When I’m afraid nobody will notice how good my work is I tell them its good over and over again. This is a standard psychological defense mechanism, we all do it. But it doesn’t matter what I say, my work is either good or it isn’t.
A good user interface is one that feels good to use. It doesn’t matter how pretty it is or how many nifty features it has. If it feels good then it is good and you can’t make something feel good by telling someone it should.
The ultimate example of this is Google search. Google could have made their search UI very fancy, they clearly have the expertise, but that would just make it more difficult to use. Creating just a single text field must have been very difficult. When Google first launched the leading search engines all looked like Excite. Google took out every other feature and just let the strength of their search stand on its own. They didn’t tell you it was good, they let you find out for yourself.
The bottom line is how it feels
The process of designing something is a frightening one as you lay yourself bare before your critics. Most designers try to defend themselves with proof that they’ve made something good. It conforms to the UI standard. It meets the project requirements. It has a few really cool features. None of that matters if it doesn’t feel good.
If your UI doesn’t feel good the way to fix it is usually taking something away. Find something in the design that you can’t live without and remove it. See how the design works without that feature. Does the application still provide value? Did you make it easier? Could you add the feature back somewhere else?
Above all, don’t add something new to fix existing problems. Every new element you add makes your UI more complex and less usable. A blank page has no issues, but it also offers to value. You add to the blank page and make something worthwhile, but you’ll never fix it by adding more. Just let it be what it is.
If your design is good then let it be good. If its bad then let it be bad. Don’t tell someone its something else by adding reminders of how good it is. Be brave enough to put your design out there and let it succeed or fail on its own merit.
Good UI doesn’t have to act like it. When you find yourself trying to act good it is probably time to redesign.