If you keep tabs on top graphic design blogs or follow designers on Twitter, you’ve seen the term user interface (UI) design making the rounds. It has become a buzzword in the graphic design industry and the reason is quite simple—the mobile web is taking the world by storm!
There were 1.4 billion smartphones in use in 2013, which equates to one in seven people worldwide. What’s more is that one in four online searches are conducted on a mobile device. This means the interaction between a user and a device is more important than ever.
That’s where UI design comes in. If you’re looking for a way to stand out in the sea of aspiring graphic designers, mastering this skill is a great way to do it, says Katherine Long, founder of Maryland-based Illustria Designs.
“It’s the most popular offering for us these days and we’re always on the lookout for good user interface designers,” Long says.
So what is UI design and why is it so desirable? Read on to learn from the experts!
What is UI design, anyway?
UI design, which stands for user interface design, refers to the process of creating a user-friendly interface within a software application or computer device. UI designers aim to make these applications easy and intuitive, according to Long.
She calls it “invisible design” because it should be designed so perfectly that the user doesn’t even notice it. In fact for the most part, the only time it’s noticed at all is it has failed in some way.
There are two main issues UI designers seek to solve, according to Michelle Rudolph, instructor for the Rasmussen College School of Design. They must first predict what the user is trying to do. Once they decipher the user’s intentions, the designer must then figure out how to allow them to reach their objective in as few steps as possible, Rudolph says.
For example …
The best way to wrap your head around the concept of UI design is to think of a practical example. Think back to when you first created your Facebook profile. If you were one of the earliest adopters of “The Facebook” back in 2004, you know how simple the original interface was.
Facebook has continually evolved throughout its first decade, always improving its user interface to provide its loyal users with a simple, enjoyable experience. Some of the most notable innovations include the introduction of the Facebook wall, private messaging, photo uploading and tagging, the newsfeed, the “Like” button, targeted ads, the timeline and graph search—among countless others.
All of those adjustments were major departures from the original version of Facebook. But they were each integrated seamlessly and most users would agree that they improved the overall Facebook experience. That is UI design at its best.
Why do you need to know about UI design?
The short answer is because it’s currently one of the most desirable graphic design skills in the industry, according to Long. She attributes its popularity to the fact that current tech trends in mobile and software as a service (SaaS) are booming, both of which involve extensive UI design.
The modern digital landscape in which we live has created a desperate need for UI designers. The user experience should be the number one concern when creating any website or app, says Patrick King, founder of Imagine, Inc.
“Content is important; but quite frankly, content is easily boring,” King says. “What makes it great is its delivery.”
The bottom line is that there is a lot of competition out there, which means if a website or app is not easy and enjoyable to use, users won’t think twice about replacing it with another.
Expert Advice Going Forward
You’ve now been introduced to one of the hottest skills in the world of graphic design. Adding this skill to your design arsenal will help you outshine your competition in the field.
King suggests one of the best ways to hone this skill is to study the act of being a user. It’s likely you encounter websites and apps on a daily basis, so start making notes about what you like, dislike and how you would improve upon what’s currently being offered.
Simply paying more attention to the everyday interactions you have with your own devices will sharpen your senses and make you more aware of UI design elements. Before you know it, you’ll be thinking like a true UI designer!
Learn how a web and interactive design degree can help you acquire the skills you need to be a successful UI designer!