All good designers love a challenge and adhere to Dieter Ram’s principle of design, “Good design involves as little design as possible”. It’s not rocket science if you know where to look. Less is simple. Less is not confusing. Less is up to the mark.

A good challenge comes from pushing boundaries and setting no limits to creativity. But, like all the other exceptional UX/UI designers across the world, one should know that creativity alone won’t float the design boat.

What makes UI/UX design an attractive career choice?

For most designers, it’s the freedom to express their thoughts through the medium of design. It leads one to question every aspect of experience before purchasing anything.

At the heart of all design lies aesthetics and utility. When a designer hits the mark on both, it’s a job well done.

Or not.

Design is a never-ending process. One must always go back to the drawing board and refit, reshape, and continuously improve a product. The need to do better and satisfy users gave birth to user experience design.

But, before we get there. Let’s dig a little deeper.

The brief history of UI design 

According to Interaction Design Foundation, UI, or User Interface design, “is the process designers use to build interfaces in software or computerized devices, focusing on looks or style. Designers aim to create interfaces which users find easy to use and pleasurable. UI design refers to graphical user interfaces and other forms—e.g., voice-controlled interfaces.”

There are three main formats for user interfaces:

How did UI become mainstream?

  • The Xerox Star workstation introduced the first Graphical User Interface (GUI) in 1973. The “hamburger” menu, widely used today, first saw light in this interface.
  • In 1983, Apple introduced Lisa, the first computer to feature a GUI.
  • Lisa went down in history as the first personal computer. Things started to look real; people had taken note. Companies like IBM and Compaq followed suit and created their prototypes.
  • In 1985, Microsoft dropped some big guns and introduced Windows 1.0. Yet, it was only after 1992 that it began to mimic others to develop its own GUI.
  • By 1997, we were carrying our bulky laptops to work, and the 2000s were the era of smartphones, bringing a new form of UI.
  • In 2007, Apple revolutionized UI for handheld devices with a touch-screen GUI.
  • Today, voice user interfaces and designing for the metaverse is all the rage.

Did UI and UX evolve simultaneously? Or has UX design become a prerequisite for UI design?

What is UX design, and how did it come to life?

User Experience design is an integral part of UI design. It’s the process designers, and design teams use while creating products that will ultimately provide meaningful experiences to the users. This involves branding, market research, designing, usability, and functionality.

A UX designer is expected to broadly follow a five-pronged approach that includes:

  • Empathy: A UX designer must gather user data by different methods, such as interviewing the user, contextual inquiries, and user observation.
  • Define: To define a product and help bring it to its final form, UX designers should analyze data and evidence while performing an information synthesis.
  • Ideate: Collaborating and brainstorming with developers, other designers, and even users is critical in the UX design process. Without which any UI design is simply designing interfaces that may not be practical.
  • Prototype: Paper prototyping, high-fidelity wireframing, or other prototyping is another necessary UX design process.
  • Test: Finally, a UX designer must run the prototype through usability and user tests to determine whether the product is faulty and how best to improve it.

When did UX design take shape, then?

UX design has always been around us – even in how we live our lives. In the 40s, Toyota placed its employees at the forefront. The company paid heed to what the employees said, taking all feedback into consideration. This was a critical step in defining what would later be termed “user experience.”

In 1955, American industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss talked about ethical design, the responsibilities that come with it, and design’s commitment to public service. A landmark move that quickly became the true north for designers worldwide.

By the 60s, “Design Thinking” was doing its rounds, and as we approached the 70s, Apple transformed interfaces and user experience design. But it wasn’t until 1995 that the term “User Experience” was coined by Donald Norman, a cognitive scientist at Apple. This leads to the question –

Can UI exist without UX?

UI and UX are two sides of the same coin – one can’t exist without the other. However, you can still independently be a UI designer without any UX skills and vice-versa. Both constitute separate roles, tasks, and processes.

Some go the extra mile to state that UI is UX design, and that the latter has a slight upper hand. For both UI and UX design – the end goal is the same. While UI design deals with the aesthetics of a product, UX design determines whether the product’s aesthetics matches its usability.

How to find a good UI Design? 

Good UI design is:

  • Simplistic
  • Clear and concise
  • Intuitive
  • Consistent
  • Familiar
  • Empathetic
  • Inclusive

Yet, for good UI design to incorporate all these qualities, it requires a little help from a UX designer that knows how to get a product to its final stage.

What are the qualities of a good UX Designer?

Ask any great designer, and they will be quick to tell you that problem-solving and the ability to be a team player are the two most important traits a UX designer must possess. An individual can create designs, but a basic level of testing or a team review is crucial to determine how others perceive your visual thought. It also helps one find anything missing or any issues, because multiple eyes are always better than just two.

Patience is another key trait a UX designer must bring to the table.

But, that’s not enough. To excel as a UX designer, you must also be:

  • An excellent communicator
  • A storyteller that weaves magic through words and visuals
  • An enthusiastic learner
  • A mistake-maker and fixer
  • A creative soul
  • An open-minded leader

And, most importantly, the user. A great UX designer always puts himself in the users’ shoes and works relentlessly to improve the product.

What Role Does a UX designer Play in Designing for Sustainability?

All design should be honest and, more importantly, environmentally friendly. We are designing for a better future and design should always be backed with a positive intent.

Were you aware that the internet contributes to approximately 3.8% of global carbon emissions every year or that in January 2021, 4.66 billion people were using the internet? That’s 59.5% of the global population.

We can’t fight the numbers. We need the internet. Some of us are addicted to it. But with a little effort, designers can help reduce these numbers.

Start small but make big changes.

  • Build a website that’s green in color. Place CTA buttons in green as it’s more likely to translate into a conversion.
  • Choose renewable sources of energy – yes, choose the sun.
  • Don’t crowd the UI with unnecessary elements and buttons. The lighter the website, the better for the world.
  • Choose a green host.
  • Find ways to improve your SEO and rank better. The easier it’s to find you, the lesser the power consumed.

It’s up to us to save the planet, and if building a website can help us get there, we must leverage what’s available to us.

So, do you think you have what it takes to make a good UI/UX designer? It’s not just designing; it’s a responsibility. It’s about providing a service to make someone’s life easier and better. Make sure that you’re ready for this, commitment, and only then ask yourself, “Is this the right path for me?”.

At Pepper Square, we Simplify Interfaces. We’re not just product designers; we’re also product thinkers. We are both the creators and the users. Want to join us in delivering exceptional experiences to our clients? Find a role that fits you best.

Are you looking for an experience-driven digital solution for your product or service?
Author Alka Jha
Alka is the Chief Creative Officer at Pepper Square. She has defined the user experience for some of the finest global brands over the last eight years.

Green UI - Designing for the Future