When users first encounters your software installer, what do they think? How do they feel?

User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) are two of the most important and ignored aspects of software installation. This chapter will serve as a crash course to installation UI/UX, and give you some fresh ideas for your next installer.

Take a look at the two images below, and note your initial reactions.

UXI Example

What is it about the image on the right that makes it so much more appealing than the one on the left?

The visual components–the brownies, the chocolate, the dishes–are the same in both pictures, but the image on the right is a fresh dessert, ready to eat. The bowls are clean and complement the contents inside. The pouring chocolate makes the whole dish appear warm and enticing. Maybe the image also evokes the tastes, smells, and textures of the dish.

On the other hand, the image on the right evokes very little. Each element appears sloppy, maybe even filthy. There’s no synergy–the elements are no more the sum of their parts.

The point of this exercise is to get you thinking about the power of visual communication. Whether you’re aware of it or not, your installer creates a strong impression of your product. The visual elements of your installer can make all the difference in determining your user’s relationship with your software and your brand.

This is the essence of UX/UI; transforming design elements to make them as appetizing to the user as possible.

What is the Design Goal of an Installer?

At the beginning of an installation, the user should feel comfortable and relaxed. The design elements should communicate that the software download is familiar and safe.

Throughout the download, the flow of product offers and privacy information should be clear and digestible at a glance. If the installation encounters a technical obstacle during the process, the installer should be able to adapt and present the user with solutions.

Download completed

A user should arrive at the end of the installation knowing exactly what they downloaded, and feeling a sense of control about how and where their new products are operating.

What’s the Difference Between UI and UX?


When you first start the installation, how do you know what to do next? The installer must guide a user through the entire installation, while still maintaining the user’s trust. The UX designer must take into account a user’s beliefs and feelings about the product, and installers in general, to make an intuitive pathway for the user.

Some questions to consider for your installer’s UX:

-Is it clear what action the user should take?

-Are the buttons in an intuitive section of the installer?

-Is there an appropriate amount of descriptive text?

-Does the user understand what he/she is getting?

-Does the user feel comfortable? stressed/overwhelmed? In control?

If done properly, good UX can make your product feel trustworthy and safe; the user knows they are dealing with an honest company.

What is UX?


The UI is where the machine and the user interact. The aesthetic elements–color, style, pictures–fit primarily into the category of UI, but the role of UI goes much further. Aside from creating a pleasant atmosphere, UI also considers if the visual elements communicate effectively with the user, while eliminating elements that might hinder speed or understanding of the process.

Some questions to consider for your installer’s UI:

-Is your message clear and simple?

-Is your interface recognizable and familiar? i.e. Does the user know they are in a software installation process?

-Are the colors pleasant and consistent?

-Does the font communicate the brand tone and register?

-Does the layout encourage an efficient installation?

What is UI?

As you may have noticed, UI and UX have considerable overlap. About 80% of UI and UX elements relate directly to one another, but the remaining 20% falls squarely on the shoulders of UX.

This remaining area refers to aspects of the installation that a user cannot see, but still have a large impact on the success of the installation. These may include influences like network errors, lack of memory, system incompatibilities, etc.

To make sure these issues don’t negatively affect take rates or the number of completed installations, the UX must adapt to these situations. For example, if a slow connection is resulting in an abnormally long download time, the installer should inform the user of the situation before they deem the download ‘broken’ and quit out.

Typical software installation

Does Installer Design Matter?

Even small changes relating to color and text can have a significant impact on take rates and brand perception.

Building a good installer interface requires the mind of a psychologist, architect, and artist all rolled into one. Here’s a good example of how a designer must stay on his/her toes to optimize the installation process:

installCore was working with a high-level gaming client who wanted more users for their newest product. The data showed that user reception was solid in most parts of the world, except for two outliers; the product was taking exceptionally well in India, but poorly in South America.

To find the source of the discrepancy, the design team built several variations of the installer with single variations in each. After A/B testing the new installers , it became clear that the purple color of the installer background was responsible.

DownloadAstro Download Manager

Why? It turns out that in India purple signifies creativity and innovation, while in South America purple is associated with death and mourning. This cultural oversight was causing take rates around 20% lower in South America than the global average.


The installer UX/UI  is the soul of a digital product. It speaks volumes about your company’s brand, and establishes a direct connection with your users. Start your relationship with your users on a plane of mutual understanding and clarity; you will see the benefit both in user satisfaction and conversion rates.


Written with UXI expert Leon Szpiler.

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