10 essential UI design principles every designer should know

March 29, 2024
10 essential UI design principles every designer should know

Creating an immersive and engaging experience for users goes beyond captivating storylines and stunning visuals. A game's user interface (UI) acts as the bridge between players and the digital world they inhabit. It's the control panel, the instruction manual, and the emotional compass that guides them through their journey. Mastering the art of UI design is paramount for any game designer who wants to create not just a good game, but a truly modern and proficient product.

This blog post delves into the ten essential UI design principles that every game designer should know. By incorporating these basic principles into your design process, you can craft user interfaces that are not only visually appealing but also intuitive, user-friendly, and ultimately, contribute to a more enjoyable gameplay experience.

1. Visual hierarchy: Guiding the player's eye

Imagine a cluttered screen with buttons and information competing for attention. This is the antithesis of good UI design. The first of the ten principles - visual hierarchy, dictates the arrangement of UI elements in a way that guides the player's eye towards the most important information at any given moment. This can be achieved through various techniques, such as:

  • Size and Scale: Larger elements naturally attract attention, so prioritize crucial buttons or information with increased size.
  • Color and Contrast: Utilize contrasting colors to highlight important elements, while reserving muted tones for less critical information.
  • Whitespace: Employing strategic whitespace around key elements creates visual breathing room and emphasizes their importance.

By establishing a clear visual hierarchy in your UI design, you ensure players/users can effortlessly understand the game's state, identify actionable elements, and make informed decisions within the virtual world.

2. Consistency and familiarity: Building user confidence

Let's face it, no one enjoys deciphering a new control scheme or layout every time they pick up a new game. The UI design principle of consistency emphasizes maintaining uniformity in the placement, function, and behavior of UI elements throughout the game. This includes aspects like button styles, menu layouts, and information displays. By adhering to this UI design principle, you leverage users’ existing knowledge of digital interfaces and mobile game design, allowing them to jump into the game with a sense of familiarity and confidence. Consistency fosters a sense of predictability and reduces the cognitive load on players, allowing them to focus on the actual gameplay.

3. User feedback and interaction: A conversation, not a monologue

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Tilting Point - Spongebob: Krusty Cookoff

A good UI design isn't a static image; it's an interactive conversation between the game and the player. Next of the UI design principles - user feedback and interaction dictate that UI elements should provide clear and immediate feedback to player actions. This can be achieved through visual cues like UI animations, audio signals, or haptic feedback (on mobile devices). Effective feedback not only confirms player actions but also reinforces a sense of agency and control within the game world.

By incorporating this UI design principle, you can create interfaces that are not only functional but also contribute to a more dynamic and satisfying player experience. Remember, user feedback and interaction are not a one-way street; it's a conversation that keeps players engaged and invested in the game world.

4. Accessibility and inclusivity: UI design for everyone

The gaming community and all of the communities in the digital space are diverse, encompassing users of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. The UI design  principle of accessibility and inclusivity emphasizes designing UIs that are usable by everyone, regardless of physical limitations or visual impairments. This includes incorporating features like:

  • Colorblind-friendly color palettes that ensure clear contrast for players with color vision deficiencies.
  • Scalable text sizes that allow for easier readability on different screen sizes and for players with visual impairments.
  • Keyboard and gamepad support for players who may not be able to use a mouse.

By prioritizing accessibility as one of the UI design principles you apply, you not only expand your user base but also create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for your game or application.

5. Error prevention: Keeping players in the flow

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Imagine the frustration of accidentally deleting your progress or selecting the wrong option due to a poor UI design. Next in the line of principles is error prevention. It focuses on minimizing the possibility of user errors by anticipating potential mistakes and making UI design that prevents them. This can be achieved through techniques like:

  • Confirmation prompts for critical actions that could lead to unintended consequences.
  • Disabling inactive buttons to prevent accidental clicks in menus.

By implementing error prevention principles, you ensure players stay focused on the game itself, minimizing disruptions and maintaining a smooth gameplay experience.

