Top 10 things to avoid in your UI design

Top 10 things
to avoid in
your UI design


A well-crafted UI design can enable companies to make a great first impression.

You can see a bad user interface (UI) design from miles away. Sloppy interface elements, mixed signals, and confusing features can instantly turn off users. It’s no wonder that UI-driven companies experience a significant boost in conversion rates, with research from Forrester showing growth of up to 200%. As the digital landscape becomes more competitive, avoiding common design mistakes is imperative for businesses that strive to stand out. Fully understanding the impact of design, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 things that may tarnish an otherwise good UI.

What makes a bad UI

According to a Statista study, approximately 25% of applications downloaded worldwide between 2010 and 2019 were used only once by customers. While various factors contribute to this trend, poor design choices undoubtedly play a significant role. So, what exactly can go wrong when it comes to UI design? Here are several essential considerations that can hinder companies from crafting a smooth and concise app or any other product of choice:

Low-quality icons

An icon has the superpower to convey complex meanings in a small symbol, and that’s where things get complicated. Finding an icon that will suit the intent, and be in harmony with the overall UI style and other UI components is usually challenging. But you can apply several key approaches in iconography to avoid a bad UI. First, select icons that have clear and universally understood meanings, because this is a primary step to fine-tuning your icons to your specific user needs. Second, make sure that the icon design style is consistent with the UI. It is wise to base your decision-making on a number of parameters such as line width, corner radius, line cap shape (for outlined icons), and corners join shape (for outlined icons) when it comes to icon selection. Last but not least, it’s a great idea to avoid any mixed signals by choosing icons that are not likely to confuse users in any way.

Poor image selection

UI designs are often accompanied by appealing yet uninformative images that render no meaning to the user. Avoiding this widely-spread design mistake is key to smoothing your UI and building a top-notch customer journey. Let’s take a closer look at some core tips on how to navigate your image selection with ease.

When trying to find something that will suit your goals, search for a certain narrative or meaning that coincides with the design. Try leveraging the potential of an image that illustrates something and adds a valuable visual component to the story. Meanwhile, stick to the principles of user-centered design: understand your target audience and their preferences, interests, and needs. Select images that resonate with the intended users, creating a sense of familiarity, relatability, or aspiration.

‍Lastly, the optimization of images is as crucial as their selection. Optimize image file sizes without compromising visual quality to ensure fast loading times and optimal performance. Use image compression techniques, format selection, and appropriate sizing to strike a balance between image quality and file size. Also, you can use high-resolution images where necessary to avoid pixelation or blurriness.

Unintuitive appearance of navigation

Clients should be able to find what they need in a product or service effortlessly. As a Clutch report highlights, 94% of users report that easy navigation is a key website feature. An intuitive navigation system provides a clear path for users to explore and interact with the UI. In addition, it reduces cognitive load and allows them to focus on their goals rather than deciphering complex navigation systems.

A well-designed UI compliments the navigation system through clear visual cues and intuitive layouts that guide users through their interactions with the interface. Visual cues like buttons, icons, and animations as well as informational components like notifications, progress bars, message boxes, and pop-up windows serve as signposts that direct users toward essential actions or information. Consistent design patterns, like standardized menu placements or recognizable icons, create a sense of predictability and familiarity. Furthermore, a great UI design considers the user’s context and provides relevant information at the right time. For example, displaying contextual help or tooltips can assist users in understanding specific features or functions. Also, pay attention to the difference between primary and secondary buttons and ensure consistent line thickness for a polished look of the UI.

Overuse of pop-ups and modals

Pop-ups and modals are useful design elements when used appropriately. They provide users with essential information, collect user input, and enrich the user experience with contextual actions. Also, they can offer a focused and isolated environment for users to complete specific tasks without distraction. Nevertheless, using pop-ups and modals correctly is a subtle art that requires caution and thorough consideration.

Pop-ups and modals should be reserved for essential functions only. Overloading the UI with excessive pop-ups can overwhelm users and disrupt the user journey. That’s why it’s beneficial to prioritize their usage for critical actions or significant notifications. These design elements should be easy to dismiss, allowing users to quickly return to their intended tasks without any unnecessary obstacles. Instead of relying solely on pop-ups and modals, consider alternative methods. Expanding sections or accordions can also present additional information. Besides, collapsible panels or tabs can also be employed to provide contextual actions or navigation options.

Poor readability and contrast

Easy access to visual materials serves as a fundamental component of UI. This entails prioritizing readability and maintaining appropriate contrast levels to optimize legibility. When readability is compromised, users may struggle to understand text, which can undermine the effectiveness of the company’s design efforts. Low contrast between text and background colors strains the eyes and makes it challenging to read content, especially for users with visual impairments. Poor readability can lead to users skipping or misunderstanding information, being confused, and losing engagement. You can enhance user experience with these vital techniques:

  • Opt for legible fonts and font sizes that are easily readable across various devices.
  • Regularly test the readability and contrast of your UI design on different screen resolutions and devices.
  • Maintain a sufficient contrast between text and background colors.
  • Avoid using color combinations that can cause accessibility issues.
  • Conduct accessibility checks to ensure that the contrast levels meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards.
  • Choose color combinations that work well together.

