fulfills the needs of both our users and our business. UI provides the following benefits in business

1) UI Design grow business
2) UI Design increase the conversion rate
3) UI Design targets an audience.
4) UI Design reduces the mental effort of users.
5) UI Design attracts users and brings back to your system.
6) UI Design increases revenue.
7) UI Design increase your sell rate.

History of UI term:

UI term invented from the concepts of interaction design and visual design. The user interface evolved with the introduction of the command-line interface. It first appeared in 1950-1969 when “teleprinter” (TTY) machines introduced. Later on, the mechanical “teleprinter” was replaced by a “glass TTY”. Where the user was able to move “mouse” over the screen and could be done some clickable tasks. This was the first system where were command-line interface used. 

When computer users feel trouble using CLI, at that time computer scientists introduced a graphical user interface system. The first GUI was developed by researchers at Xerox Palo Research Center (parc) in the 1970s and was the start of a succession of GUI’s which has led us to where we are today. During the 1980s-1990s Apple and Microsoft on PCs set the command-line interface (CLI) as the primary user interface and It replaced by the Graphical User Interface. Now command-line interface available as alternative user interfaces in these systems.

The next 10 years (1990-2001) of GUI released features such as color, higher resolution displays, and better processing power. After 2005 UX (User Experience) design became a buzz-word at the same time graphical designer called GUI to UID (User Interface Design) and it became a proper field. Now great software houses have a separate department and team of UI Design. 




Leave a comment


  • Yasser

    February 15, 2020 , 1:02 pm / reply

    This is exactly what I have needed, am working on a powerpoint project where I used navigation components well as information comp. But having a reference with different designs for better user interface is what would really make it stand out, lots of designs crossed my mind now while reading through , spot on. Do u happens I have perhaps an article that may help in relating UI with contents , i.e entertainment , business, educational, marketing, compliance ....., Great one, looking forwards for more of your tips and hot topics
    • osmanassem


      February 15, 2020 , 2:29 pm / reply

      Thank you Yasser for your comment. I'm really happy that you find this article useful. Regarding to your question about relating between UI with content. I'm preparing a new article for next week about the UX definitions and elements of UX (User experience) which will complete the knowledge on how to make your UI stands for your content and your user needs. till this post is ready, I recommend checking the below posts which will provide you with some examples of how the UX works. http://osmanassem.com/short-useful-design-tips-for-ui-ux-designers/ http://osmanassem.com/simple-useful-design-tips-for-ui-ux-designers/