By Cathy Dew
Want to make an intranet user interface designer jump for joy? Then take her completely for granted.
Better yet, forget your UI designer even exists.
You see, the goal of intranet UI design is to make your employee intranet as user-friendly and efficient as possible. And there is no better way to let your UI designer know she is doing a great job than ignoring her with all of your heart.
Because there is nothing an UI designer likes more than creating a system that is easy to use and seamless in operation. She won’t mind at all that the meticulous, thoughtful, user-centric aesthetic and technical design driving all that great functionality are completely opaque to your intranet’s users.
Quite the contrary. Being ignored is her ticket to joy.
Obviously, the UI designer and the intranet user have an unbalanced relationship. In fact, it is completely one sided, much like the relationship between a novelist and her readers.
The novelist does not want you thinking about how she strategically structures syntax, painstakingly places punctuation, or intentionally assembles anecdotes to convey precise thoughts and particular feelings for each character in each scene on each page. She doesn’t want you to know that she spent days or even weeks writing and rewriting the scenes in her chapters until she felt sure that the story lines flowed and the characters shined. She wants you to ignore the craft of how she writes and instead get lost in her characters’ make-believe lives and stories.
Similarly, the UI designer wants you to remain oblivious to how she carefully, meticulously, and with great precision and aforethought selected, manipulated, and placed each component of the intranet in a manner and an order that allows you seamlessly navigate the site each day. She wants the UI design tools she employs as her craft to provide the means for you to become lost in the task you are performing.
UI Design Tools
The tools the UI designer employs will all be familiar to you, once you step back and look at them in isolation. Typically, they include the following types of input controls, navigational components, and informational components:
- Buttons that are activated upon touch and can be labeled text, an icon, or both
- Dropdown buttons that when clicked display a drop-down list of mutually exclusive items.
- Checkboxes, usually and thoughtfully presented in a vertical list, that allow the user to select one or more options from a set
- Radio buttons (think of those yes or no options provided in surveys) that are used to allow users to select one item at a time
- Dropdown lists, like radio buttons, that allow users to select one item at a time, allowing for choices
- List boxes that are more compact than checkboxes, but serve a similar function by allowing users to select multiple items at a time
- Text fields that allow users to enter text on either a single line or multiple lines
- A date picker that allows users to select a date and/or time, consistently formatting and inputting the information into the system.
- A search box that 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
- Breadcrumbs that allow users to identify their current location within the system by providing a clickable trail of proceeding pages to navigate by
- Pagination that divides content up between pages, allowing users to skip between pages or go in order through the content
- Tags that allow users to find content in the same category
- A slider, also known as a track bar, that allows users to set or adjust a value
- An icon (a simplified image that is often hyperlinked) that serves as an intuitive symbol to help users navigate the system
- Image carousels, also usually hyperlinked, that allow users to browse through a set of items and make a selection of one if they so choose
- Notifications or update messages that announce something new for the user to see, such as the successful completion of a task, or an error or warning
- A progress bar indicating where a user is as they advance through a series of steps in a process
- A tooltip that allows users to see hints when they hover over an item indicating the name or purpose of the item
- A message box in a small window that provides information to users and requires them to take an action before they can move forward
- A pop-up or modal window that requires users to interact with it in some way before they can return to the system
Successful UI intranet design happens when you hit that sweet spot where all these elements come together so seamlessly that you are too busy getting done what you need to do to notice how these tools are being employed.
Meet UX, UI’s BFF
The UI designer, of course, does not create the tricks of the UI design trade unaided.
When and why to use these UI tools to aid the user in enjoying a seamless and carefree experience is the UI designer's best friend forever, the UX expert.
The UX expert is the UI designer’s ace in the hole, her BFF, that sister from another mister who’s got her back. Way before the UI designer puts hand to keyboard, her UX counterpart has been laying the ground work to make sure the UI designer is on track, knows the personas of the actual people who will be using the intranet she is designing, and helps make sure that site development and the user interface match the abilities, interests, and aptitudes of its intended audience.
Theirs is a symbiotic circuitous relationship where better meets best and good is never enough. It’s like interface and experience are more than just BFFs, they are constantly overlapping and interrelating, together forming a whole much greater than the sum of their parts.
2Plus2 Brings the UI and the UX to Your Intranet Project
At 2Plus2, we know both UI and UX design. We leverage our in-house expertise in both user interface and user experience to create employee intranets that meet the needs of their users and exceed the expectations of our clients.
To learn more and to schedule a free initial consultation, give us a call at 510-652-7700 or contact us online.