The Basics of Good UI Design

A good UI design has the ability to make or break every piece of software, video games included. However, lots of developers will leave the UI for last, basically neglecting just how valuable it is. Generally speaking, we as players, don’t really notice user interfaces. We only pay attention to them when they are badly put together, or difficult to use or when we find them confusing to navigate. It’s said UI is like a window. You don’t notice the window if the view is amazing. But if it obstructs the view then it’s a bad design.

What is UI Design?

It’s the process of designing the ways a human will interact with the hardware or software. In our case, UI design is tricky as video games are often complicated and involve many mechanics and inputs. An UI can be a menu system, a map or a health bar in a game. In the new games UI are dynamic, only features required at that time of the game appear on the screen, thereby making the UI more meaningful.

A good UI design should be useful, usable and visually appealing. UI design can be made to satisfy these criteria by following basic common sense. Here are some of the most basic things to look out for when designing your own UI.

How it Feels?

A good designer will not only make the interface beautiful and ergonomic but also make it enjoyable for the user to interact with it. Next time you play a game, notice how the menus move about. What do the buttons do when pressed? You’ll see that they are not static, but they animate subtly when they are selected. Fluidity and movement, when done right, will enhance the player’s satisfaction.

Sound is also important here. For example, when you bring up the map in an RPG, you will hear a sound. What that will sound like should be cohesive with your game’s overall theme and aesthetic. If it’s a medieval-themed RPG, then a high-pitched, electronic sound would probably sound totally out of place.

Also, make sure the design stays consistent throughout. If you decide that the “YES” button should be on the right side of a box, then every box in your game should follow this rule.

What Does the Player Need to Know?

Not all information is to be displayed all time. For example, a health bar is an essential part of a ton of games as they let the player know how close they are to losing. But do they really need to know that they’re at 59% health during a cutscene? It’s important to remember that a great UI design involves showing the player relevant information depending on his/her actions and should not get in the way.

In short, show them only what they need to know elegantly, in a non-intrusive way. If the player starts looking for information that should have been provided or is annoyed because irrelevant or unnecessary information is always on screen, you know you messed up.

Platform Matters for good UI design

Some games need to convey larger amounts of information to the player. If you are developing a simple shooter, then the information you’ll give the player is not going to be as detailed as in, say, a strategy game where there’s lots of complex mechanics. You should definitely note what the player sees and how they are playing the game.

Typically, PC gamers use a keyboard/mouse combo, so accessing long menus is going to be easier for them. In contrast, console gamers will have a significantly harder time doing the same using a gamepad and playing in lower resolutions. Therefore, you should design different in-game menus, depending on the target platform and its capabilities.

While designing for touchscreens, the screen space is also important as controls are also on the screen. Dynamically loading the required UI is a good way to manage the screen space.

If you use unity then you can use the assets from the asset store to make the job easy for you. You can find the Best Unity UI assets here.

Check out the courses regarding UI design for more information.

Keeping these few things in mind can change the look and feel of your game.

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