One of our main aims with this blog is to help our viewers to decide the best software feasible for designers. There are many things to consider when evaluating software such as price, platform, reliability, speed, etc. but I think the most important thing is design. Design is what makes the difference between the software you have to use and the software you want to use. Sadly, the word “design” implies different things to many people.
UI design is the total concept and the whole complex of texts, images, layouts, animations, videos and audible elements, navigational patterns, physical and/or virtual controls, even tactile and maybe aromatic experiences — anything — to engage with the user.
Graphic design largely deals with just visual aspects, which can also be found within other media like animations and videos. Colors, lines, shapes, patterns, icons, illustrations, photos, all kinds of imagery and ornaments, they all belong in both domains.
I’m going to analyze to unblock some possible confusion about software or application design. While there are all various kinds of design, I prefer to keep things easy by dividing it into two categories: graphic design and user interface (or user experience) design.
Graphic Design is what most people think of when they think of design because it’s the easiest to observe. Graphic designers select colors, separate images, design logos, and do other very visible assignments. This type of design is similar to what most people would consider “art”.
If graphic design is creativity, then User Interface Design is art. UI designers can estimate how software and users communicate with each other. When you submit a form, what happens? How are users notified of errors?
Great graphic design means the software looks pretty. Great UI design involves the software is effortless to use. Great graphic design is Apple. Great UI design is Google (many of their products anyway – just don’t mention Android or Google Docs).
It’s best for software to excel in both categories, but if you have to pick one thing to focus on, I believe that UI design is much more important in the long run. As I mentioned above, UI design can also be referred to as “User Experience Design” (there are small differences, but they’re the same). I think most people would agree that it’s better to have a great experience than it is to look at pretty pictures and colors.
So when you’re trying software in the future, try to pay attention to the UI decisions that went into it. Don’t be distracted by shiny icons and brushed steel. Instead, check to see if the navigation makes sense. Make sure the error messages are helpful. Consider if the software makes you click way more times than it should. Try to figure out if the designers were interested in your experience, or if they just wanted it to look cool.
I’ll finish this blog off with a few examples. Here are some remarkable sites that highlight good graphic and UI design:
Great Graphic Design – Envato
This is a moderately basic site so the UI isn’t too important, but what classy is this site is attractive. Envato has a lot of other sites you can check out from their home page and they’re all excellent examples of great graphic design.
Horrible Graphic Design – Craigslist
Craigslist is famous for how crappy and old their site looks. People love the gimmick, but there’s no denying that the site is ugly. Also, the UI isn’t any great either.
Great UI Design – Gmail
Gmail is not the only software that does this by any means, but they were one of the first (that I noticed anyway). When you act, rather than popping up an annoying window asking “are you sure?” you can just keep going with the task and then Gmail allow you to undo it later if you want to. This saves a lot of clicks since 99% of the time you did mean to act.
Horrible User Interface Design – Sales force
Sales force is riddled with the horrible design of all varieties, but I want to point out the worst UI design I’ve ever seen in my life. When you log in for the first time from a new computer, Sales force sends you an email to activate your computer (you can’t access the site until you do this). When you click the activation link, you see the screenshot below. It tells you to go to the login page. So, now you know what differences are there in UI and Graphic Design and also you know which design is good and which is bad. Grab the knowledge and just thrive in to make yourself a good designer.