Great user interface design or UI design means helping the user to complete a specific task as easily and efficiently as possible. Aesthetics are undeniably important, but at the core of great UI design is function.
This means that ideally the navigation should be so clear and intuitive that it feels invisible. If a user gets lost or can’t figure out how to achieve what they want to do, the UI isn’t doing its job (there are many examples of painful UIs that don’t demonstrate this. But below we’ll focus on examples of the User interface design done right.
The following websites and apps are not particularly new, so we are not talking about trends. But even after a few years, they do their job well by satisfying the user’s needs. Read on to find out why they are so successful and what we can learn from them. To learn more, enroll in our UX Design Foundations online course (opens in new tab).
01. Montreux Jazz Festival
There’s nothing like being at a festival to get your FOMO levels skyrocketing; It’s all too easy to miss some real gems no matter how many times you comb through the artist roster. But this awesome Montreux Jazz Festival UI theme aims to help you make sure you get the most out of your time at the event.
It kept things nice and simple, presenting you with six binary choices that you can swipe left or right to get a sense of your musical preference — do you prefer DJs over bands, for example? Once done, it will present you with your own personalized program based on what you think you will enjoy, complete with links to purchase tickets.
It’s simple and intuitive, and while you’ll no doubt want to double-check the entire program anyway to make sure you definitely haven’t missed anything, it’s an excellent way of helping you quickly sift through lots of information to find results to the core of how simple a user interface should feel.
02. Tilt Brush
VR in UI and UX is currently a border area. What works on a flat screen doesn’t necessarily work that well in VR, and creating an effective and useful VR app that you can use for hours without getting motion sickness can be quite a challenge.
So it’s great to see a VR product like Google’s Tilt Brush (opens in new tab) – that lets you create 3D paintings in a virtual environment – that not only works, but is so intuitive to use and with such great results that artists are already incorporating it into their creative workflows. Walk this way (opens in new tab) for some great pro tips on getting started with this groundbreaking creative app that shows how UI can be applied to new realms.
Patterning, the iOS drum machine from Olympia Noise Co (opens in new tab), was unlike anything we had seen before. Rather than sequencing your rhythm on a grid like every other music app, Patterning uses a circular UI for the basic business of shaping your beats, with drums color-coded so you can easily see what’s what.
Aside from the basics, Patterning’s smart but minimal interface makes the more complicated business of sequencing longer songs from individual patterns much less challenging, allowing you to easily create variations on patterns and then stitch it all together.
It’s a similarly uncomplicated approach to making everything sound better too; Both the mixer and FX interface are thoughtfully designed with bold visual cues to help you get the sound you want without getting bogged down between unfathomable controls. The app shows that while there are many UI conventions for a reason, sometimes a radical departure can be entirely justified if it helps the user.
Creating and managing newsletters might not be the most exciting task in the world, but MailChimp’s beautifully crafted, intuitive user interface design is (opens in new tab) makes it that much tastier. Since the recent redesign, the web UI is clean, flat, and mostly typographic.
When your account is first set up, the classic “empty account” problem before your first campaign starts is offset by helpful, visually appealing user guides. There’s plenty of white space, and clear calls-to-action guide new users through each step of the process — in some cases even with a subtly animated pointer showing where to click.
05. Paper for iPad
A multi-award winning app designed to help users create in a more intuitive and natural way, Paper (opens in new tab) lets you draw in surprising detail with your fingertips—but also works with a stylus when more precision is needed.
Designed exclusively for touch, Paper’s UI design has no buttons or settings to worry about – just a set of specialized tools. This is another example that underscores how simple a well-designed user interface can feel.
things (opens in new tab) is a popular task management app with an award-winning design that is intuitive and easy to learn. Everything is based on a familiar to-do list concept. The smooth, uncluttered interface design is broken down into lists to help you categorize your tasks: Urgent things go in Today, something less urgent can wait until Next, while Schedule plans further ahead.
Each entry captures important information at once—title, notes, and due date, plus tags where appropriate to categorize everything. Best of all, the quick entry panel is accessible from anywhere with a simple keyboard shortcut — and everything automatically syncs between desktop, iPhone, and iPad.
07. Campaign Monitor: Worldview
Campaign Monitor: Worldview is a wonderfully original idea that puts an engaging twist on email subscription data (opens in new tab) Overlays real-time information about people who open, click and share your notifications on a Google map for both geographic and personal insights.
The landing page introduces the concept in an immediate visual way, with sample needles falling on a world map – and the application interface itself is refreshingly clean, revolving around the map and some basic menus to control settings. This is a great example of UI design, showing how simple iconography and color coding can identify different categories of information at a glance.
Yet another example of flat design that makes a potentially very complicated UI design look very clean and intuitive, illustration (opens in new tab) is a synthesizer and drum machine for iOS by the Swedish developer Propellerhead, who is also behind the desktop music production software Reason.
You can tap and hold your finger on the touchscreen pads and scroll the rhythm wheels for a variety of different sounds, or swipe the screen to play different notes in the scale. There are also wheels to control the range of notes you have to work with, the number of notes in melodies and basslines, and various tabs that let you tweak the sound in a variety of ways.
There’s nothing quite like scrolling through a bunch of your old Twitter updates and wondering what the heck you were thinking about when you posted that thing six months ago. Lack of context can often mean that something that made perfect sense at the time becomes meaningless months or years later.
kennedy (opens in new tab)a diary app by the always brilliant Brendan Dawes (opens in new tab), is designed to add context to your memories. You can use it to create text notes about what you’re up to, just like you type it into Facebook or Twitter, and maybe add photos to the notes while you’re at it. The clever touch, however, is that Kennedy then adds an extra layer of context by providing your location, the date and time, the current weather conditions, a news headline, and, if you’re listening to music on your phone, the name of the track you’re listening to Listen.
The result is that instead of a dry note that doesn’t mean much across the board, you’re capturing a specific moment with broader context, complete with plenty of prompts that can help bring back a memory in much greater detail. And Dawes clean design and smart user interface keeps everything looking simple and good.
(opens in new tab)
Learn from experts and acquire the skills you need to advance in the burgeoning field of UX design. Sign up for our UX design fundamentals course (opens in new tab) today.