Also, appropriate fonts are reliable allies for great readability. Some of the golden typography rules provide a blueprint for designers’ actions. For example, it is advisable for designers to consider factors like font style, size, spacing, and alignment. They should establish a hierarchy through font variations and prioritize readability over artistic flair.

Messy content

Sometimes, businesses tend to overwhelm their customers with tons of information. This is where skilled UI designers step in to save the day. They take on the responsibility of curating content and structuring it to prioritize the most important content.

When it comes to the content, the devil is in the details. Understanding what users need, transfuses your UI design with expandable sections or accordions to hide secondary information until needed. Also, organize and group related content together to improve your UI’s overall structure and readability. Use headings, bullet points, lists, and white space effectively to create a visually pleasing and well-organized layout. This approach will help you connect related information and break it down into digestible chunks. In addition, align your content with the latest SEO guidelines and continuously refresh the information.

Over-reliance on user input

Undoubtedly, user input serves as an invaluable source of knowledge for businesses. It allows them to gather insights, understand user preferences, and improve their products or services. Yet, an over-reliance on user input in UI design can have negative implications for the user experience. It is best to empower customers in their choices and deliver user experiences that rely upon carefully crafted user input.

If a company needs to tap into user input, they are to design forms with efficiency in mind. Minimizing the number of required fields and considering alternative ways to gather information, such as using checkboxes, dropdowns, or smart defaults, can be a game-changer in this endeavor. Furthermore, a design team can work on clear and concise instructions to guide users through the input process. There are options to use descriptive labels, tooltips, and examples to help clients understand what information is expected. Additionally, real-time validation can contribute to the process, by providing actionable feedback on input errors or inconsistencies. It will enable users to correct their input promptly and improve the accuracy of the information.

Inadequate error handling

As never before, customers expect businesses to deliver a seamless UI. However, errors are an inevitable part of any system, and how these errors are handled can significantly impact user perception and retention rates. Creating an invisible UI design that offers a frictionless user journey leans on several recommendations, including:

  • Be precise and clear. When an error occurs, it is essential to share specific and descriptive feedback. Users should be able to understand what went wrong and how to rectify the situation. You can leverage user-friendly and jargon-free language that accurately describes the issue.
  • Use inline validation. Inline validation is a convenient instrument that shares real-time feedback on form inputs and actions. Instead of waiting until the end when a form is submitted to display error messages, users can benefit from instant assistance if some errors occur. This proactive approach helps them detect and address invalid inputs immediately, reducing frustrations through the process.
  • Offer guidance. Instead of merely pointing out errors, offer helpful suggestions or links to relevant help resources that can guide users in resolving the problem. Assisting users in finding the right solution can turn the experience into a positive one, even if the task requires more effort.
  • Highlight error fields. Indicate the fields that have errors so that users can quickly identify and correct them. Visual cues like color changes or error icons help draw attention to the problematic areas without overwhelming the user.

Users who encounter well-managed errors are left with a sense of confidence and trust in both the UI and the brand it represents. A thoughtful approach to error handling demonstrates a commitment to user-centric design. It builds a strong connection between clients and the product or service, and can ultimately increase user loyalty.

Non-responsive design

Responsiveness in design enables companies to build a multi-device compatible interface that adapts seamlessly to various screen sizes and resolutions. Companies can ensure that their UI maintains optimal functionality and visual appeal across different devices and platforms through various CSS and HTML features and techniques. For instance, design teams can leverage responsive layout technologies such as Multicol, Flexbox, CSS Grid, and media queries. In addition to responsive layouts, UI designers can employ techniques like fluid images, where images automatically scale and resize to fit different screen dimensions, and adaptive typography, which adjusts font sizes and line heights based on the device’s capabilities. Also, you can create finger-friendly targets by designing large and easily tappable buttons and interactive elements that effectively accommodate users’ touch gestures.

Inconsistent UI behavior

Inconsistent UI behavior embodies a lack of uniformity or predictability in how different elements and interactions behave within a user interface. It occurs when there are inconsistencies in design patterns, navigation, functionality, or visual cues across parts of the interface or even within the same screen. It can make it difficult for users to understand how to interact with the interface or navigate through the various sections.

For example, inconsistent UI behavior can manifest as buttons that behave incorrectly, navigation menus that change their position or appearance on different pages, or inaccurate use of gestures or interactions across various screens. These challenges can disrupt the user’s mental model of how the interface should work and cause low usability.

Consistency in UI behavior helps users build familiarity and reduces cognitive load. It can be achieved through thorough adherence to unified design patterns, interaction guidelines, and visual cues in the UI. In this way, consistent button styles, form layouts, and navigation menus allow users to easily recognize and understand their purpose and functionality. This uniformity fosters a sense of reliability and predictability.

The role of UI design

Through small yet impactful changes, UI design acts as a catalyst for the continuous advancement of businesses. A good UI attracts users and fosters a sense of trust and credibility in the brand. As a strategic tool that goes beyond aesthetics and visual appeal, it directly impacts customer loyalty. By avoiding these widely-spread UI design mistakes, companies can make a great first impression: long-lasting and impactful. If you want to explore other nuances of an effective UI design, our team is ready to assist and provide additional resources.

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