Employment opportunities in the tech industry are expected to increase in the next few years and one of the aspects of this industry is UI/UX ( that is, User Interface/User Experience) design. This article answers questions about how to become a UI/UX designer in Nigeria (and abroad).
What is a User Interface?
On a webpage, app, or device, a user interface is the aspect of human-computer interaction or oral-auditory interaction for VUI. Display screens, keyboards, and the looks of a desktop are examples of this. User interface elements are typically classified into one of these four input control, navigation elements, informational components, and units that group similar content together. Input controls enable users to enter data into the system, such as an input field that allows users to register with their email addresses. Navigational elements assist users in navigating a product or website. Progress bars, notifications, and message boxes are examples of informational components. Accordions are examples of units that group similar content together.
What is UI design?
The first graphical user interface (GUI) was developed at Xerox PARC by computer scientists in the 1980s. This enabled users to interact with their personal computers by giving them visual commands via buttons, checkboxes, icons, and menus. This implies that the computer can be used by literally anyone, without any coding, thereby launching the revolution of computer use. The Mackintosh computer was launched by Apple Computer in 1984, and it had a point-and-click mouse as part of its components. The prevalence of personal computers led to the need to design interfaces that are easy for the product user to comprehend and use, and this caused the development of User Interface (UI) designers.
The four phases of the development of user interface design include the following: the Batch interface (1945–1968), the Command-line user interface (1969–present), and the SAA User Interface or Text-Based User Interface (1985). The batch interface phase featured the use of punch cards, paper tapes, and line printers. There was no real-time response and jobs often took days or hours to complete. After 1957, systems called load-and-go were developed and these had monitor programs that reduced the usual time spent completing jobs. The Command-line user interface phase developed from the batch monitor programs of the previous stage. It featured the use of teleprinters and later, video-display terminals (VDTs) in the mid-1970s. This phase further improved real-time response and user interactivity while also reducing the cost spent on ink and paper.
The Systems Application Architecture (SAA) standard was created by IBM in 1985 with the advent of Microsoft Windows and other graphical user interfaces (GUIs). It featured the reorganization of some elements such as the pulldown menu system and a status bar on the computer, and this vastly increased the rate at which users could learn and understand an application or software. From 1968 till the present day, the graphical user interface (GUI) has undergone several developments including the introduction of the oN-Line System (NLS), the windows, icons, menus, pointers (WIMP), the development of Blit, a programmable bitmap graphics terminal and Teletype, an electromechanical device that can be used to send and receive typed messages through various communications channels amongst others.
What is UX design?
User experience design can be traced to the ancient Chinese philosophy of Feng Shui (about 4000 BC), which highlights the importance of organizing the environment in the most harmonious, or user-friendly way. Also, in ancient Greece where research suggests that around the fifth century BC, Greek communities developed their workspaces and tools using ergonomic principles (ἔργον, stands for “work”, and νόμος, stands for “natural laws”). Ergonomics is also known as “human factor” and it is the scientific discipline that is concerned with understanding how humans interact with other components of a system and the application of principles, theories, methods, and data to designs to optimize the well-being of humans and improve the overall performance of the system. Great industrialists like Henry Ford and Frederick Winslow Taylor started to include simple user experience design principles in their product production processes in the late 19th century.
The term “user experience” was first used as a job title in the 1990s by Don Norman, a cognitive scientist. When Norman worked at Apple, he defined the term thus, “User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, as its services, and its products.” This definition is not restricted to the user’s digital or virtual experience because it covers all the likely interactions users can have with a service or product. This term is sometimes referred to as customer experience by some user experience professionals while others refer to it as experience design. Regardless of what it is called, the definition given by Don Norman succinctly captures the essence of the user experience design because it focuses on the people who would actually use the product or service.
