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How to improve as a UI designer

Here are some methods you can use to get better at user interface design.

Daily UI

Take a look at Daily UI. They send you a prompt every week day by email, and each prompt is some part of an interface you can design, such as a checkout form.

Regular practice is important to try new things and build up your mental toolkit of techniques. If you need help understanding a prompt, Collect UI is a website that shows Daily UI submissions organised by the prompt.

Study how others do it

There are lots of places you look at for inspiration, whether you just want to study what people are doing out of interest, or because you're working on something specific and need some ideas to play with.

Dribbble is where most of the UI work is happening. Unfortunately the focus on UI work means there's less focus on designs that could actually be built in the real world, and there's almost no thought put into usability. Use with caution.

Over the years I've put together a long list of websites that collect together examples of good design. Here they are:

Copy how others do it

If you see something you like the look of, or something that's popular, try to recreate it in your design software of choice. You'll learn more than you think just by taking the same steps that the designer did.

For an introduction, read "Copy If You Can" by Erik Kennedy (More on him later).

Also read "Reverse Engineering The Invision Interface" by Jose Bento, and watch the video at the end.

Books that focus on UI design

"Designing Visual Interfaces", by Kevin Mullet and Darrell Sano, goes through graphic design principles and how they apply to software interfaces. The examples are from the last century, but the principles are still relevant today.

Steven Bradley at Vanseo Design has written a book called "Design Fundamentals". It covers graphic design principles in general, and not always in the context of software interfaces. The sections on "Volumes and Mass" and "Patterns and Textures" are rarely covered elsewhere, though.

If you want to really dive into things like how shadows should be rendered, you can look into books about drawing like "How to Render", by Scott Robertson and Thomas Bertling. It goes into a lot of detail about shadows and light, which could be applied to interface design. Keep in mind that some interface rendering is not very realistic, and a book like this won't teach you those unrealistic techniques.

The Refactoring UI book is very good.

"Designing Interfaces" is a book that focuses on UI. Take a look here.

"Building Beautiful UIs" is an upcoming (As of this writing) book about UI, released as a companion to Adobe XD. You can find some early draft chapters here.

I wrote another post that covers books for every sub-topic of UI design.

Shameless Plug

I run a website called Better UI Design that gathers up techniques for polishing a user interface beyond the standard layout, colour, and typography. Take a look: http://www.betterui.design

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