Achieving a great looking User Interface (UI) is not an easy task, with the growing trend of modern minimalist and non-skeuomorphic design its easy forget basics of what makes a polished UI.

I’ve put together some examples of popular software applications that deliver some effective UI to consider when designing your next application.

Don’t forget affordance

If your UI has interactive elements such as buttons and inputs then design them to make that obvious to your user, not everything that to be flat, give your elements some visual appearance that represents its function. Don’t make buttons flat, give them some distinguishing border-radius, gradients and “press-ability”.

Adobe Illustrator does a fantastic job in representing interactive elements with apparent distinction, as you can see buttons, dropdown menus are effective with a subtle raised appearance.

Adobe Illustrator UI - Button Affordances

Adobe Illustrator UI – Button Affordances

Border Consistency

Very often I’ve seen good UI ruined by inconsistency, it’s a vicious circle with designing and developing an application to not follow style guides or past examples. Something as trivial as border colours can diminish the quality of the UI. When using borders in your UI, think about the contrast of the border against its background, create a collection of border examples that allows you to group and section content effectivity without being too visually distractive.

Microsoft Word uses consistent borders for separating and grouping its UI elements, subtle borders with enough contrast.

Word Ribbon UI - Consistent Borders

Word Ribbon UI – Consistent Borders

Pixel Prefect Icons

Often blurry and sub-pixel icons can ruin a good interface, make sure your icons are even dimensions wherever possible for even scaling of icons. I would recommend anyone getting into icon design to have a look at this guide on Icon Utopia – How to Master Pixel Perfect Icons.