In information technology, the user interface (UI) is everything designed into an information device with which a human being may interact — including display screen, keyboard, mouse, the appearance of a desktop, illuminated characters, help messages, and how an application program or a Web site invites interaction and responds to it.
According to Webopedia:
The User Interface is the junction between a user and a computer program.
- An interface is a set of commands or menus through which a user communicates with a program.
- A command-driven interface is one in which you enter commands.
- A menu-driven interface is one in which you select command choices from various menus displayed on the screen.
The user interface has a key role in defining the quality of the user experience, which in turn affects a consumer’s overall perception of the product or service. The user interface is not only the connection between the device or service and the user–it is also the connection to the desired outcome, whether that is viewing content or managing smart home devices. The driving principle of a satisfactory user interface is economy of effort. The interface should be clean, simple, intuitive, and easy to navigate. Most importantly, the interface should provide a swift passage to content discovery and access with the fewest possible number of clicks, movements, or commands.
A good user interface provides a “user-friendly” experience, allowing the user to interact with the software or hardware in a natural and intuitive way.
Most hardware devices also include a user interface, though it is typically not as complex as a software interface. A common example of a hardware device with a user interface is a remote control. A typical TV remote has a numeric keypad, volume and channel buttons, mute and power buttons, an input selector, and other buttons that perform various functions. This set of buttons and the way they are laid out on the controller makes up the user interface. Other devices, such as digital cameras, audio mixing consoles, and stereo systems also have a user interface.
While user interfaces can be designed for either hardware of software, most are a combination of both. For example, to control a software program, you typically need to use a keyboard and mouse, which each have their own user interface. Likewise, to control a digital camera, you may need to navigate through the on-screen menus, which is a software interface.
“Interaction with mobile phones today involves taking a physical device out of your pocket, looking directly at it and using your fingers to interact with it.”
Using touch is just as simple: you simply point at what you want. Although some people still shy away from computer keyboards, mouse, or trackballs, there is no hesitation when they can just touch a screen. Users feel comfortable that they cannot “do anything wrong”; they instinctively understand how to use the interface.
Regardless of the application, the goal of a good user interface is to be user-friendly. After all, we all know how frustrating it can be to use a device that doesn’t work the way we want it to.