User experience (UX) designers ensure that the product delivered meets the user’s needs and allows the users to easily get the desired result. UX designers work hand-in-hand with user interface (UI) designers and other key players such as marketers, product teams, and UX researchers to conduct research and experiments in order to better understand the needs of their users. The insights gained from the qualitative and quantitative user research are then used to improve the user’s experience.
Responsibilities of a UI designer
The UI designer is responsible for visually enhancing the user’s experience with the product (website, application, or videogame). The designer has the duty of helping the product user easily move from point A to point B through various visual directions or touchpoints. He designs the visuals of the screens that the user needs to use the product. They basically put themselves in the shoes of the user, predicting what they will expect at each stage. Then, this empathy is used to create interactive, visual elements that react in the way the user expects. They work with engineers and product managers to evaluate the requirements or specifications of the user, they use sitemaps, storyboards, and process flows to conceptualize design ideas, and they design elements of graphic user interfaces such as widgets, tabs, and menus.
The UI designer conducts research to obtain necessary information about the product users, competitors, and current trends in design. This enables the designer to get creative inspiration or ideas that will help when developing the interfaces that will meet the user’s needs. A user interface designer is responsible for developing the layout of the product and all the visual aspects of the user interface, including fonts, buttons, colors, icons, and others. Also, the user interface designer needs to work on the brand positioning of the product to ensure greater output. The designer has to ensure the product’s usability and consistently promote the identity of the brand that has been created by the company’s creative or branding team. The user interface designer ensures that interfaces are well-adjusted for function and form across all platforms, devices, and screen sizes or types.
The designer also has the responsibility of creating pattern libraries, components such as font type, colour, font size, etc.), and style guides to promote the brand and product consistency. A UI designer is in charge of developing immersive programs that improve a customer’s experience with a brand and make navigating the company’s website more enjoyable. UI designers must also have a good knowledge of coding and must be able to properly communicate the strength of a brand through the product interface. Because the position combines elements of psychology, programming, and digital design, the user interface (UI) designer needs professional knowledge in all areas to produce high-quality products and services. It is required to have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Graphic Design, Web Development, or a related discipline.
Responsibilities of a UX designer
User experience (UX) designers are responsible for creating and evaluating user journeys judging by available data and insights. They explore the needs and behaviour of the customer or user by conducting in-depth user research and employing usability tests to be sure that the designs created are in line with the requirements of the user as well as the requirements of the business. They work with other team members such as product teams, UX researchers, and marketers to conduct experiments and carry out research to better understand users’ needs. The knowledge gained from the research and experiments is used to improve the experience of the users. UX designers work with other team members to receive feedback and repeat and implement design solutions.
They use user flows, storyboards, prototypes, and wireframes to create visual impressions and illustrations of user experiences. They also stay updated on the product of competitors and trends in the industry. The user experience (UX) designer conducts research to develop the action plan required to build a product or service. He is primarily concerned with thoroughly researching users’ areas of concern and developing products or services to address these issues. The target audience and their needs in relation to the product or service are also investigated. A UX designer creates a framework for the user’s navigation through the product, taking into account factors such as content organization and the likely features the users will require.
Difference between UI and UX
While UX design involves the components that enable users to use a product or service effectively, UI design on the other hand is the experience of the product or service that the user gets while using the said service or product. User interface design and user experience design go hand-in-hand thus, the application of one ensures the functionality of the other. This does not imply that it is compulsory to have knowledge of the two design types because they each have their different functions or purpose and processes.
A user interface designer works on visual elements such as colours, typography, font, menu bars, and others while a user experience designer is focused on the journey or trajectory of the user through the product or service. The UX designer maps out this trajectory, taking factors like content architecture into consideration, identifies possible features that might be beneficial to the user, and creates wireframes i.e., blueprints for the product.
After the bare bones of the product have been mapped out, the user interface designer then examines all the visual parts (swiping through a device’s gallery, scrolling through a page, or tapping on an icon) of the user’s journey through the product and works on bringing the product to life. It is the user interface designer’s duty to ensure the inclusivity and accessibility of the product or service. For example, he considers the best colour pairings to achieve contrast or the best colour pairings for people who are colour blind.
