Philosophically speaking, the perfect UI is invisible. User expenses no mental effort on the UI and he is completely connected to the system. Running along that line of thinking, such UI is also very hard to make in reality (it’s invisible, get it? 😉 ). More likely than not, designers rely on some kind of signage or instruction to get the user familiar with the functions. That is especially needed when the UI or platform is new to the user.
Several months ago and I played the Nintendo Wii Resort and noticed an instance of an almost invisible UI. In the opening sequence of game, an avatar of the user parachutes into a virtual resort. While in middle-air, the user can use the Wii remote to glide around and connect to other avatars. Instead of displaying help text or tips bubble, Nintendo decides to do something interesting. The result it a visual cue that takes very minimal mental effort to grasp. It has no instruction text, so internationalization cost is 0.
Check out this trick with the video below. Jump to 0:20 if you are in a hurry. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.