User interfaces (UIs) are an integral part of software applications. There have been revolutionary changes in UIs from basic MS-DOS prompts and COBOL green-screens, to rich internet applications boasting of multi-touch responsive and immersive capabilities. The recent explosion of cloud and mobile technologies have ushered in the mobile-first approach. For internet-based applications and services, popular frameworks such as React and Angular are the de-facto technologies for building state-of-the-art web-based applications. However, with the constant flux in today’s technology scenario, the question that bothers enterprises while re-engineering UIs is ‘How to build future-proof UIs?’
Given that technologies are short-lived and UIs need to remain intuitive, the following aspects are essential ingredients for designing future-proof UIs: · Identifying the Best-fit Architecture
While building UIs, it is essential to decouple the UI layout and its elements. A three-tier model separating business logic from the view enables easy development, testing and maintenance. The Model-View-View-Model (MVVM) pattern delivers this separation and facilitates futureproofing.
Selecting a Suitable Technology and an Integrated Development Environment (IDE)
Ensuring Users-first Approach
Let the preferences of target users drive the UI design. Leverage prototyping to facilitate optimum User Experience (UX). Implement the UI with an app-like interaction mechanism to obviate the need for installing native applications. Aim at striking the right balance between UI and UX design.
Using Modular Development
Atomic design recommends building simple basic elements with a single responsibility each, which can work together to create reusable patterns for the UI pages. Use atomic design along with living style guides to develop modular UIs. This facilitates incorporation of any updates smoothly across the application. Implement the back-end for front-end patterns, ensuring that the UI layer depends only on the UI screen objects and not on the service layer. While building the UI, work out of a common central color palette and ensure its version control. Integrate backend services with the backend of the UI layer through well-defined contracts. Implement hooks inside your UI components for customization across its layers.
Responsiveness is paramount as it renders the UI content seamlessly across varying screen sizes on devices such as PCs, laptops, tablets or smartphones. Layouts need to be fluid by default. Take a mobile-first approach to build the UI, and enhanced it progressively for other devices, right up to desktops. Design the UI for swiping and tapping rather than for mouse-clicks. Use lazy loading and conditional loading of images and ensure their responsiveness.
Speed is undoubtedly the need of the hour. Achieve high-speed loading and response through script minification – removal of unnecessary content and long variable names. Compress scripts and style sheets and include only the necessary plug-ins in your UI layer. Implement coarse-grained RESTful services to reduce the number of HTTP calls. Use frameworks, instead of hand-coding utilities, to ensure a light application footprint. Select SVG and Canvas over plain images such as PNGs and JPGs to improve speed, especially when your UI features multiple skins.
Providing Connectivity Independence
Cache application data by using web workers and local storage to ensure that the web application works in both offline mode and on low-connectivity networks. Cache frequently used data with an appropriate cache-clearing policy.
Ensuring Inherent Security
Encrypt communication between the UI and servers using HTTPS. Integrate token-based and device-fingerprint based authentication strategies. Implement penetration testing to validate security measures. Note that without proper security even the best UI crumbles in the face of modern attacks.
Opting for a Minimalistic Design
Ensure a simple, minimalistic design by highlighting the important elements in the UI. Use whitespace optimally around the elements and remove any elements and effects that do not add value.
Keeping Abreast of Latest Updates
The technology landscape is far more dynamic today than it was earlier. New, sophisticated technologies and frameworks surface everyday along with their share of vulnerabilities. To remain competitive, it is imperative to keep abreast of the market trends in UX and UI design. Analyze potential threats continuously, and streamline the upgrades with integrated security through automated builds.
A combination of these aspects can help you create the right mix of user experience, performance and security to lend longevity to your UIs.
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