The world of web and app development is made up of many distinct skills and disciplines, ranging from HTML coding all the way through to graphic design. Proficient web and app designers are expected to don a variety of professional hats over the course of any given development project, with one skill set in particular requiring development professionals to don multiple hats simultaneously.
The image of wearing hats on top of hats is really one of the most apt analogies to explain just how complex and dynamic UI design is as a discipline. User interface design incorporates elements of traditional design, copywriting or content writing, user psychology, journey mapping, website optimisation, and coding or software development on top of all of this too.
So what’s the best way to learn UI design, a discipline so expansive that it can be approached from a diverse array of professional backgrounds? Thankfully, there are a handful of ways that eager learners can get to grips with UI, as well as many tools and resources that allow budding UI designers to engage with all of the fundamental principles of UI design from the comfort of their personal computer.
Here are just a few of these ways.
UI and UX (user experience) resources can be found across the internet, with plenty of websites and forums established for the sole purpose of providing budding UI designers with an expansive community. These resources can naturally be incredibly valuable for any individuals who are learning entirely online and may not have direct access to a community of their peers.
Alongside taking full advantage of forums and other digital community spaces, UI students can read up on innovations as well as the fundamentals of UI and UX by reading all the articles published by UX Collective on Medium. You’re likely to find articles written by industry leaders on UX Collective, with a great portion of articles being distinctly written and delving deep into novel UI methodologies like the 5-pass reduction wireframing.
On top of the informative articles that can be found on UX Collective and across the Medium accounts maintained by industry leaders, students are also encouraged to explore resources that revolve around presenting and disseminating psychology heuristics, or innate design principles that allow for the creation of intuitive user interfaces. UX designer Jon Yablonski’s Laws of UX website is a fantastic resource for any and all students interested in UX and UI design, as it presents a selection of the world’s most common UI design principles in the form of highly accessible minimalist graphics.
We recommend bookmarking these resources as well as all other resources that you find personally valuable, and perhaps even setting up your own professional Google Chrome profile. That way, you can keep all of your UX bookmarks and resources separate from your other personal bookmarks.
Although it is possible to become a self-taught UI designer, this discipline is still highly dynamic and can be subject to change as new technologies and platforms emerge. For this reason in particular, it’s always recommended that budding UI designers back up their developed skills and knowledge by engaging in the theories behind UX and UI. This is best achieved by enrolling in a dedicated UI/UX design course.
A quick Google search may reveal that there are an abundance of online courses available for UI/UX designers who are looking to provide their independent learning journey with a little extra structure. You can narrow down your search for the ideal course by assessing the curriculum for each shortlisted course and identifying any courses that may cover areas that interest you most, or you feel you require a little more direction with.
There are some advanced UX and UI courses out there that engage with design principles and how they differ between different mediums or operating systems. If you have a particularly keen interest in designing apps for iOS over Android, for instance, you’d want to look for a UI design course that walks you through the process of developing iOS apps using XCode.
Alongside engaging with design principles and how they differ from platform to platform or even from different devices, UI students are also advised to familiarise themselves with all of the universal laws of UX to the point where they can ideally put those principles into practice. After all, there’s no better way to learn than by actively doing.
We don’t necessarily mean finding your own app or website to play around with either, because if you do feel that you’re not ready for this step, then it’s by no means something that you should feel the need to jump into. Instead, you can start off by getting to grips with UI design tools like Sketch or Adobe XD.
These development platforms can help you test out your understanding of UI design principles in minimal risk contexts.
Finally, a superb way of concluding your self-learning journey is by moving from your sketchbook to a blank canvas, so to speak. Once you feel comfortable with building prototype designs in UI design tools and confident in your understanding of UI design principles and UI best practices, you can have a crack at putting all of your knowledge and newly developed skills to the test by creating your very own user interface from the ground up.
This could be either a digital portfolio site, an eCommerce enterprise, or even just a personal blog using a blog template that you’ve created yourself. Regardless of whatever form your project takes on, creating that debut user interface will instil you with all the confidence that you’ll need to perhaps even seek out your first professional role in the field of UI design.
Want some suggestions on how to pursue a career in UI after learning online? We urge all UI and UX design graduates as well as self-taught students to seek out networking opportunities in their local area. You’d be surprised by just how much you can learn by attending industry seminars or even by making an appearance at social events hosted by tech and design bodies.