6. Flexibility and efficiency: Catering to different playstyles

Not all players approach a game the same way. Some prefer a minimalist interface that prioritizes action, while others appreciate detailed information and customization options. The principles of flexibility and efficiency encourages UI design that can adapt to different player preferences. This can be achieved through:

  • Optional UI elements that players can toggle on or off based on their needs.
  • Keyboard shortcuts for players who prefer a more efficient way to interact with the game.
  • Multiple control schemes allow players to choose between gamepad, mouse and keyboard, or touch controls (depending on the platform) to optimize their comfort and performance.

By applying UI design with flexibility in mind, you cater to a wider range of players and ensure a more efficient and personalized gaming experience.

7. Aesthetic and minimalist UI design: Beauty in simplicity

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While visually appealing graphics can enhance a game's atmosphere, UI design should prioritize clarity and functionality over excessive ornamentation. The principle of aesthetic and minimalist design encourages creating UIs that are visually pleasing without cluttering the screen with unnecessary elements. This can be achieved by:

  • Utilizing clean layouts with clear spacing and organization.
  • Employing a limited color palette that complements the game's overall aesthetic.
  • Favoring icons and symbols over lengthy text explanations whenever possible.

The minimalist principles ensure the user interface remains visually clear and doesn't distract players from the core gameplay experience.

8. Consistency with industry standards: Leveraging established conventions

The gaming industry has established certain guidelines and conventions for UI elements, such as the placement of the health bar or the inventory menu. The UI design principle of consistency with industry standards encourages leveraging these familiar design patterns whenever possible. This not only reduces the learning curve for players but also fosters a sense of predictability within the game world. By adhering to industry standards, you can create UIs that are intuitive and user-friendly for even the most casual gamer.

9. Refining the hierarchy: Prioritizing information for optimal decision-making

While visual hierarchy establishes a basic order of importance for UI elements, hierarchy goes a step further. It dictates the organization and presentation of information  to ensure players can access the most critical details at the precise moment they need them. This can involve:

  • Grouping related information together under clear headings and subheadings.
  • Utilizing visual cues like color coding or visual weight to differentiate between different types of information.
  • Prioritizing actionable elements within menus and tooltips, making it easy for players to identify and interact with them.

By refining the hierarchy of information within your UI design, you empower players to make informed decisions quickly and efficiently within the game.

10. Usability: The ultimate test

No matter how good the UI design may appear on paper, the true test lies in its usability. The tenth of the UI design principles, which is usability, emphasizes the importance of testing your UI design with real users and gathering their feedback via different types of software. Usability testing allows you to identify areas of confusion, frustration, or inefficiency within the UI. By observing players interact with your game and incorporating their feedback, you can continuously refine and improve the design, ensuring a truly usable and enjoyable experience.

Best practices and tips

Here are some additional best practices to consider when making UI design for games and other digital products:

  • Prioritize mobile responsiveness: With the growing popularity of mobile gaming, ensure your UI scales and adapts seamlessly to different screen sizes and resolutions.
  • Pay attention to color contrast: Always consider colorblindness and ensure adequate contrast between text and background elements.
  • Conduct user testing early and often: Gather player feedback throughout the design process, not just at the end.
  • Stay up-to-date with UI/UX trends: The gaming industry is constantly evolving, so keep yourself informed about the latest design trends and best practices.


Mastering UI design is an essential skill for any designer who wants to create truly successful and engaging games or other digital services such as apps or websites. By incorporating the ten essential UI design principles explored in this blog post, you can craft user interfaces that not only look great but also function flawlessly, guide players intuitively, and ultimately contribute to a more enjoyable overall gaming experience.

Ready to take your game UI design to the next level?

We at PUNCHev Group are a team of passionate and experienced UI/UX designers specializing in crafting user interfaces that elevate the experience of your game or other digital product. We can create UI design that is not only visually stunning but also intuitive, user-friendly, and perfectly aligned with your game's unique vision. If you are interested, you can check out our game design portfolio and see all of the great projects we have participated in.

Contact us via our contact form today to discuss your project and see how we can help you bring your game, website, or app to life!