Q & Answers

What Is UI Design?

Simply put, UI design is user interface design. Most of the time, when we refer to UI design, we’re talking about designing for software. This isn’t just the act of “making things pretty,” though that is a piece of it! Great UI design is about consistency in a product. It drives user engagement. UI ensures goals are accomplished in a piece of software by guiding users appropriately. It can also push a brand forward by reinforcing the brand of the product itself.

What Are the Specific Elements of UI Design?

Font sizes, margins, row heights, image treatments, buttons and switches, screen transitions, transition speed, popups, animations – all of these things are part of user interface design. Great UI design makes all those elements just feel right.

I think of UX design as the naked human form. UI design’s the clothes and accessories on your body that make up and reinforce your own personal brand. All the elements of UI design reinforce a brand experience that’s not wholly visible in UX.

Great UI design isn’t just arbitrary. It’s not just artistic flourishes a designer comes up with from the top of their head. UI designers inform their decisions with data about what the product should be. They’re asking the following questions about the product:

• Who is the product for?
• Where is the product used?
• What device is this product going to be on?
• What are the goals of the product itself?
* What feeling do we want people to have when they’re using the product?

User interface designers must be asking, “Why are we doing this?” They’re determining art choices that are best for the user, over whether someone on the development team really loves a certain color. They’re considering fonts for user accessibility. They’re reviewing sizes for prioritizing features in the user journey. All of these factors and more come into play when we’re doing the real work of UI design.

Is the UI Effort Always So Big?

Not necessarily. Certainly timeline or budgetary restrictions create artistic boundaries. Sometimes development teams discover that they can’t implement something in quite the way UI imagined it, whether that’s a costly animation or something as small as a font size. At any rate, the need for UI doesn’t disappear. The work effort realigns to meet the need.

In this case, let’s talk about skinning. Skinning a product is when a designer considers the layout of functions on a page and redesigns the elements for use on that page. Everything stays where it’s at, but the look changes. Skinning existing elements 1-to1 with new art is a quick way to get a refreshing new look for a product without extensive redesign. It’s a quick fix for a homely product, but a deeper, more user-focused effort will always produce the best results.

Is UI the Same as “Branding?”

They’re certainly related. Branding happens separately, but user interface plays an important role in making branding happen. Since UI drives what the day-to-day interaction points are in a piece of software, its pushes the brand forward. The look, feel, and tone of the brand should be evident in the product and proper UI makes sure that it is.

If there’s one takeaway from all of this, user interface design matters. You can shortcut the process (and lower your chances of success), but it matters. A valuable UI design team will ask “why?” questions about the product so they can provide the most thoughtful artistic solutions for the user. Incorporating UI design creates another place in the process for vetting ideas, getting user feedback, and building toward the best possible product.

So, how can you get great UI for yourself? Give Rocksauce Studios a call at 866-981-6847 or send us an email at [email protected].com. We help our customers design and launch solutions that people will actually use.

Next Article: A Prepper's Checklist for User Interviews (Part Two)

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