4 UI Training Tips

Do you need a workshop focused on UI design basics? Email us at info@uiuxtraining.com.

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In 6 UX Design Training Tips we focused on deliverables and understanding the user’s motivation. In this post about UI Training, we concentrate on design thinking, information architecture, and basic UI design principles.

UI Training Tip #1: Design Thinking

Design thinking has rapidly come to dominate product and software design at leading companies like Google, Apple, Netflix, and Airbnb. Author Jackie Dove describes design thinking basics in What Is Design Thinking, and How Can SMBs Accomplish It?

While there are many approaches to design thinking, the Stanford d.school established the steps followed by many organizations:

  • Empathize—The goal is to observe and listen in order to learn about customers and their experiences with your product.
  • Define— Analyze the research to identify the key issues and themes. This exercise clarifies the specific problems you need to solve.
  • Ideate—This step involves brainstorming and challenging assumptions as the team works toward a prototype.
  • Prototype—By the time the team has reached this stage the problems to solve have been identified. Draw, sketch, use stickies to capture the design concept. Then refine and review to figure out what is missing and what can be improved.
  • Test—Put the design in front users and observe their experience with the prototype. Do not asking leading questions but take time to probe in order to understand user’s behavior, motivation, and attitudes about your design.

As with nearly any design process, iteration is key. A single prototype followed by a test will not solve all problems and might not even solve the main problem identified in the definition stage explained above. Design thinking offers teams the flexibility to review, iterate, and re-test as needed without following a rigid and time-consuming protocol.

UI Training Tip #2: Insights into Information Architecture

Why discuss information architecture (I/A) in a post about UI training? Because even though I/A and UI design are not the same, they are closely related. When UI designers take the time to make sense of their content, they are issuing an invitation to users along these lines: “Step through any of these doors to find information relevant to your interests.”

In Information architecture: a UX designer’s guide, the industry leaders at Just In Mind offer an information architecture tutorial. They begin by describing three frames that can be used for the I/A:

  • Hierarchical structures: Also known as tree structures, hierarchies list broad categories at the top and more specific and smaller subcategories underneath.
  • Sequential structures: Users follow a series of steps to find information or complete a task. A wizard is one example of a sequential I/A.
  • Matrix structures let users decide how to navigate. They are essentially the opposite of sequential structures. At UI UX Training, we recognize the value of matrix structures but also urge using a matrix structure selectively for users with a high degree of knowledge about your domain. For general consumers or users who are new to your domain, the risk of confusion and site abandonment is high.

Next is the labeling system, what each segment of a site or app is called. For example, “Contacts,” “Products.” The frame and labeling make up the navigation system. The author has an interesting take on navigation:

Your navigation system should, in a way, be the opposite of your content. You want rich content that can be complex as long as it’s useful and enjoyable to the user. Your navigation system should always be as simple and as straightforward as possible, while still getting the user to any possible desired information.

The final piece of the I/A is search. While nearly everyone is familiar with search, the author emphasizes the “search zone — making sure that the search bar presents users only with a certain type of content.” The point is to avoid a search so wide in scope that it returns meaningless results.

UI Training Tip #3: Basic Design Principles

In The 7 Principles of Design Applied to Websites Jennifer Kaplan concisely explains balance, contrast, emphasis, movement, repetition, hierarchy, and unity. Certainly, seasoned designers apply these principles in their daily work.

It never hurts, however, to review the basics and examine our own design practices. Perhaps, we’re convinced that our creations are harmonious, the result of a well-thought-out unified design. Yet, a critical look might draw our attention to a misplaced element or something out of balance (one of the seven basic design principles).

Furthermore, reviewing the basics is an effective way to consider how to explain design decisions to colleagues and stakeholders who might not have extensive design background.

Finally, senior designers who serve as mentors might wish to begin with basic design principles as they explain the reasoning behind the organization’s design patterns and decisions.

UI Training Tip #4: Desirable Difficulty

ui training desirable difficulty

In Difficulty Is Not A UX Dirty Word Roxanne Abercrombie explains desirable difficulty: “It refers to a ‘just right’ level of difficulty: not so hard as to be unattainable; not so easy as to be mindless. The belief is that this difficulty Goldilocks zone improves learning capacity and leads to improved engagement.” For example, researchers have demonstrated that users retain a higher percentage of what they read when the font is hard to read.

The point is to encourage users to engage deeply. Certainly, increasing difficulty violates basic UX principles. Under the right circumstances, however, desirable difficulty can lead to “a more cognitively engaged user experience with mindful interface interaction.”

UX and UI designers refer to this phenomenon as intentional friction. In UX and UI design, the purpose of intentional friction is ensure that users understand the consequences of deleting files, handling sensitive health data, or completing a large financial transaction.

For those seeking informal UI training, this article shows when and how to apply appropriate design techniques to intentionally increase friction and avoid serious errors such as users inadvertently deleting all of their files.

Contact UI UX Training

Do you need a workshop focused on UI design basics? Email us at info@uiuxtraining.com.