UI design is a crucial component of successful product design. UI, or user interface, designers collaborate with UX researchers, product managers, and developers to create products that are as delightful as they are functional. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about UI designers and why they’re a necessary addition to your product design team.
Who Are UI Designers?
In a previous article, The Form & Function of Product Design, we discussed how design, unlike fine art, considers form and function. The form of digital product design is the interface.
An interface is the “face” of a product, the part with which a user can interact. Even physical products have interfaces: think of the steering wheel in your car or the knobs on your stove. When it comes to digital products, like the ones we help our clients build, interfaces are the pages of an app or website (the stuff an end-user can see).
UI design stands for user interface design. UI designers are often talented visual designers who are familiar with best practices in composition, color theory, and typography. Unlike graphic designers, UI designers also understand interaction design.
UI designers are successful when they are integrated into your product teams and collaborate cross-functionally. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for establishing your product dream team. Product teams can vary in structure and size. These teams usually include:
Stakeholders: executives who want their products to achieve business goals
Marketing departments: storytellers who want their products to have a strong brand voice
Product Managers: leaders who shepherd teams toward the larger vision of the product
UX Researchers: investigators who advocate for the needs of the end users
UX Designers: problem-solvers who craft user-friendly products
UI Designers: artists who polish the aesthetics of a digital product
Developers: engineers who use code to bring your product to life
UI designers apply styles, colors, typefaces, and animations to digital products to make them more aesthetically pleasing and aligned with the brand’s vision.
What Are UI Design Deliverables?
When you work with a UI designer, you may walk away with the following outputs:
High-fidelity mockups or prototypes
Mood boards establish the overall desired look-and-feel of the digital product. Style guides include logos, color palettes, and typefaces. Design systems are collections of components that function like building blocks (headers, menus, buttons, input fields, etc). Mockups are full-page layouts that can be used for marketing your digital product. Prototypes are interactive and can be tested with users. Finally, documentation describes the specifications of the digital product so engineering teams know what to build.
When Does UI Design Happen?
During the Discovery phase of product development, researchers and designers work with users and stakeholders to identify, understand, and define the problems of the product. In the Design phase, designers ideate possible solutions and then test those solutions with users to validate assumptions. Once a solution is validated, UI designers can begin polishing the design to make it branded and beautiful. UI designers put the final touches on a product before it is delivered to engineering teams for development.
What Tools Do UI Designers Use?
UI designers might use collaborative tools like Notion, Confluence, or Miro. They might find inspiration on Typewolf or Coolors. They might create designs in Figma, Sketch, InVision, or Adobe XD. They might look to Google’s Material Design or Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines for help. They might use public component libraries like Fomantic or Chakra. They might share their designs on Behance or Dribbble.
UI design improves the first impression of your digital product. When UI designers help bring stakeholders' visions to life, they delight users and create beautiful products. Of course we try not to judge books by their covers, but we know it’s human nature to do just that.
According to the Nielsen Norman Group, “users often leave Web pages in 10–20 seconds, but pages with a clear value proposition can hold people's attention for much longer.” If a site is pleasant or delightful, it is more likely that a user will stay a little longer and perhaps, in that time, discover content that piques their interest, leading to conversion.
Investing in UI design is more than investing in your product—it’s investing in your users!
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