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Author: Reg Tait
Reg is a web designer who loves simple, useful designs that work well.

How to design… anything

User interfaces are an important part of any product because that’s the part a customer experiences.

Good design increases possibility of a product’s success. The value of a product is making something that help end users work effectively. So first, we need to understand what the user needs to achieve to help set some goals. We want to reduce the number for steps required for a user to complete a task and make it as intuitive as possible.

The user’s experience is wider than the interface design. The designer needs to figure out the whole user journey, before and beyond the screen.

Product designers need a multi-disciplinary mindset that enables them to work with engineers and their customer-focused colleagues. These individuals need empathy for the the end users, specialist skills to determine design solutions, and ways of testing them.

The designer handles both the interactive design elements plus the visual aspects, such typography, branding and layout. The designer will create product style guides. Modular components help reduce complexity and user cognitive load, as well as making any UI faster to develop and easier to maintain.

Overload, clutter and confusion are not attributes of information, they are failures of our design.
—Edward Tufte

The design process is very simple. There are many variants, but all follow something like this:

  • Define the brief. (What is the goal of the project? What are the constraints?)
  • Do your research
  • Generate possible ideas
  • Prototype the best ones
  • Test the ideas with real people
  • Review, iterate, build

Prototyping

Let’s focus on prototyping. Prototyping is a means of exploring ideas before you invest in them. A prototype is a realistic facade that’s good enough to test with real users. A prototype is fast and cheap. Here are some more benefits.

  • Take the risks up front, before building anything
  • Speed up development time and produce a higher quality final result
  • Learn something at lower cost than actually building out the product
  • Iterate on the good ideas and throw out the bad

Everyone is a designer

Designing user interfaces is a specialist skill, but design excellence requires everyone involved. Company leadership may need to make shifts in the way the organisation operates to help implement design well.

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