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September 28th, 2017

What are User Interface (UI) Design Patterns?

UI design patterns are depictions of best practices within user interface design. They are general, reusable solutions to commonly occurring problems. As such, they frame the foundation of “technical support.” However, as design patterns can be applied to a wide variety of instances, designers should adapt them to the context of each design project.

A UI design pattern comprises of these components:

  • Problem: The usability problem faced by the user when using the system.
  • Context of use: The situation (in terms of the tasks, users, and context of use) giving rise to the usability problem.
  • Principle: A pattern is usually based on one or more design principles, such as error management or the consistency of user guidance.
  • Solution: A proven solution to the problem. A solution describes only the core of the problem, and the designer has the freedom to apply it in many ways.
  • Why: How and why the pattern actually works, including an analysis of how it may affect certain attributes of usability.
  • Examples: Each example shows how the pattern has been successfully applied in a real-life system with justification about its application.
  • Implementation: Some patterns provide implementation details.

A specific category of design patterns is termed “dark patterns.” These are patterns that suggest how a designer can persuade users to perform certain actions. Such patterns are called “dark” because they typically feature in e-commerce in circumstances where designers seek to persuade people into spending more money or providing personal information. Responsible application of these patterns requires designers to have an ethical and empathetic awareness of user concerns. This is particularly because user trust and feedback can make or break an organisation’s reputation almost immediately.