All successful products have, as their most important component, a well developed User Interface. Because it is very important that your product is launched with an easy to learn user interface, your team needs to have both an excellent User Interface expert and a great Visual Designer. JumpstartCTO explains how to use an Interface Designer and a Visual Designer to help you build your product.
Some Basic Terminology in the Design World
User Interface Design – [Definition] This describes the process of planning and building your product in a way that focuses attention on the user's experience and interaction. In terms of accomplishing user objectives, the goal of user interface design is to make sure that the user's interaction with the product is as simple and efficient as possible. A user interface designer may use information architecture techniques to arrange, organize, prioritize and label the interface elements.
Usability – [Definition] A product's usability is the ease of use and learnability of a your product's interface. We often refer to usability as the general concept behind a product's ease of use, but as with anything there is also a learning-curve associated with any new interface experience. As part of any product's development and testing process, pay particular attention to understand possible problems in the user interface. To do this, there are several Usability Tests that can help you find problems and also suggest possible ways to solve them.
Visual / Graphic Designer – [Definition] Graphic design is used to support the process of visually designing the User Interface. The visual design process is a balance between the dual goals of technical functionality on the one hand, and graphic elements on the other. Both objectives seek to create a product that is not only operational but also appealing to the defined target audience and its changing needs because it is both usable and suitable to their lifestyle.
The Mediation Between the User Interface Designer and the Visual Designer
The process behind the building of your product's User Interface is split between two types of expertise, one which is called a User Interface Designer/Engineer and the other which is a Visual/Graphic Designer.
The User Interface Designer usually in charge of conducting the different engineering processes that mend together your User Interface by first gathering all the information needed to build the User Interface. Some of these methods include 2D-object drawing and using a sketching tool such as Visio / Balsamiq / Axure / Omni-Graffle or others. One of the most important design outputs that the User Interface Designer creates is a wire-frame schema that is sometimes called just “wires” which are schematic in design and are a screen blueprint that represents the skeletal framework of the product's User Interface.
The Visual Designer then takes the “wires” output from the User Interface Designer and translates it into a complete visual concept. The Visual Designer will then add in all the graphic elements of the application in the prescribed colors and places, including only the necessary buttons, content, typography, and images that the User Interface needs. The output of the Visual Designer usually is done with a graphical editing software such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign.
Visual Designer has in most cases graduated from a reputable design school and has studied computer arts and graphic design. Conversely, the User Interface Designer ‘s background is usually based on engineering, and has studied fields like Human-Centered Design and Software Engineering.
Where to Look for a Good User Interface Designer
Finding a good user interface designer can be difficult. In this profession, because interest has picked up dramatically in the last 20 years, at present the market is in need for more User Interface Designers because demand is still much greater than availability.
The first place to look is at some of the more well-known consulting firms that are experts in User Interface design. These companies might be able to provide both the User Interface Designer and the Visual Designers you need. Sometimes finding them online is easy, check on Google or use your local Chamber of Commerce directory.
Freelance User Interface and Visual Designers are also very common, but finding them can be more difficult since they work through internal channels and their online presence can be somewhat limited. Looking and asking by word of mouth can sometimes work, and in my opinion asking colleagues for prospective candidates seems to be the best approach. You can also look in online marketplaces like Elance and Guru, but some of these may not bring you the best candidates. There are also some online showcase galleries such as http://www.behance.net/ that are more popular for finding good and well appreciated Visual Designers.
Another piece of advice might be to search for and read UI blogs and look for those who are behind them. Some of these writers are very talented and experienced User Interface Designers and it is very likely that they may be able to help you with your product or point you in the direction of someone else who will.
How to Evaluate the Design Outputs
Remember to keep going back to the same mantra, Test it ! Test it! Test it!
Testing the output of both the Interface Designer and the Visual Designer is easy. First, you can test the wires by using different methodologies such as Group Walkthrough and User Interviews. The main things to test are the ability of the user to understand the offering and to conduct predefined tasks while “Walking through” the interface step-by-step.
In the case of the Visual Design offering, there is a major emphasis placed on the common visual impression the art makes while paying particular attention to how the output looks in the eyes of different users.
It is important that you invest a significant amount of time searching and place a lot of importance in finding the right designers to help you make the User Interface of your product. This can be very crucial to the success of your venture and one of the most important investment decisions you will make in the early stages of your product depends on how well you choose your development team.