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Where to get experience in UI design?

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parsonsprojectsWhere to get experience in UI design?
by on May 12, 2006 at 7:20:36 pm

Hey everyone...I come from a print design background, but I'm interested in learning more about User Interface Design for the web.

Does anyone out there have experience in this area? And if so, where did you get your experience? I think I would prefer to take classes, but I've had a hard time finding classes specifically about UI.


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Curtis ThompsonRe: Where to get experience in UI design?
by on May 12, 2006 at 10:48:37 pm


that's pretty much my job, really, so i feel qualified for once at least! :-)

i taught myself everything, but i was lucky in that i was able to grow with the web - i started doing sites back in '97 or so when you couldn't even center things on a page, so it helped me to pick up techniques as the web evolved. but it does take some sort of underlying sense, i think, that can't be taught or learned. you really do have to think differently than traditional design, but i think with a print background, it is in there, as you are used to designing things to catch people's eyes in certain ways...

that said, there is the very techincal side of ui design, which is hci (human computer interactions). this is a very in-depth study of how best to create interfaces (both hardware and software) for users with regards to (guess what) computers. this is a field that you can get a degree in:

but there is also just basic usability. this is easier to teach yourself, but being good at it certainly takes practice - here's a good site for references and a quick link to their page of suggested books:

i think a good base place to start is to understand that a lot of good established usability principles are established and good for a reason - they work and are really the best way to go about things. things like scrollbars - there's a reason that they are where they are on a page, and when flash developers, etc. take liberties and put them in odd places, it might look cool, but ultimately it's hindering your users, and that's not good. it's not to say that design isn't always evolving and changing, but going with accepted trends and then expanding on those creatively is typically the best route.

maybe also try to specialize - find an area of usability that works for you. for example, i tend to specialize in user interfaces for manging and displaying data. forms, graphs, sites that provide users ways to interact with large amounts of data. some routes take different understandings than others - in my case, doing this type of interface requires me to stay on top of changing web functionality - especially in the areas of javascript and dhtml. things like ajax and the sorts are very useful in making great interfaces, so knowing how to use them is important. so i've ended up doing a lot more programming of my own interfaces in a variety of languages. but that's just my route. some of the best hci people can design perfect interfaces and they don't know a line of code...but they know what their options are technically so they can make full use of them...

so anyhoo - that's a quick ramble. in terms of single classes - you are right...i've not seen a lot of those around either, which is too bad. if you're going to teach yourself, the best thing to do is just take every opportunity you can to practice and learn - look at a wide variety of sites (news sites to data sites to visual sites) to see what each site makes use of and why - then try making your own whenever you can get a chance and you'll pick it up soon enough...and reading if it works... :-)

hope that helps! feel free to ask any other questions that you might have...


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