The main criterion for UI design evaluation
Take a look at most popular designs on Dribble. Impressive, aren’t they? What do all of those creative works have in common? You can hardly ever find any of them in popular apps.
The main criterion for UI design evaluation is usability. Neither great design ideas, nor retention factor — only usability. For the UI design to be convenient, it’s not enough to make it logical. Such design shall resemble what the users dealt earlier with. Majority of your potential users deal with a certain number of user interfaces. For example, if it’s about mobile applications — your users daily use IOS and Android operating systems, as well as Gmail, WhatsApp, Instagram, etc. These applications define the expectations of your users in terms of design.
Indeed, “follow the example” doesn’t sound as exciting as “create a unique product”. But pause and think for a minute. Is design the main value of your product? The product value of WhatsApp is an opportunity to send messages to friends, the product value of Instagram is an opportunity to publish a photo and get “likes”. The main product value is what motivates people to install your application. Nobody installs applications just to look at their design. Except possibly the app developers themselves ;) Design is just communication means of your customers with your product. Your task is to make this communication convenient and user friendly.
What if you still decide to develop product with such a unique design? Most likely your project will remain in its development stage for ages. Mainstream designs have been developed by teams of designers and developers and have then been tested on thousands of projects. For example, Google uses Material Design in majority of its applications. This design system is documented in detail and rolled out for billions of users. How many users have tested your new and unique design? A small focus group of a certain project users at maximum. Design system is not only about separate buttons, lists, tables and other elements; it’s about how all those elements interact with themselves to create unique user experience. Let’s consider just a button as an example. Elements of a button are indents inside, indents outside, the text, the rounded-off corners, color and size of a shadow, color of the button, and the text font.
The indents shall correspond the indented text entries so that text in a button is aligned to text in entry boxes if they are near. The button frame shall fit into at the same time should fit into dimensions of entry field. And there are still lots of other elements this button has to look compatible with. It is just a button, definitely not the most difficult element of the interface. But it will take too much time to think through all of the above should you decide to work on it from scratch and on your own. And then even more time might be required to fix the bugs of what has not been taken into consideration in advance.
Every designer uses ready elements of mainstream designs while working on a product. It saves a lot of time. Instead of thinking over all of the above-mentioned details, it is enough to choose the ready button from the library of elements and put it onto the right place. Placement rules are usually referenced to in guidelines to the design system. One shall not spend time on thinking about details. Time consumed for design development will be reduced considerably.
OK, supposedly, we have managed to create a unique design for our project. Now it is time to implement this unique design. And here we come across the same issue: there exist ready-made frameworks with all spaces already measured and fonts appointed. We will not be able to use them for our unique design and will have to do everything manually. And then programming code will have to be refactored, otherwise there would be terrible mixture of styles affecting negatively speed of development (declining down to zero speed of development). One could think the font styles and other elements could have been thought over in advance, however, it’s impossible. Even if you will not make any change to the plan of MVP development (what is hardly probable), you will still need new features which the designer could not have thought over in advance. New features will drive new changes in styles which will inevitably lead to refactoring and to infinitely extend development time.
Why are such designs in Dribble’s top charts? If everything is so bad about these designs why do they ever exist? They do not. Except in top charts of designers’ social networks, in designers’ portfolios and in dreams of young entrepreneurs just starting their entrepreneurial careers. Often applications with such designs do not live up to its’ releases — they get into development hell and there remain. It happens so because we are tempted a lot by irrational beauty. We consider it a sign of high quality. Whereas the only criterion of high quality UI design is its usability.