Have you ever found yourself spotting shapes in the clouds? If yes then that is because people are hard-wired to recognize patterns, even when there are none.
It’s the same reason that we often think we know where to click when first experiencing a website — and get frustrated if things aren’t where we think they should be
Choosing the right user interface design is crucial to taking advantage of this natural pattern-spotting. Moreover, it makes the device or website look interesting and worthy of scrolling entirely.
What is UI Design exactly?
UI or User Interface design involves a process of creating interfaces that are used in software or computerized devices. UI design focuses heavily on the looks and style of the applications.
It typically refers to graphical user interfaces but also includes others, such as a voice-controlled interface.
UI Designers aim to create designs that users will find easy to use and pleasurable to navigate.
A key focus is to build interfaces that is highly usable and efficient to the users. Thus, a thorough understanding of the contexts users will find themselves in while making those judgments is crucial.
The key is to create designs where users can attain their goals efficiently.
You may ask why UI is so important. The answer to that lies in another question…
Would you use an app that is difficult to navigate or puts a lot of stress on your eyes when you try to read something?
A good UI design ensures that the visitors stay or use the website or the app for a longer duration of time. This ultimately increases the chances of them turning into a customer.
What are UI design principles?
Everything has rules. And the same goes for UI design, it has three important principles:
- Giving the user control over the interface
- Reducing the memory burden on the user
- Maintaining consistency throughout the interface.
Mastering the basics is the first step in learning anything. Developing a firm understanding and building a foundation of UI design is a key first step. You can then move on to subcategories that dive deeper into the subject.
Let us understand the steps you can take to learn UI designing and become familiar with it.
1. Understand the design fundamentals
Designing of any sort has a set of fundamentals or guidelines that one can follow. There will be times when you can neglect these fundamentals but as a beginner, you should try following them.
Once you get a grasp on the fundamentals, you can then better understand when and when not to follow them.
Some basic design elements
- Colour: A UI designer should know how to use color properly. A simple trick to remember is that your colors should always contrast with each other.
- Font: Fonts weigh a lot in visual design and is one of the most important elements of UI design. Typically you must stick to only 1 or 2 fonts per design
- Typography: Typography is the art and technique of arranging text to make the UI design of a website or product readable & elegant.
- Alignment: Alignment refers to following an invisible margin throughout your design and keeping everything aligned with it. For instance, keeping all your body text aligned to the left side of the page.
- Visual Hierarchy: Some include this to be a part of alignment but there’s no harm in keeping it separate. Visual hierarchy refers to the chronological order of various elements according to their importance in the overall design. For instance, a headline should be bigger and easier to differentiate from the body text. Visual hierarchy helps your reader understand what you want them to focus on while seeing a webpage or any other visual design. You can achieve visual hierarchy by the use of font, size, colour, etc.
- Spacing: Also known as negative space, refers to the blank space you keep between various elements. A good rule of thumb is to keep everything spaced sufficiently so that the design has room to breathe.
- Consistency: Good designs stay consistent with all the elements present in it. Being consistent can involve using the same set of figures (circles, rectangles, etc.), colors, and fonts in your design. It can also be obtained by keeping the same amount of negative space.
2. Reproduce the existed designs
It’s hard to start creating at first especially on a blank page. So, we suggest starting by copying existing designs for practice.
For example, if you are learning to design the UI of a mobile app then you can take a look at your favorite mobile app and start replicating it.
Replicating these designs will help you get familiar with the tools and also give an amazing practical experience. Trust us when we say that thinking of a design and actually designing your idea are two very separate things.
So, make a list of UI designs you love and simply start creating them from scratch. You may even find yourself making tweaks and giving it your own touch.
3. Understand the process of creating UI design
Generally speaking, there are three UI design processes:
- Structural design: Structural design, also known as conceptual design, is the skeleton of the interface design. In this process, the overall structure of the product is laid out through user research and task analysis. The low-fidelity prototype is always provided for user testing and iteration. Think of it as a rough sketch of the interface you are about to design. In this phase, any and all ideas are accepted because your goal is to come up with something new and amazing. You can’t do that without experimenting.
