User experience and user interface design; the fascinating realm of assessing tangible and intangible elements -to create creative solutions and products, is the perfect blend of empathy, humility, interface and experience. Here at The Banana Design Co., we felt the need to share these 10 insights to help you kickstart your career as a UX/UI designer.
1. Usability and functionality:
User interface and user experience design is often approached from a visual perspective only — with pure graphic designers thinking of visual treatments first, not necessarily an in depth understanding of the purpose of the design, it’s goal, the reasoning and the processes. While aesthetics make the design visually appealing, and in absolutely no way is to be compromised on, functionality and usability define the efficiency of your design. Always remember to emphasise on both these elements with equal vigour. Good design, after all, is equal measures visually pleasing and functional!
2. Back to Basics:
Before you plunge into the vast world of UI design, it is important to build your visual vocabulary and learn the visual grammar. Nicole Saidy in her article ‘7 Steps to become a UI/UX Designer’ listed a few fundamental principles quite nicely:
Colour: Learn the colour vocabulary, fundamentals and the psychology of colours.
Balance: Symmetry, asymmetry and deliberate off balance is used to create eye-catching design.
Contrast: Contrast is used to build hierarchy, create focus and organize information.
Typography: Typography is the art of choosing fonts and creating readable text on the web.
Consistency: Consistency focuses on creating intuitive and usable designs.
3. Get to the crux:
While it is rather tempting to jump right into the designing phase; as soon as you receive the initial brief, this will only bring you back to the art board, again and again! Initial research forms the foundation to your design phase. Ask questions, interview stakeholders, map your flows, journeys, and priority guides in detail. Thoroughly understand what you are designing and get to the crux of the problem — before rushing for the solution. After all, UX and UI design, the way I see it, is 80% research and 20% design!
4. Empathise with the user:
Humans possess the innate quality of being empathetic. This underrated soft-skill forms the core of the design thinking process. This human centred, holistic approach enables the designer to think of the user’s experience in its entirety, and helps in developing a better understanding of the user’s feelings, emotions, behaviour patterns, challenges and needs -ultimately resulting in a better user experience. So walk in the user’s shoes and even go an extra mile for good measure. It isn’t called user experience for nothing!
5. Practice, Practice, Practice:
Mastering any artistry requires practice. User interface design is no exception. A great way to practice UI design is to pick your favourite app or website, and replicate it’s design, step by step, right to the last detail. Mimicking existing designs will enable you to run through, be aware of, and dissect, all the processes involved in the making, providing you with a treasure trove of lessons along the way. It won’t be long before your brain switches to auto pilot while you enjoy the flight!
6. Breaking the mould:
The UX process forms the backbone of user experience design. While there are tons of “standard UX processes” available online, these simply cannot be applied to every design project. Just as every design project is unique, the UX process created for it needs to be unique, custom and tailor made too. While certain elements from the standard process are necessary, your UX process needs to be constantly iterated, modified, adapted and adopted; as per the project needs, in order to devise a custom solution.
7. Make your designs future proof:
Good design; to some extent, stands the test of time. In order to increase the longevity of your user interface and user experience design, aim for long-term solutions to avoid redundancy and minimize re-design. While designing, it is extremely important to leave enough room for rearrangements and design solutions that are flexible, adaptable, evolving and scalable- atleast for the near future. And don’t sweat if this doesn’t come naturally to you at first. With a little bit of experience, it will.
8. Design with data:
Numerical data and statistics are marvellous means to gauge the efficiency of your design solutions. It is indeed, all in the numbers! There are a range of analytical tools available to run numerical data through — to monitor user activity , observe how long users linger on a page, and attain valuable insights regarding user flow. Design is no longer governed by aesthetic appeal only. A good design sense backed by a strong hold on data, analytics and numbers makes for a rather mighty combo!
As a designer, your work does not stop at design only. It is essential for you to collaborate with the developer and see your designs through- all the way to implementation. Being empathetic towards the technical team will sensitize you towards the needs of the developer, in turn enabling you to create better flows over a period of time. Collaborating with the developer will help you understand how the development process works — fixing any problems that may arise, together. In turn your product will look as good as you envisioned, and even function like a breeze!
10. Test the Waters:
Creating design based prototypes- to constantly test designs at strategic stages, is a practice that every UX and UI designer should ingrain early on. With the advancement of technology, it is now easier than ever to prototype your designs on the go, break them into micro elements and even concentrate on specific parts of the design. Apps can now be simulated without writing a single line of code! So test the waters every now and then, leave your assumptions and biases aside and prototype your designs to validate your vision — repairing any inconsistencies and errors along the way!