5 Essential Tools for UI Design Beginners in 2021
Starting out your UI design journey is an exciting phase in your life, which is why it’s important that you get the right knowledge from the right sources. To help make the journey smoother, it’s also critical to have the right tools for the job. In this article, we’ll look at some of the key elements for UI beginners to be aware of, what you should pay attention to, and what tools are essential to make your learning go faster.
Points to Remember
- Stay in a learning mode throughout. This means keeping an open mind about new concepts and new ways of looking at the world. Design is a vast subject, and nobody is an expert even though they may have years of experience under their belts. The best designers are always aware that there is an ocean of knowledge out there that is beyond their current scope.
- Don’t ignore established standards. Sure, you like thinking about the box, and design is all about creativity, right? Yes, it is. However, there are standards in design that you’ll be expected to know and be good with. Only after you achieve this level can you hope to go beyond and break the rules. Don’t do it at first because it will weaken your foundation.
- Opt for simplicity over complexity. Nobody likes complicated UIs if it makes it hard for them to navigate the site or app. Your designs might be brilliant, but if you don’t think like a user, you’ll lose your audience quickly.
- Anticipate errors. Nobody’s perfect. You may think that your design is “all that”, but don’t be surprised if someone pokes holes in it. Use that feedback to get better over time, and understand that mistakes are a part of the learning process.
What Should We Care About in Terms of Better Design?
- Understand Your Users. This is the most understated part of the design process. Unless you know your users, their intent, their preferences, and everything about them that is practically possible, you’ll find it extremely hard to design something that appeals to them. The broader your audience, the more touchpoints your UI design should embrace.
- Make it Easy. Your interfaces should be intuitive enough, so new users don’t feel like they have to climb a steep learning gradient just to be able to use the product. Again, simplicity is the key. Unless your users can quickly get familiar with the design, they won’t come back for the product.
- Give Rapid or Instant Feedback. If your user is doing something wrong, they often need instant or at least rapid feedback. It could be as simple as highlighting a required field that the user missed when filling out an online form. Whatever the scenario, make sure they get immediate feedback – along with guidance to move forward.
- Think About the Layout. Display types are constantly evolving, which means you need to assign the perfect layout that will match any device your app or site is displayed on. Understanding this evolutionary process will help you use the right sizes and dimensions for various UI elements.
Now that you know what’s important and where your focus should be, lets look at some of the tools that will make your work easier.
5 Essential Tools for UI Design Beginners
As a UI design student, you should be familiar with multiple platforms so you can make an informed decision about your preferred UI design utility when the time comes. Here are some of the best UI design tools you’ll need to be familiar with right off the bat. Below, we’ve listed three key features of each tool that will help you become a better UI designer.
Wondershare Mockitt is a comprehensive online tool for UI design as well as UX design. In addition, it comes with a full library of customizable and interactive assets, UI kits, design systems, templates, and other useful resources. The biggest feature, however, is its ease of use, which makes it the perfect utility for new UI designers.
The flowchart tool allows you to create user flows, which form an important part of the design process. This is where you test your design logic to see if a feature is practical, how to best implement it, and the easiest way to accomplish a task. It is critical because it will allow you to see flaws and redundancies in your design that you can correct even before creating the design. User flows also help the designer explain various processes to other project members, not to mention the client.
Although Mockitt comes with extensive asset libraries, designers often need to create special icons, logos, and other unique design elements for their main app or website layout. Mockitt’s design tool provides all the vector drawing and editing tools needed to create stunning new elements in just minutes. You also get full control over your design’s attributes, such as color, shading, blurs, shadows, etc. Drawing is easy with Bezier paths and Boolean operations, which are just two of the features this module supports.
Mockitt was originally designed as a rapid prototyping tool so this is its forte. Easy link-building, numerous gestures, transitions, and effects make Mockitt a convenient tool to quickly prototype your designs and test them out or validate your design logic with other stakeholders.
Zeplin’s strength is that it is well-integrated with other design platforms like Adobe XD, Photoshop, Sketch, etc. This makes it easy to transition between applications without losing your flow.
The ability to share design systems ensures that all designers are on the same page when it comes to content style, font types, etc. This brings consistency into the picture and, as a new UI designer, you should be aware of these best practices if you want to be a team player.
Zeplin is integrated with team communication and project management platforms like Jira, Slack, and others, making it easier to communicate with team members. Make sure you bone up on your knowledge of these platforms because it’s critical to your job.
Zeplin is available as an online platform as well as applications for Mac and Windows, giving you multi-device capabilities. Designs can easily be sent back and forth between these versions, making it easier to work on any system.
Balsamiq is one of the best wireframing tools around. It offers an excellent way to remove the design element and focus on functionality, which is often a designer’s biggest weakness. Being proficient with this platform will help you improve your design logic, which can be directly implemented into your designs.
Extensive Wireframing Components
You can easily find the wireframe equivalent of any icon, component, or widget in the built-in library. The drag and drop feature lets you build complex wireframes in very little time.
You can link your wireframe elements to create what is known as a click-through prototype. It’s not fully interactive but the process can be executed in its bare form, without any UI elements.
Focus on Function
As mentioned earlier, Balsamiq allows you to focus on pure functionality, without the distraction of having visually rich UI elements. This helps spot logical flaws and process errors, making the ultimate design flow better.
Sketch is one of the most popular design tools in the world but it is exclusive to Mac. If you’re a Windows user, it would be good to borrow a MacBook just to try this out. Sketch represents design excellence, offering an array of design creation tools that are relatively simple to use.
Grids and Guides
Sketch allows you to create pixel-perfect designs with guides and grids that help aid element placement, alignment, symmetry, and related aspects of your design.
A range of vector editing tools enables designers to tweak and modify designs to get them just right or add stunning effects to existing designs. Moreover, vector editing in Sketch is fairly simple and won’t take you long to learn.
Since most other major design platforms such as Mockitt and Adobe XD support Sketch imports, it’s useful to be able to apply presets to your Sketch export settings. This allows you to keep things standard and consistent.
Adobe XD is a preferred platform of many designers who also work with photo, vector, and raster content because it is compatible with Photoshop and Illustrator. It is also preloaded with an impressive library of assets, making it a very useful tool for designing UI layouts and process flows.
3D is a powerful element in UI design and Adobe XD allows you to easily experiment with 3D icons, buttons, and other components.
Once created, a component can be assigned a master status so editing that component across all your designs is a matter of a couple of clicks. This is especially useful when design systems are implemented across multiple projects.
Component states such as toggle and hover give your design a realistic feel, and once it is prototyped, it’s almost as if you’re interacting with the actual website or application.
Each of these 5 essential tools for UI design students and beginners brings a unique flavor to the table. Being familiar with comprehensive online platforms such as Wondershare Mockitt or pureplay wireframing tools like Balsamiq gives you a broader view of the world of design, allowing you to flexibly move between platforms with ease. Some are harder to use, but all of them will teach you a lot about the basics of UI design and set you up with a strong foundation.