UX design refers to the process of increasing user satisfaction by optimizing a product’s usability and accessibility. UI designers, in contrast, are in charge of the product’s appearance and feel. UX designers create a product map, which UI designers build on with interactive and immersive touchpoints. During the design process, UX and UI designers frequently collaborate to maximize a website’s efficiency, responsiveness, and accessibility. UX makes interfaces useful, while UI makes interfaces beautiful.
User experience (UX) design and user interface (UI) design both play important roles in the product design process. They work closely collaborate to determine the appearance and function of a product. The combination of UI and UX influences the entire product experience. While two similar products may deliver the same result, their UI/UX reflects how they do so. People will use one of the products more if it has a better UI/UX design compared to the other because they prefer the entire experience.
How to Become a UX and UI Designer in Nigeria
The first step to starting a career as a professional UI/UX designer is to acquire knowledge of the primary techniques, principles, and skills. If you want to learn user interface or user experience design skills for a career change, especially if you have very little industry experience, you can start with the several free UX/UI design training available. In the long run, however, an actual training is a must, and to do that, enrolling in a flexible, supervised online course that you can complete together with any current obligations is necessary.
Asides from universities and colleges, the best way to learn UI design, especially for beginners, is to enroll in a UI/UX design bootcamp course. There are several tech academies that offer online courses on UI/UX design in Nigeria and abroad. Learning these courses online ensures flexibility and easy access. On sites like Delon.App, there are diverse tech-related content including extensive courses on UI/UX design amongst others. It is important to follow popular UI/UX design accounts on social media such as Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. You can also engage in design challenges to improve your design skills.
Tools used by UI/UX designers
Recent intuitive software applications enable UI designers to create and easily share speedy layouts with shareholders. These tools should be selected based on their usability, usefulness, collaboration, and integration. The tools used by UI designers include the following:
Sketch: this is a tool that is used by UI designers to create hi-fi (high fidelity) prototypes and interfaces on a pixel canvas via the use of vector design shapes and artboards.
Adobe XD: this is a tool used to draw, reuse, and remix vector design shapes and build artworks to create interactive prototypes and screen layouts.
InVision studio: it is used by designers to create transitions, custom animations, and interactive interfaces. In one artboard, responsive designs can be produced using this tool.
Others include wireframing tools (MockFlow, Balsamiq, and Framer), prototyping tools (UXPin and Marvel), design hand-off tools (Zeplin), collaboration and documentation tools (Airtable and Asana), usability testing tools (UXCam App Analytics), vector-based design tools (Figma), user testing tools (Applause), flowchart user experience tools (FlowMapp, Overflow, and UXCam Screen Flow) amongst others.
Skills needed by UI/UX designers
A successful professional career in user interface requires both soft and hard skills. Hard skills needed include knowledge and understanding of principles and processes of user experience, interaction design principles, knowledge of interactive visual design principles like colour theory and typography, the ability to understand responsive design and information architecture, practical understanding of tools used in this field, and knowledge of how to create designs that are inclusive and accessible. Some of the soft skills a user interface designer needs include problem-solving skills, excellent communication, and collaboration skills, creativity, empathy, a mindset that prioritizes the user, and an eye for detail.
User experience designers should have a mix of design skills, soft skills, and business acumen. These include the ability to easily create personas, user stories, sitemaps, prototypes, storyboards, and wireframes, competency in organizing and carrying out user testing, surveys, and formal evaluations, the ability to tweak designs based on data from user testing and qualitative feedback, an understanding of information architecture and interaction design principles, capability to turn goals, objectives, and data into digital experiences, knowledge of business metrics and how the created designs affect performance, ability to articulate and discuss design choices with clients and stakeholders, strong presentation and communication skills, and flexibility and versatility.