User Interface Design
We combine your vision with our expertise in app and web design to create a product users love.
Why Great Design Is Important
Interface design plays a very important role in app and web design. The right visual design will not only look appealing, but will reinforce your brand image while facilitating a pleasant user experience. Through a design engagement with CRi, we will work to understand your brand, create pixel perfect high fidelity mockups, define a style guide and design specs. We combine our user experience practice with our expertise and experience in interface design languages and trends to ensure your website or mobile app will succeed.
The web era we live in today is rich in information, interaction and experience. As the web continues to evolve and mature, more importance is placed on clear, responsive and accessible design. As the range of devices that can surf the web broadens, web design must become adaptable and responsive.
Designing native iOS apps requires knowledge of Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines, understanding of App Store guidelines and a well rounded understanding of good user experience. With a definitive set of clear native design patterns, designing for iOS often involves a unique balance of native UI elements with custom touches to set your product apart.
Native Android apps follow Google’s Material Design Guidelines. Though Google has designed it as a platform agnostic design language, it is best known as the design system used on the Android operating system. Understanding Android design, interactions, and the variety of variances each device manufacturer can apply to the OS is crucial to creating a great Android app.
The design phase is typically the phase that requires the most feedback and collaboration between CRi and your product team. It goes hand in hand with our user experience research and is a part of our user experience process. The design phase is iterative and should evolve as features grow and become more refined. Here’s an overview of the process.
Understanding your customers helps ensure we’re positioned to achieve your goals. We also align designs with your brand to reinforce your brand image, all the while meeting the design guidelines for the platform. This understanding comes from user research and meeting with those who understand your companies brand image the best.
After discovery and initial user experience research is complete, we collaborate on wireframe prototypes that establish layout, placement and flow. We also begin collaborating with your product team to define the look of the app or website. We gather feedback from you and your users, and work towards a singular, unified design aesthetic. The outcome of this step is high fidelity mockups that are used by the CRi design team and all project stakeholders to give clear direction on all the details of the design.
Once we have the final set of high fidelity mockups, we can start detailing out the specifications of the design. These specifications will also help developers as additional features are implemented in the future. Using the design tools below, the specs are delivered in a way that optimizes efficiency and allows developers, internal or external, to inspect the designs and get the exact details they’re looking for.
One of the big challenges digital interface designers have to face today is accounting for the seemingly infinite range of screen sizes and pixel densities. Gone are the days of all screens being 72dpi and having the luxury of knowing that users will view your website or app on only a small range of screen sizes. Customers expect websites to be responsive so they can be viewed on all their screens and devices, from their 4k TV all the way down to their smartphone. To accomplish this, it’s necessary to use responsive practices to determine how layout and content should change to best fit the format for the device the user is using.
In addition to varying layouts, we must account for screens of higher pixel density, such as 4k and 5k screens, Apple’s “Retina” displays, and a large range of Android high pixel density screens. If this isn’t accounted for, images will look pixelated or will be displayed at the wrong scale.
All of this means we need to be aware of the responsiveness of the website or mobile app to ensure it is a great experience across all mediums.
Language is a powerful thing. Having a shared understanding of language helps make communicating with each other quick and clear. Visual design languages help users navigate an interface and achieve their goals quickly and easily. Understanding native design patterns is understanding the different dialects that make up native app design. Following a platform’s native design patterns ensures users understand how to navigate an app and helps users accomplish their tasks quickly and easily.
The major platforms in the smartphone world offer their own set of design guidelines. Following them can increase ease of use for the user, can speed up development times, and allows the app to automatically adopt design changes that accompany many operating system updates.
The user interface design language is constantly evolving as trends and technolog rapidly change. Staying up to date on the details of today’s design patterns and native design paradigms is essential for a successful product.
Discussing accessibility often means either making a product easier to use by persons with a disability or impairment, or making a product more accessible to users who may otherwise struggle with language and cultural differences, cost, or having the resources to use all the features (robust enough device, access to necessary hardware, etc). The degree to which a website or mobile app needs to be accessible varies depending on target user, but keeping accessibility in mind throughout the project often has great benefits to all users. Accessibility and user experience go hand in hand, but foundational accessibility starts with user interface design.
When designing to be accessible, it’s important to consider all users. Form should follow function. People often want beautiful and artistic apps or websites, but many times focusing on that will make for an experience that’s hard to navigate, difficult to read and completely unusable to some people. If it’s difficult to use, you will lose users, and worse, could suffer legal action. Leveraging the beauty of simplicity and clear navigation often creates a highly usable interface that all users will appreciate. Four key principals to an accessible interface design are: color contrast, navigation, touch target areas and affordance.
Though some of the more challenging accessibility guidelines require manual testing to ensure compliance, there are tools available that can speed up the testing of your interface. Some of these tools will scan entire pages while others require manual testing. When used, they provide a clear method to verify that all requirements for the accessibility level you’re targeting is met.
With the rapidly changing world of web and app design, new tools emerge regularly. We frequently reevaluate our toolset by testing them against industry standard tools and new cutting-edge tools. The following are the current set of design tools the Solutions design team utilizes.
Sketch has quickly become one of the industry leaders in UI design. It is a vector based design program for interface design. It has built in tools for various screen sizes and densities, a good asset management and export system, and is expandable via a massive community developing plugins. This tool is the basis of our high fidelity mockups.
InVision is a powerful tool originally built for prototyping, but has continued to expand and now has integrated powerfully well with Sketch. This allows us to turn hifi mockups into interactive prototypes which helps create better context to how the content will be consumed. Being able to interact with it and view it from the device it is designed for helps us quickly determine where changes need to be made before development has spent the time building it.
Craft is a plugin created by InVision and allows us to quickly upload designs to InVision, prototype InVision projects directly in Sketch and manage assets and symbols.
Creating inspectable style guides is made very efficient with Zeplin. By uploading a Sketch project to Zeplin, developers can click around and inspect individual elements, get font styles, ask questions, and view some of the code used to create that style in the language they need. Creating static style guide documents feels like the dark ages after moving to something as interactive as Zeplin .
Since the industry is constantly changing, we’ve gained experience in a wide set of tools. Some of these have been replaced, other are used on an as needed basis. If you have any questions about these other tools feel free to reach out to us.
Adobe After Effects
Want to provide the best user experience?
CRi’s User Experience team will help define a great experience and interface for your mobile app and website. Message us below to get started, or call us at (402) 926-2000.