UX design is an essential aspect of product and Web development that focuses on creating meaningful experiences for your users and creates significant business value. An effective UX design improves a product’s usability, learnability, and accessibility and fosters user satisfaction.
One key element of a successful UX design for a product or Web site is its visual design: the presentation of information through clear visualizations, color, and typography, as well as the products branding and overall aesthetics. Good visual design draws users’ attention to important information and functions. Through the effective use of graphic elements and the strategic placement of content, you can ensure that your users see what they need to see to accomplish their goals and complete their tasks successfully.
Therefore, as a UX designer, you must also possess graphic-design skills—both to enable you to express your design solutions more effectively and to create compelling user experiences that attract users. In this article, Ill provide some useful graphic-design tips for UX designers.
1. Harvest Inspirations
While every designer should value originality, you can learn to appreciate new perspectives and harvest inspirations from others’ works of art and graphic-design solutions. Many apps and Web sites provide design inspirations that could influence your projects. For example, Pinterest stores billions of images that people—many of whom are designers—have shared, or pinned, and curated. You can search for design inspirations that could meet your projects’ needs.
For UX and visual-interface designers, sites such as Dribbble and Behance are a goldmine. They host huge communities of passionate designers and are great sources of fresh graphic-design ideas. You’ll find huge collections of graphic-design solutions—from simple logos and banners to iconography—as well complex UX wireframes and design prototypes.
2. Be Observant and Analytical
Design trends come and go, so focus on new design concepts that can deliver lasting value. To gain a deep understanding of how and why a design solution works, consider the design principles on which it is based. Observe how the designer used various elements in the design. Look at the color combinations, the use of space, hierarchy, and the choice of typography to understand the designer’s motivations behind the use of these elements.
Learn about the role of psychology in design so you can anticipate how people react to illustrations and graphic-design elements. For example, the psychology of color enables graphic designers to elicit specific feelings and emotions from your audience.
Always be observant and analyze the desires and needs of your target audience. Being able to influence the ways your target users react to your design solutions is a valuable skill that every UX designer should have.
3. Choose the Right Fonts and Iconography
Fonts represent an organization’s brand and reflect its character. As a UX designer, you must choose fonts and iconography that are in harmony with the overall look of a product or Web site’s design. Use fonts that improve legibility and provide a comfortable reading experience for your users.
Providing a clear typographic hierarchy is important because it expresses the organization of a product or site’s information, according to its importance. This helps readers to navigate the content, guiding them to where particular content begins and signaling where it ends.
Fonts are always an important consideration in graphic design. Your choice of fonts and typefaces strongly influence the effectiveness with which you can convey a site’s message.
4. Use Coherent Color Palettes
Colors affect people’s moods. For example, red connotes passion and love. Green represents nature. Orange inspires happiness. Our perception of color is deeply embedded in our psyche. Therefore, many designers learn about the psychology of color to ensure that they create maximally effective designs. Use colors that complement each other in subtle ways. Ensure that the colors you use contrast sufficiently with one another, especially the contrast between text elements and their background.
The tool Adobe Color CC offers a vast collection of colors and palettes that can help you in creating your designs.
5. Create Illustrations and High-Quality Images
The purpose of graphic design is to deliver messages in a direct, attractive, and clear manner. Illustrations and photographic images are core to graphic design. If you use them properly, they can be effective in creating a strong connection with your audience, building a strong narrative, and creating a smooth experience for your users. Images can evoke specific emotions in your audience. Images that clearly represent your organization, product, Web site, or service help your visitors understand your intention and clearly convey what you’re offering. Background removal can help you to present uncluttered images that do not distract users.
As a UX designer, use illustrations and other images to clarify concepts, processes, and complex ideas. They are effective tools for communicating messages and can help users make effortless decisions.
6. Align Page Elements
Alignment is one of the most important principles you’ll learn in graphic design. You must always apply the principle of alignment when designing for the user experience. Carefully place all of the elements on a page so they line up properly and create a harmonious composition. Alignment helps create balance in images, as well as among the elements on a page, ensuring that your designs are visually appealing. It also creates visual connections between page elements and makes your designs appear neatly structured.
By aligning page elements properly, you enable your audience to make conscious decisions about how the elements interact with each other. Good alignment helps express the relationships between page elements. Without alignment and structure, your design elements would be all over the place and make no sense to users.
7. Apply Visual Hierarchy
Leading users’ eyes by visually expressing page elements’ order of priority is one of the most important practices in UX design. By communicating a clear visual hierarchy, you can create a layout that lets users easily perceive the significance of every element on a page.
The first page element that grabs the user’s eyes should be that at the top of the visual hierarchy. This is the most important element in a design—such as a page title or a brand name. The next elements that draw the user’s attention are subordinate to those that have preceded them.
You can apply visual hierarchy in design by manipulating elements’ sizes, font weights, colors, contrast, and typographic styles. By helping users to determine which information to take in first, you can lead them in the proper direction, without having to explain what to do.
8. Use Visual Direction and Patterns
Visual direction creates the illusion that movement exists within a design. You can systematically place page elements to intentionally guide users’ eyes from one area of a page to another. While visual hierarchy leads users’ eyes by manipulating elements’ visual characteristics, visual direction guides users by placing elements at specific locations on a page and applying patterns to them.
UX designers should know what pattern to use based on the purpose of a page. Such patterns can guide users and help them scan a page easily. For example, the Z-pattern is perfect for a page that is not content heavy and effectively addresses branding, structure, hierarchy, and calls to action. In contrast, the F-pattern is best for pages that have a lot of content—such as on blogs, magazines, and newspapers. The F-pattern lets readers who prefer reading content from top to bottom and left to right scan such pages comfortably.
9. Create Clear, Clean Designs
Cognitive fluency is important when designing for user experience. You can apply strategies that make it easy for users to complete a mental task, helping them easily make sense of what your product or Web site is all about.
One solution is to apply a visual hierarchy that provides direction and leads users instinctively to important details or information. Another approach is to use whitespace, or negative space, to help users navigate through a page’s content and make information easier to digest.
An informative Web site does not mean one that is packed with information and, thus, overly crowded. A minimalistic approach to design always lets you accomplish more with less.
10. Don’t Be Afraid of Feedback
Once you’ve created a design, it’s time to put your work out there. Share your work with your colleagues. You can either post your work online or share it privately. Don’t be afraid of receiving feedback. Ask people for their opinions. Seek constructive feedback. If you occasionally encounter people who aren’t capable of providing constructive feedback, pay them no heed. Watch for criticism of the technical details of your work. Take recommendations with a grain of salt and a receptive attitude.
Now that Google considers page experience—the way users perceive their experience of interacting with a Web page—as a page-ranking factor, it is essential that you consider every aspect of a page’s design, including its visual design. Therefore, learning graphic design should be a priority for every UX designer.
By improving your graphic-design skills, you can drastically improve the aesthetics, usability, and accessibility of your design solutions. When creating a visual-interface design, consider your users’ needs and the comfort they should experience as they skim through the pages you’ve designed. Achieving good UX design is a challenge, but adding another skillset to your UX design skills can help you to meet that challenge.
Jenn currently works for Removal.AI, an automatic background–remover platform whose AI technology can remove backgrounds from images for ecommerce sites. The company also provides professional photo-editing solutions for various industries. As a UX designer and front-end developer, Jenn has more than eight years of experience and has designed hundreds of Web sites for various clients around the world. In 2014, she created her own Web site that offers high-end WordPress themes to bloggers. Jenn frequently writes about design, technology, and digital marketing. She loves UX design, Web and mobile-app development. Read More