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User Interface (UI)

Definition

A user interface (UI) is the means by which a user interacts with a computer/machine to accomplish a task. User interfaces tend to be a combination of both hardware and software, for example, a physical mouse and keyboard to manipulate virtual buttons, text and inputs represented on a screen.

Ideally, a UI is intuitive, efficient and enjoyable to use resulting in a “user friendly” experience.

UI is often confused with User Experience (UX), the process of enhancing user-friendly design by improving a product/web page/app’s usability and accessibility. UI design, on the other hand, is the physical design of an interface–what the user sees and interacts with–and making sure it’s as responsive and efficient as possible.

User interface elements fall into one of four categories: 

  1. Input controls– allow users to input information into the system 
  2. Navigation components– allow users to move around a website/product (ex. tab bars) 
  3. Informational components– share information with users (ex. notifications, pop-up windows) 
  4. Containers– hold related content together