The user interface (UI) design is a new field in industrial and web design. Basically, it’s the interaction between the user and the machine. Things like readability, access to the content, or the usability of a website or app depend on the UI designer skills.
There is a set of skills that every UI designer should know. These skills go from technical knowledge of programming to common skills. Before talking about them, we need to know about UI design itself.
In order to understand UI design, we should define the user interface. It is the space where the user and the machine interact with each other. This interaction allows the operation and more effective control from the user.
The main UIs are those with menus, windows, graphics contents, the cursor and some sounds from the machine.
UI design is the one in charge of defining the shape, function, usability and other things that influence the look of the UIs in all the gadgets. Its main goal is to make the interaction as simple and efficient as possible.
The philosophy of the UI designer it’s to be focused on the user.
The best UIs are the ones you can’t see. You can notice some of them when they’re new, unknown or aren’t properly designed.
A proof that a UI isn’t well designed is when you can’t find the way to use a system or machine. The UI has to make a system more usable, and it can’t confuse the users.
The best systems or tools are useless if you don’t understand how they work.
This field involves web, graphic, industrial and software design. The designer has to make the visual elements and functionality work by complementing each other to create a system that could be adaptable to the user’s needs. Nowadays, over 45% of programming is dedicated to UI design.
The graphics and industrial design’s purpose is to make the app or system understandable and easy to learn. They use typography, symbols, and graphics without affecting its functionality.
UI and UX design are pretty related to each other, even the skills that a designer needs, but it’s important to understand they aren’t the same.
UI design is focused on the usability while UX design depends on the perception of the user.
Notions Of UI Design
Let’s be honest, many programmers focus just on the functionality of a system, forgetting how it looks. That’s a big mistake because, when you’re going to buy something, the first thing you see and pay attention to is if it looks good, not its functionality.
These are some of the things that a UI designer has to take into consideration when they’re going to create a UI:
User familiarity: it’s important for the users to understand all about the page or machine. That’s why the designer has to investigate the public that will be in contact with the UI. With the research, they can create a UI using understandable words for the customer.
Consistency: the colors, graphic elements, and the language should be similar. This mean, the operations that could be related to each other should be activated in the same way, or at least in a similar way.
Recoverability: this item depends on the programmer’s job. Everyone makes mistakes, but the system should allow the user to recover from one.
User guide: it’s always a good idea to provide the users with a guide with all the important information about the system, even when its handling is intuitive and easy to understand.
Good and minimalist appearance: basically, the system should just show the information needed at that moment. Remember, it’s easy to lose the user’s attention and you don’t want that.
UI Designer Skills
To design the ideal interface, the designer should have a set of skills. This set goes from technical knowledge of programming to common skills, like visual perception. The common skills are as important as the technical ones. The designer needs the common ones to make the interface attractive and simple for the user.
The most important technical skill is the advanced handling of web design software, like Sketch, Adobe XD or InVision Studio.
These programs allow the designer to create an interface as fast as possible. When they know the commands, they do a better and faster job.
Other programs that are important to keep in mind are those that allow you to create wireframes to have an idea of what you want to create. The prototypes should have interactive elements, that’s why it’s important to know about the codes.
The designer should also know the theory to configure correctly and effectively the elements of the UI, as well as apply it.
There are many authors in this field; the most relevant are Jesse James Garret with “The Elements of User Experience” and Donald Norman with “User Centered System Design: New Perspectives on Human-computer Interaction”.
Basically, in these books, creating a web design is more complicated than just typing codes and studying graphics. A website needs to meet the users’ necessities to fulfill its objectives.
They need to know how to apply typography, contrast, and studies such as “Eye-tracking” to get better the user experience. Eye-tracking is a new technology that pretends to gather user’s information by the analysis of its eyes’ movement.
Finally, they have to understand everything related to the brand for which they design, like the color palette and their personality, in order to transmit the same message. We can’t forget that graphic design is all about transmitting a message correctly.
As I said before, not everything is technical. The common UI designer skills are as important as the technical ones. The most important skill here is communication. Designers should be available to transmit correctly the information to the user through the system.
The main objective is to design an easy to understand the system, that’s why the communication is so important. This communication has to always be in a visual way.
Another important thing to keep in mind is UI designers never work alone. There is a whole design team working with them. They need to understand every member of the team is absolutely necessary and irreplaceable, they have to know about teamwork.
About the company, the designer should adapt to its necessities and requirements. These will be changing with time and the designer should change to satisfy them. Also, they have to increase their knowledge constantly, because every day new technologies appear, and the designers can’t be antiquated.
The UI designer is the one in charge of the final aspect of a system and its functionality. It has to be simple and intuitive. The most important UI designer skill is the visual communication; they have to transmit everything without speaking.
Also, they have to organize everything that’s going to be guiding and interacting with the user. They need to know a lot about many types of programs and languages to create the perfect UI. This isn’t an easy task and it has a lot of things involved, but it’s pretty necessary.
A system, app or website doesn’t have to just work correctly; it has to be usable and easy to understand.