Finding Inspiration for Your UX and UI Design
It happens to all of us, you get stuck. Here are some ideas for getting unstuck with your UX/UI design project.
Do the Thing
When we approach a UX/UI design, it’s tempting to go right to an existing product or process and pick it apart. This has value, and our own heuristic evaluations can inform our designs. But it can also limit our vision and viewpoint to just what is already there. Interviewing users is another great option. It can help us see other viewpoints. To really get inspired though, sometimes you have to get out of the office and try it yourself.
One Design Thinking coach uses her first project to illustrate the importance of immersing yourself into an experience. She was hired to redo the web site for Michigan’s public aid program. When she arrived on her first day, they handed her a stack of paperwork and told her to apply for aid. She was dressed in business attire; heels and a silk blouse. It was the hottest day of the summer. She spent 3 hours wandering around downtown Detroit attempting to find not just the location of the building where applications are submitted, but also transportation to get there. She had no cell phone, no car. By the time she finally found the right location, she was frustrated, sweat-soaked silk stuck to her, and got to face an application that was half an inch thick. While she could have easily reviewed the current web site and forms in an air-conditioned office, she learned much more about the full experience by actually attempting it. If you want to test this out, Stanford’s d.school resources and exercises are a great place to start.
Go to the Web
Chances are your design checklist has a step for conducting competitive research. You probably also visit the usual places online for ideas and trends, places like Behance and Dribble. While these are great, you can go further.
Don’t just visit the competition’s web page. Get hold of their product and fully test it out. For example, if you are working on an in-vehicle infotainment system, drive several different cars to get a feel for not just how the UI works, but also how it is integrated into the driving experience. Do strange sounds, vibrations, or lights distract you? Can you reach the controls you need? Again, you are looking for the entire experience, not just how it looks or even how it behaves in a controlled environment.
During your competitive review check out social media and review sites as well. What are customers saying? If you only visit your competitors’ sites you’ll only see the most glowing reviews. You can find professional reviews at places like Consumer Reports and CNET. Depending on the type of experience, Amazon or Yelp offer real user feedback. Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook can also give you direct access to a pool of users that could be hard to access on your own through interviews or user testing.
Sometimes the best thing to do is just stop trying to design and take a break. Shifting focus lets your mind continue working on your challenges in the background while you get a much needed mental break. Some pretty famous creative people, Steve Jobs for example, used walks to break up their day, get exercise, increase creativity and productivity.
Whether your UI design relates to navigating your city or not, taking in your surroundings gives you ideas about how things are done and how people behave. From visual inspiration in architecture or ads to people watching, our worlds are full of ideas. Observing people helps us to understand how they behave and think, as well as increasing our empathy. Often we can get stuck not just in at-the-moment inspiration, but also in doing things the way they’ve always been done or how we think about a process or product personally. No matter how often we remind ourselves and our teams that we are not the user, we are still human.
Practice this even when you aren’t currently stuck. Keeping a file of things you find online, jotting notes when inspiration strikes, or taking pictures with a smartphone can help you build this mental muscle as well as be a resource for the next time you get stuck.