As a user interface designer, you’ve had to use apps with interfaces not designed by you. 

You must have encountered a design that you considered great. What do you think made your experience awesome?

Also, you must have seen several other designs you rated whack. What was missing or overbearing?

Learning principles can get boring and tiring. You, like every life-long learner, know or perhaps share this feeling. Yet, you know that principles are like the lighthouse out in the vast sea of busy-ness and creativity that guides you back to shore. 

The core principles of user interface design make the difference between your wow- and whack interface designs. 
Let’s take a closer look.

Core Principles of User Interface Design

1. User Onboarding

I consider user onboarding a core part of UI design. A user’s first experience with your interface design could go a long way in determining how far the user would interact with it.

However, it is relevant, perhaps a need, to design for the first time user. While it doesn’t mean designing void pages, it means providing necessary directions. 

Similarly, guide the user to understand the flow of your interface; how and where to get their tasks done.  

Imagine using an app for the first time, and you are not sure where to go or what to do. So, I guess you see why this came first.

2. Clarity

According to Joshua Porter in Principles of User Interface Design:

“Clarity inspires confidence and leads to further use. One hundred clear screens are preferable to a single cluttered one.”

Principles of User Interface Design by Joshua Porter

Besides, you should hold dear the idea of creating confusion-free, uncluttered, and unambiguous interface designs.

The users want to understand;

  • what they are about to do
  • why your interface is important for that action
  • how it would happen, and
  • what happens after they’ve interacted with it.

Also, keep your design simple. Don’t make it rocket science.

3. Balance and Elegance

Remember, users who interact with your design may not be other designers. They may not have as much knowledge of balance, proportion, or scale. 

However, they would experience the totality of it. As a designer, you should pay attention to the balance of your typography, hue, and their consistency with the app functions.

Additionally, simplicity does not suggest “without elegance.” Design an elegant interface that doesn’t beg for user attention. 

So, an interface design that gives aesthetic satisfaction while remaining efficient for the app function is the goal.

4. Flexibility

First, create responsive designs over static ones. Also, keep in mind the design getting viewed on devices of different resolutions and account for that. 

Consider employing conventional interface designs, basic typography, and relevant content. They are fail-proof. Get genius where you need to be and choose that moment correctly.

Secondly, let the users stay in charge. Give them control. Let them go where they want to, do what they want to, and see what they want to see. 

Don’t try to coerce users using your design. They know best what they are trying to achieve, and similarly how they would want to do it. 

Stay flexible and let the users drive their experience. 

5. Familiarity

Effective interface designs should create a sense of familiarity. Using simple and traditional layouts make this a reality. 
However, here are few things to keep in perspective, to create a familiar design:

  • what to do (use clear call-to-actions and buttons. Don’t get clever with this)
  • Where to go (Navigations, keep them seamless)
  • How to do and What’s happening (keep color codes common and consistent)

Keep your user interface design free of complexities, ambiguity, and without clever turns or twists.

6. Form Should Work With Function

Simply put, if it looks like a button, it should function as a button.

The form-function relationship works closely with familiarity. So, as a designer, while it’s easy to fall into the trap of innovative creativity, let user empathy guide your design. 

Ultimately, give your users the confidence they desire while navigating through your interface design.

7. Actionable Call-To-Action and Cues

Why leave them in the lurch now? Your users rely on you to guide them through every step of the process with your design. 

So, employ clear call-to-actions and cues that suggest the next step or line of action to the users. Choose mostly actionable verbs to relate this, over nouns.

You can use View personal plans, instead of Personal plans. 

However, this doesn’t suggest users are dumb. Users of your interface are the smartest people; you should know this. 

The idea remains, giving them the best experience while they interact with you interface design.

8. Performance

Equally, performance and efficiency are core principles of user interface design. 

As a user interface designer, you should find out what the major tasks of the user are. What tasks are they trying to complete with your design? When you find what that is, make it primary in your design. Every other thing should remain secondary. 

Also, try to reduce the processes between the start of the task and its accomplishment. Ideally, reducing the time and hassle of carrying out the tasks for the users. 

However, this could be as simple as integrating stages or reducing the number of pages. Just do it.

9. Consistency

Like discussed earlier, with form, function, balance, and familiarity, keep your design consistent. 

As shared by Jane Portman in her article The core principles of UI design

“Consistency and structure will help the user feel at home.”

The Core Principles of UI Design by Jane Portman

You can achieve this by keeping some elements repetitive throughout your user interface design. Keep in mind elements like your color schemes, icons, navigation, and so on. 

Also, in familiarity, there is perceived consistency. Let your users feel like they’re a part of your design. 

It allows seamless interaction and prevents clumsiness if they can predict what would happen or where they would be.

10. Strong Visual Distribution

Being able to create an impressionable visual distribution of elements in your design is necessary. 

So, a strong visual distribution shows the hierarchy of things in your interface. It, equally, allows users to pay attention to the major things while not getting distracted or stumbling over things.

You can achieve this by emboldening primary elements in the visual hierarchy to show distribution and preeminence in your user interface design.


It is beautiful when you let loose your inner genius; when you let your innovative creativity soar, trying to create your best designs.  

However, as a better UI designer, you must pay attention to the things that matter most in user interface design.

Let these principles help you navigate your tough moments of decision-making and doubts.