User Interface (UI) design is a large field. In theory, UI is a combination of content (documents, texts, images, videos, etc), form (buttons, labels, text fields, check boxes, drop-down lists, graphic design, etc), and behavior (what happens if I click/drag/type).
It takes a good eye, a lot of practice, and a lot of trial and error to get better at it. As a UI designer, your goal is to create a user interface that is engaging, beautiful, and also creates an emotional response from the user to make your products more lovable and beautiful.
When I started out, something I learned from my mentor is to take a tour guide journey to your product. Imagine your app/website as a journey. Every user that downloads your app right from spotting it in the App Store/web, through using it, achieving goals or completing tasks within the app is taken on a journey. And that journey should be a delightful one.
And you, as the app designer, are the craftsman that designs this journey. So you don’t want to throw all the information on the screen hoping that the user will pick it up. That’s the very opposite of a good UI.
Instead, you’re the tour guide that takes the user on a wonderful journey through your app. And in order to this, you have to be able to shift and move their attention from place to place guiding them.
Design isn’t all about learning to use design software —although that’s certainly important. Software is like a designer’s sword. You need the sword to fight the battle, but that’s not all you need to learn to use. You need to learn the strategies, processes, tricks and tips of the fight/game to be able to win it. In UI design, you need to brainstorm, experiment, test, and understand your users and their journey throughout using your product.
The benefits of having a well-designed product is that you’ll have a higher user retention rate.
This is human nature. Our attention is programmed in such a way where we see the biggest, the boldest, and the brightest first. And then it moves to smaller, less bold, and less bright things.
As a designer, you can use this information to curate the experience of your user.
2. The Importance of Alignment.
Alignment is a fundamental aspect of UI Design. And an important design principle is: minimize the number of alignment lines. It improves readibility and makes the design more pleasing to the eye.
In the images above, the image on the left has 1 alignment line. While the image on the right part has 4 alignment lines.
Here’s another example of how fewer alignment lines can make a great difference in improving the design.
Image on the left has too many alignment lines, while the one on the right has only one and looks more pleasing to the eye!
There are two fundamental types of alignment: Edge alignment and Center alignment.
Edge alignment is where you have all the elements having one side or edge lining up with a single line.
Center alignment is where you line up all the elements by their midpoint.
Depending on the use case, you’ll choose one or the other. Usually, edge alignment is considered better. It’s quite easy to align elements in design software like Photoshop. Most design software will usually provide a ruler/guide to edge align all the elements.
3. Become an attention architect.
Here’s two ways to interpret this: 1) You need to grab the user’s attention with your design. 2) You need to pay attention to every little thing in your designs.
To be a great designer, you need to do both. The latter lets you achieve the former.
UI Design is about tailoring the experience for your users by guiding their attention towards different important things.
Make its size larger or smaller.
Bolder or brighter in color. Or make it muted.
Use a typeface with a heavy weighting versus something that is thin or light.
Italicize words. Capitalise or lowercase some words.
Increase the distance between each of the letters to make the overall size of the words take up more space.
The most important thing when designing is testing! Make sure you try out different everything: colors, fonts, tones, angles, alignment, layout, etc. Experiment with different designs so that you can architect a user journey using various ways of commanding attention.
Read much more about UI Design here. Behance and Dribbble are great platforms to find good design to get inspired from.