User Interface Design

I attended a user interface training event today from DevExpress, after which I highly recommend UI design training for every developer. Whether you create business applications, web sites, web applications, tablet or phone apps, or whatever, if you have a screen that your users interact with, you should care how well your information is presented on that screen.

Within my company, I can already identify some areas of improvement. I was initially blown away by the speed, capability, and flexibility of our product, as well as the design and elegance of the code it runs on. I am still extremely impressed with it, but I have occasionally found the usability of our UI lacking. Little things like the placement of buttons, the emphasis given to controls on the screen, and the use (or lack of use) of whitespace all make a difference in the usability of an application.

For years I have been intimidated when it came to user interface design. I have thought to myself, and have said out loud that “I am not artistic, so I shouldn’t be a designer.” One problem with that thinking is, as a developer in today’s environment, visual design of an application is inescapable. Chances are that you cannot get away with strictly creating web services, OS services, or simple console applications that perform work in the background. If there are such programming jobs available, they’ve probably been filled already, and the people filling them probably have no intention of giving their seats up. The alternative, then, is to realize that you are creating user interfaces already, whether you like it or not, and to create them the best that you can.

As I learn more about UI design throughout my career, I realize that it is actually less of an art and more of a science. In fact, the more artistic the UI, the greater its chances are of reduced usability. Over the past few years I have become increasingly intrigued by the biology and science of User Interface design. I also seem to have a knack for identifying usable and poor designs. This new perspective helps me to realize that just because I am not artistic doesn’t mean I can’t create well designed user interfaces.