The role of User Interaction Designers is ever changing. Many graphic designers transition into UI Designers. When you’re getting started it can be overwhelming to understand what you need to know. Here’s a list of important skills for all UI Designer. These will help you get started with UI Design and avoid tumbling over some of the early hurdles.
01. Visual Design
It’s important to learn to be just a designer first. Visual design includes the knowledge of Hierarchy, White space, Scale, Dominance, Shape. I highly recommend reading this article about Gestalt Principles or watch my video about Gestalt Principles in Web and App. It is very easy to look at pixel perfect designs on Behance, Dribble and collectUI. It’s very important to cancel the noise and focus on taking the small steps towards success.
You as a creative are hired for some unspoken skills. The ability to come up with great ideas and actually being able to execute them is a different ball game.
A book that I could recommend is Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative to develop that skill of seeking inspiration and how to never run out of ideas. I’ve had this book for about a year and I keep going back to it over and over again.
If you were in a company with a research & analysis team, you would ask them some data about customers, user feedback (email, surveys, etc.) and competitor analysis that may help you understand how the product is used, what people think about it and what others in the same industry do. It will help you extract the most important issues.
It’s a real job, and we will not pretend here that you can do this easily. But you can do some small things:
- Ask questions around you, people that may use the same product (website, app, etc.)
- How they use it. What they found useful. What they think it does not work.
- If no one around you use it, you can use social networks with a small message: “Dear network, For a personal project I am looking for people who know and use [productname]. Please, contact me via […]”
- Check what competitors do. Use the same keywords that the product you work on to find them. Come up with a list of things they do differently.
Good, you just highlighted the issues.
Prioritize your list: use your common sense. Select the 2 or 3 Major issues. The idea here is that you don’t take too much time on the project.
Okay, now you have a base to work on.
04. Understanding an Ecosystem
If you want to find a job or just show your work to other professionals, you have to come up with a portfolio that demonstrates your capacity to understand the current ecosystem of the product/project you work on, to highlight the issues, to propose realistic solutions, to test them, and to iterate based on the feedback you get.
But wait a minute. What is an ecosystem? The ecosystem of the entire design can be divided into two parts. Branding level and product level as explained by Kevin Richards in a Quora post.
- Branding level (strategy)
- Vision & promise
- Ton of voice
- Guidelines: (also called Brand Book or Brand Bible) may contain recommendations on how to use the brand logo & name, main colors, imagery and generally contains elements listed above.
- Touch points (or channels): where branding and customer interacts
- Product level (strategy)
- (Specific*) Logo / icon
- (Specific*) Style-guide
- (Specific*) ton of voice
- Integration regarding other products
The world is divided in the debate of whether or not you should use animation in UI design. It definitely provides a lot of creative room to bring the personality of the brand through the app and the website. The point is that both static design (glyphs, icons, changing color and shape of controls or interface as a whole) and animation of UI present the way to make an application stand out from the crowd of similar applications which sometimes look like clones.
06. HTML & CSS
These are programming languages, but an interaction designer should have a hang of it so as to be able to manipulate the site they are working on by going through the back-end. Having this skill will also widen your scope of opportunities as a designer. Also, you need to keep in mind that you’re a part of a larger production pipeline that includes UX Designers, Coders, Product Managers, Testers and so on. Basic understanding of what other members of the team do is a vital skill in being a much more effective team member.
It’s not enough to produce easy-to-use and great-looking applications and websites. App and web development firms are searching for designers with the ability to persuade the client. Designers who are able to use psychological techniques such as social proofing, scarcity, and reciprocity to convince consumers to perform the required action.
While on the other hand, visual communication skills are equally vital. You’ll be presenting your work more often than you’d imagine once you start working as a designer. Even if you’re a freelance designer and you don’t need to stand in a dark room with a projector and flipping through the slides, you will need to send over your work to the freelance client in a nice, sophisticated, self explanatory package. If your clients don’t understand it, your users will definitely not.