- Interaction design: The purpose of interaction design is to make the product easy for users to use. This is typically where you come up with ideas for aligning and keeping everything simple for better efficiency. The goal of this phase is to come up with the most efficient and user-friendly design.
- Visual design: Once you’ve made a lo-fi design and landed on a final design draft, it’s time for you to start giving it an appearance. Visual design or the third phase involves the use of colors, fonts, pages, and more – all for the purpose of pleasing the user. The third phase is usually followed by an A/B testing phase which refers to the testing of your design when put into a simple language. This is where you let the users use your product and fix the problems they encounter.
UI designing is an iterative and never-ending process. The UI of a product will always be in need of a change or an upgrade. That is the final phase of designing a product – maintaining and improving it.
UI design tools a designer can master
To learn UI design, you must also learn some basic UI design tools. There are many tools today to help you produce digital products and you can choose to master one or all of them.
Sketch: A vector-based tool that helps you create intuitive design interfaces very quickly.
Figma: A relatively new tool that is often compared with Sketch due to its interface. It allows collaboration in real-time, making it an innovative tool.
InVision Studio: Claims about being the only tool that can conquer all product design processes.
Mockplus iDoc: A powerful product design collaboration tool that facilitates handoff by extracting designs from Sketch, PS, and Adobe XD. Moreover, exporting them into a format capable of generating specs, code snippets, and assets.
Adobe XD: Consists of Design and Prototype tabs. The first features simple vectors and a bunch of text tools that can be used for creating your design. The Prototype tab is used for sharing and previewing your design. It is also the most preferred tool among UI designers.
Becoming better in UI design?
To become a UI designer you don’t need a degree in designing nor does your educational background matter. The most important thing is that you have strong design fundamentals and are constantly learning and improving your skills.
Apart from practicing daily, there are various ways you can become a better designer but we recommend these two ways:
1. UI design books
Don’t Make Me Think – by Steve Krug
This book has been published in several editions. It is considered by many as the bible of the design industry.
The book is about how to improve the usability of a website through design. It also dives into user psychology research.
UI is Communication – by Everett N McKay
This book does not focus on theory; instead, it focuses on providing you with the practical tools you need to solve real-life UI design problems. The author shows how UI design isn’t just about aesthetics but about an objective way of communicating with users.
Designing with the Mind in Mind – by Jeff Johnson
As a UI designer, it’s important to understand what’s going on in the mind of the user so that we can create the most effective interface for them to use. The book delves into perceptual and cognitive psychology, and how we can use it to create better interface designs.
The author covers human choice and decision-making, hand-eye coordination, color and vision, and attention span and memory. A worthy read indeed
2. UI design online courses
There are so many online UI design courses for both beginner and intermediate-level designers. Here are some free and paid online UI design courses:
Hackdesign: All it requires is an email address and you will have access to this easy to follow online course. Each week, a lesson will be delivered to your email inbox. The mail will contain links to articles, tutorials, and cheat sheets, as well as task lists to get you thinking about good design and working towards improving your skills.
Coursera: Take some of the world’s best courses online. It’s the largest and most eclectic catalog for online higher education. Ranging from 4-12 weeks, you can choose between self-paced of timed classes. Verified certificates and specializations provide proof of participation, which can be shared on LinkedIn.
My.path: Thousands of courses, articles, meet-ups, and videos are all in one place. They’re 100% content-ready so learners can stop wasting time on searching and focus on learning.
SKILLSHARE: Learn a new skill each day. Learn creative skills in just 15 minutes a day with bite-sized lessons you can fit in anywhere, anytime.
GYMNASIUM: Gymnasium offers free online courses designed to teach creative professionals in-demand skills, as indicated by client feedback.
MyCaptain: MyCaptain is an online educational platform that connects students with mentors that are young achievers in their field. You will learn how to design with practical projects and LIVE workshop sessions.
Moreover, you will have the opportunity to network with other UI designers that are taking up the course along with you.
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