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Software Development

Nice vs Useful: UI Style Guide For App

Joe Mitchell
Chief Marketing Officer

An interface that looks cool but is completely unusable makes no sense. Similarly, your incredibly convenient and powerful interface will go unnoticed unless you make it pretty for your users. 

Striking the balance between the two is tricky, but there is a way – a UI style guide. 

Creating a UI style guide for the app that you’re developing will ensure the vision is not lost and users can enjoy a cohesive experience. In today’s article, we’ll share the do’s and don’ts of the UI style guide, why it’s important, and many more tips that will help you stand out in this highly competitive market of mobile apps

Why create a UI style guide for your app? 

Think of a UI style guide as a guide that will lead your tech team and designers in the process of the app development, update, and expansion. Building an app is a complex project that derails from original plans, gets delayed, has new stakeholders added to it, and experiences all sorts of changes. The more clarity you provide at the beginning that can support your team – the more efficient you’ll be in the process. 

Such guides will provide answers to most of the questions and they’ll be a good reference point along the way. You can find UI style guides online, but it’s far better to create your own because the internet’s template can hardly fit you 100%, and it’s very important that the guide makes sense, or else it will not be used.   

The key benefits of a UI style guide can be summed up as:

  • Consistency in design that leads to stronger brand 
  • Time-saving in more optimised and less wasteful workflow 
  • Faster decision-making
  • Simpler cross-department communication
  • Efficient testing of concepts and/or elements 
  • Simple onboarding of new design team members

Must-haves of every UI style guide 

In the process of making the UI style guide your own, it’s important to remember the key components that every guide needs. 

  1. Typography scheme that includes anything text-related, such as headlines, titles, and the body of text itself, fonts (not just style but also size and weight), and line size.

    Pro tip: The “less is more” principle definitely applies to the number of approved fonts. Add too many – and you’ll have a mess. Also, as you think about fonts that will be used, consider what kind of text they will be used for. 
  2. Colour palette. Brand colours and supporting colours that will complement the interface. Similarly to fonts, it’s best to stick with fewer colours and colour combinations to ensure users recognise the brand and are not confused with too many colours as they navigate the app. 
  3. Buttons are an absolute must-have. Your app can hardly function without buttons, so they must be clearly outlined in the guide. Make sure to include all the basics (size, colour, style, placement, and spacing) along with buttons’ variations and the scenario when each variation will be used. 
  4. Other UI elements. Buttons are the key UI element but not the only one. Images, icons, forms, links, and everything else has to be diligently described in the guide. 
  5. Layout across all screen sizes. There are so many smartphones and tablets out there, each with its own screen measurements. If you intend to be successful with the mobile app, you must guarantee that it will open and look good across all screens that are out there. 

The do’s and don’ts of UI style guide 

Here are more tips to make your style guide everyone’s favourite work document. 

The do’s 

  • Add a table of contents on the first page for simple navigation. 
  • Keep the layout of the guide straightforward and easy to work with.
  • Add visual examples of UI do’s and don’ts – an illustration of what you mean is worth a thousand words. 
  • Include perspectives of the three key stakeholders: UI designers, graphic designers, and developers.

The don’ts 

  • Make the guide too wordy – keep it detailed but to the point. You want it to be a working document that the team will actively be using. Make it easier for them. 
  • Skip context notes containing brief explanations of the logic behind each decision or section. This kind of context will prevent many unnecessary debates and arguments.

Final thoughts 

Having a proper detailed UI style guide will not guarantee your mobile app’s success, but it will reduce the risks and cut down on confusion and mistakes that so often occur along the way. Used in combination with other guides and frameworks, the UI style guide will ensure your brand identity is respected while the best user experience is provided to clients. 

UI style guides are not reserved for only large corporations. Arguably, it might be even more critical for small businesses that are just starting their brand journey. It’s never too early to care about consistent UI and UX. And if you don’t know where to start – the Emphasoft team is here to help you out. 

Read next:
UX / UI design for startups: why it's important, how to begin
3 Features of a high performing website
Wireframing and Prototyping: all you need to know


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