A User Interface (UI) designer is the professional that helps you to transform your amazing mobile app project or business ideas into a professional-looking product that follows the market’ standards considering the current technologies available (IOS and Android predominantly). The work of any UI Designer goes beyond making an app look pretty. The digital design work of any mobile app must be aligned with a clear business goal and strategy, be based on research and consider iterations of the product throughout the design process (Agile). Finally, all the UI screens have to be handed off efficiently to the developers and, in the best case scenario, all the interface components be documented in one place. This way, any team member working across the project will be on the same page, having a sustainable ecosystem of work.
Understanding the process and the current stage of your project
The design of the interface of your app is only one big step within a even bigger design process. Nowadays, this methodology is known as User Experience (UX) design. The UX of any product refers to all the different interactions in between the user and the product, such as customer service, mobile app, website, social media, packaging etc.
A person’s perceptions and responses resulting from the use and/or anticipated use of a product, system, or service.Definition of UX by ISO 9241-210
Before hiring a UI Designer, entrepreneurs should know well at what stage of the design process their project is at. Some of the stages before jumping into the UI work may include:
- ‘The big picture’ – Define a problem / Research
- Identify a target audience and an user type
- Story map (scenarios, user tasks and storyboards)
- Card sorting – User testing
How your app will work and look is crucial for succeeding in a saturated apps market. A great idea will not succeed if the design doesn’t look good or even worse if it doesn’t work as expected. A good UI will influence the customer satisfaction of the product. This means more investment in stages before the UI design.
The quality of the user interface will depend on how much effort and budget you have invested on previous research and how the designer or team have planned the design process. Therefore, if there is more knowledge obtained in previous stages, the work of the UI designer gets easier. If the designer knows more about the user, what they might like and expect and there are previous validated hypotheses about the features that the app should have and the different tasks that the user will need to achieve, everything comes together more efficiently.
Within your budget you should consider several iterations of the UI work. This means constant iterations and testing with users. What you will test out first with users is a minimum viable product (MVP), a prototype made with Figma, Axure, etc that allows you to collect insights for improvement before doing any development.
User research, empathise with users and persona creation
Any mobile app should make life easier for users in something that they want to achieve. This is fundamentally a business proposition. Who are these users?
When you have clarity about the design process to follow and your budget, continue by identifying your target audience. What group of people is going to be using your product and in what context? Why would they use your mobile app? Any user research method is useful and it’s key in finding the one that fits your needs more efficiently.
- Focus groups
- In person or online interviews
When you have defined a clear target audience and you have gathered the information about them, you can put together a user persona (picture above), define user outcomes, and also defining an hypothesis about what they should achieve when they’ll use your product. Therefore, aligning the product in a strategic way with your potential customers.
User interface (UI) – Design process
Clear business goals already and a good idea about your target audience? It is time to finally jump into the fun and kick off the UI design process!
The methodology every that designer follow always changes. It really depends on the professional experience and the specific project at hand. Always keep in mind that the main objective must be to create a sustainable and scalable UI ecosystem which is easy to maintain and works efficiently with the developers and anyone in the business. I do recommend the steps below as a good generic standard process:
- Sketches and notes
- Digital wireframes – Usability testing
- UI design kits to get started (Android, IOS)
- UI design system – Figma library
- UI Documentation
- Prototypes fro usability testing / Minimum Viable Product [MVP] (Figma, Axure, Framer, etc)
- High quality screens
- A robust developers handoff methodology backed up with UI documentation (Figma, Zeplin)
Testing early and often – Usability testing
Usability testing is a very simple thing really and you can fit it into the process at any stage. If you can put together a minimum viable product (MVP) as a prototype and have the screens needed to test out a specific task for users on your app, it would be ideal. The most important thing is to have a clear goal and hypothesis that you want to validate after running the usability test. In my experience, there’s always something to take from these sessions and it will give you a route to follow for the UI design work.
The guru of usability testing Steve Krug made this video demo doing a really straight forward usability test. It will give you an excellent idea in regards of how this type of sessions should be addressed.
Content is a key element across the whole UI design process. It is not something to be left behind until the last minute or a stage that is easy to do. The look of the interface will follow the content and the whole layout and structure may change dramatically if the content is changed in the latest stage. Also, there are really important elements throughout a digital product that make people click something or drive attention to certain elements, like call to actions, tiles, big headings ,etc. To keep users engaged, the content should be thought through by a professional, ideally who is ideally able to create compelling stories with words and is easy to digest by users when interacting with the product.
Want to know more about UI Design? check out on this post some of the best UI books I recommend.