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Being a developer wanting to be a designer, I'm really interested in learning how to create top notch UI for websites, mobile apps, etc. However, I know nothing about PhotoShop or anything related to design except for HTML and CSS.

Where should I start? How do I learn how to create beautiful designed websites and interfaceS?

Thanks!

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migrated from ui.stackexchange.com Mar 30 '11 at 20:08

This question came from our site for user experience researchers and experts.

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Do you want to be a UI designer or a graphical designer? Judging from your question, you're talking about graphic design. If that's the case, then you better take this up at GraphicDesign.SE. –  Vitaly Mijiritsky Mar 30 '11 at 18:22
    
See also: stackoverflow.com/a/58947/568458 –  user568458 Jul 25 '12 at 16:26

5 Answers 5

As a former developer who has become a designer, there's a few things I'd suggest. First and foremost, start working on designs! If you have the ability, find a mentor who is already a UI/UX designer and start working with them on projects. I found I learned more by actually working on projects and absorbing knowledge from people who have been doing this for years than I ever did from reading a book.

That being said, if you do want to read up on UI/UX/etc., I'd take a look at this excellent thread:Must-read User Interface Book? I think my personal favourite is Steve Krug's "Don't Make Me Think" - but I'm sure you'll find your own favourite eventually.

Lastly, with respect to tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, etc... don't worry about it! Ultimately you'll find the tools that work best for you. Personally, I start with pencil and paper mockups, then depending on the project I'll either move to something in Balsamiq, or Axure, or sometimes straight HTML and CSS - it really depends on the project's size, scope, etc. Use whatever is most comfortable for you. At the end of the day all that matters is that you clearly communicate your vision for your design, not what tool you used to do it.

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I agree with everything you said. "Don't Make Me Think" is an excellent book. And it's an important point to remember that to a large extent it's the web designer's job to create a usable website. –  Steve Wortham Feb 11 '11 at 16:40

I've been mixing design & development for a long time. But in the early days I spent more time learning the editing tools than what makes a good design. There are plenty of tutorials to be found to learn how to use Photoshop, Illustrator, Fireworks, etc. But it's nice to have some design sense & direction. This is something I still want to become better at.

One of my inspirations is a guy named Robby Ingebretsen, because he does both development and design extremely well. His website is at nerdplusart.com.

There are a few things I'd take a look at from him...

As he talks about in all his presentations, I think it's critical to find inspiration for your designs. Even the best designers don't simply come up with this stuff out of thin air. One of my bookmarks is a collection of "New Graphic Design", mostly seen in print work. Most of them are very simple, often using the typography itself as the main graphic elements. As simple as it seems, just browsing through stuff like this can help you shape your design.

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I went to the web site, and the first thing I saw was "Silverlight crashed, reload to try again"--and that was the only thing. Lesson learned: gotta provide a backup if you depend on a plugin. Once I refreshed I can see why you like this guy. –  Berin Loritsch Feb 11 '11 at 17:23
    
+1 for Robby Ingebretsen as a resource. –  David in Dakota Feb 16 '11 at 16:29

Just like learning Visual Studio does not make one a good software developer, neither will just learning Photoshop make one a good UI designer.

If you want to go the formal route, an education in Art/Graphic Design, Human Factors, Psychology, Information Artchitecture/library sciences would all be places to look.

Informally, get to work! ;) Best way to learn is just do it.

I'm a formally trained graphic designer who has picked up software development skills on the job. I started out of pure necessity.

Personally, I think the best UX team members are those that have a mix of both skills. So, I think you are on the right track.

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I'd start with reading the book "Head First Web Design" by Watrall & Siarto (published by O'Reilly). It's pretty no-nonsense, easy to digest, and walks you through everything that a designer has to consider. It's not an in-depth study, but gets you started to know what questions you need to answer next. It does cover navigation, organization, layout, writing, color, and accessibility.

Also, before you jump into Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, or whatever, wireframe your design to make sure everything is in the right place before you commit the extra time to making it look pretty. You can sketch it out on paper or whiteboard, or you can use a tool. A tool that I found really helps in this step is Balsamiq Mockups. It lets you think about the site organization and layout first.

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I actually took the opposite approach from UX Designer to UI Developer, however, when picking up on Design, would recommend a couple areas to start:

I would take a look at the book "Don't Make Me Think!" by Steve Krug, which I think is a great book on designing for designing on the web.

There are tons of great web resources including SmashingMagazine.com and PSDTuts.com, which give great current articles in the world of design and web tech.

I would also take a look at understanding the principals of HCI if you are looking specifically on becoming a UX Designer.

Good luck and happy designing!

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