Simplified User Interface Graphics: Beginner’s Guide
Simplified User Interface Graphics
Today we will show you how SUI graphics can help familiarize new users with new and complex interfaces and workflows. SUI stands for Simplified User Interface, and these graphics thus provide a simplified representation of a user interface. The background: Too much information at once can overload the user and distract from the essential functions and essential details.
Software products are also frequently updated. These regular updates and the associated localization processes make the documentation of technical content very time-consuming. How can we meet these challenges without constantly adapting all content repeatedly? What if you could design the visuals in a way that makes orientation easy and doesn’t require image adjustments even with UI changes?
We want to introduce you to a design technique for creating SUI graphics.
SUI (Simplified User Interface): What Is Behind It?
An SUI graphic provides a visual overview of a software interface but omits unimportant elements and uses simplified shapes.
Only the elements that are absolutely necessary for orientation and understanding remain visible. The SUI graphics only provide a visual aid to the instructions to better track.
In this way, the reader sees exactly what is important and is not distracted by unnecessary details.
Easier Is Better!
SUI graphics follow the well-known formula KISS (“Keep it simple, Stupid!” ): Experience has shown that systems work better when superfluous and overly complex details are avoided. When graphics are reduced to the essentials, learners can concentrate on the most critical information and understand the connections better.
Josh Cavalier, an e-learning expert, describes the cognitive load as the “amount of information that the brain can process…”. When you omit anything that would only distract your audience, you reduce that cognitive load and help readers focus on what’s important.
A recent blog article by the Interaction Design Foundation explains how users only concentrate on the information that is useful to them at the moment. This applies to product design as well as for instructions and documentation. Suppose consumers don’t clearly understand how a product is used. The materials will be complex to relate to what benefits it offers or how a product can solve a particular problem.
SUI graphics consider these facts: when the help documentation shows simplified interfaces, the reader only gets the information they need to use the product successfully and work efficiently with it.
Create materials that stay relevant longer. A short survey at STC Technical Communication Summit showed that updating training content is one of the biggest challenges for technical communication professionals. This makes sense if we take software as an example: updates are coming out more frequently, and new features are added often.
With each new function and the associated interface adjustments, the instructions also have to be updated repeatedly. This means a lot of work for the documentation team, even if the changes are minor. What are alternatives there for technical writers?
Simplified interface graphics play an important role in the documentation strategy. When a button is removed or a new feature is added, it is very confusing for users if the new detail is not reflected in the correct screenshot. A simplified interface graphic often stays up to date longer and across several versions and updates because the software interface is represented abstractly.
Technical communication professionals use this presentation method to use visual content in the documentation materials over an extended time. SUI graphics can even be used multiple times in similar scenarios.
Faster Content Localization
Anyone who creates training and informational content knows how time-consuming and expensive it can be to localize the materials when new screenshots and graphics have to be designed for each language and cultural environment. Localizing introductory materials and graphics is not a trivial matter if a company wants to succeed globally.
We should all change the notion that English is the universal language of business. It is vitally important to deliver content that is literally “appealing” – that is, in the correct language – to diverse audiences.
Most technical writers know how much effort it takes to create screenshots for all language versions. This task becomes much easier if SUI graphics are used instead of language-specific images. The same graphic can be included in all localized text, and additional explanations can be given in the graph title or captions.