Whether you are an artist, writer, blogger, designer, photographer, musician or any of the hundreds of other creative personalities, today is a day for you! May 30th is now being celebrated as National Creative Day, to acknowledge, motivate and inspire everyone whose personality is particularly creative. If you look around wherever you are reading this, apart from nature, everything you can see began from a single creative spark. This is a truly fascinating fact, and therefore a fantastic reason behind today’s celebration.
As a creative and a designer myself, I can tell you that finding that initial spark to create something does not come easily. Sometimes days will pass and I will still be struggling to discover that ‘light bulb’ moment. The temptation to hit my head against my desk begins to get stronger and stronger as the struggle continues. Even so, design isn’t meant to be an instant process. It takes time in order to develop a final product, through constant trial and error. As the American novelist, Jack London, once said:
“You can’t wait for inspiration; you have to go after it with a club”
Therefore, instead of using a desk to ‘beat’ the inspiration into myself, I prefer to follow a UX/UI approach to my work. However, before we continue, I’m sure a few of you may be asking what is meant by UX/UI? Well, UX (or User Experience) design focuses greatly on optimising an effective and enjoyable experience. UI (or User Interface) relates to the visual and information design of the screen, and is more often used to complement the product design through its presentation. By combining knowledge of the two areas to design, a much more thorough and successful creation can be produced. So, what is the UX/UI approach?
The very first thing that a designer has to do before starting any design, is look at the brief that has been set. This can range from being an extremely in-depth explanation to as little as “re-do this for me”. Therefore, the designer must do their research into the current product (if any) in order to gain an understanding of what is needed from them. This is done through a number of different methods, that when combined, will produce a detailed list of requirements that the designer will need:
- User research (personas, interviews and observations, user stories)
- Existing product analysis (the pros and cons of the current product)
- Competitor analysis (pros and cons of similar existing products)
- Technological constraints
- Functional requirements and objectives
Once the research has been completed, the designer can then define what they actually need to create. A well-written list of requirements is vital before even thinking of any designs. The content of the product should dictate its navigation and flow, not the other way around. Therefore, a detailed spec should be produced and remain the focal point of the design throughout. If this remains at the centre of the design, it is a lot easier to determine the information architecture and feature capabilities.
Now the designer can move onto the ‘fun’ part of the process. The design section can take the longest to complete by far, as there could be a huge number of different iterations needed before they even begin to get onto the right track. Due to this, it is wise to initially generate ideas through the means of ‘wireframe sketches’. These sketches do not have to be anything special and not a lot of detail is needed in order to create them. This can save plenty of time and effort for the designer, yet still allows them to portray the initial ideas to the clients. However, even though the wireframes do not have to be very detailed, it would help if a detailed system/process flow accompanies them. This will assist in clearly explaining how navigation throughout the product will happen.
Once an agreed wireframe and system/process flow has been chosen, the UI aspects of the design can now begin. This will consist of transforming the wireframes into high-fidelity mock-ups, allowing the client to see visually what their product will eventually look like. These high-fidelity mock-ups are include of brand identity and stylisation such as:
- Colour scheme (in relation to the branding of the company)
- Font choice and size
- Animations and graphical content (consistent icons throughout the design)
- Layouts of each screen and the responsive designs
Again, as with the wireframes, these mock-ups will then be taken back to the client for approval. After being confirmed, the designer will now have to create an interactive prototype in order to allow for user testing. User testing is vital in the design process, as it allows the designer to gain direct feedback from their target audience. As they will be the ones mainly using the product, it would be foolish for the designer to ignore their input. A prototype can be created in two ways; either coded or using a prototyping programme. Designers may not be as confident as developers in coding their work, and therefore creating a coded prototype is not always the favoured option. On top of this, there are plenty of prototyping programmes available that are able to import designs that have been created for the high-fidelity mock-ups. This can speed up the production time of the prototypes, yet still allows them to be completely interactive for testing (even if they aren’t fully functional just yet).
Throughout the entire design stage, the designer will be constantly following the iteration cycle. This very simple cycle can be entered at any point and consists of four sections:
- Idea generation
- Feedback and evaluation
- Make changes
It is always desirable to make sure that all four sections of the iteration cycle have been covered before progressing through the styles of design, as this should hopefully reduce the amount of overall iterations that the designer has to make. It will also improve the overall quality of the final design, as there will be constant external input coming in from the target audience and client.
Finally, the designer should always evaluate their final design, even when it has been published/created. Remember that there is always room for improvement, and technology is constantly changing.
Even though I may be a little biased in writing this, I do feel that it is extremely important to recognise the hard work that actually goes into the creative process. It’s easy to overlook how much effort is actually put into the things we all take for granted. From music to literature, art to fashion, all have been grafted and crafted from nothing. So, embrace your own creativity and support your creative friends. Just remember, as Albert Einstein once said:“Creativity is contagious; pass it on”