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I am an app developer. Most of the time I will build the apps' user interface by myself, thus resulting in functional but not appealing apps :-(

Like this -> one (link to AppStore)

For a few projects, I was out-of-idea (probably out-of-skill) and then I became open-minded. I let the designer go with what he considers good. I take the work fully and built the app.

Like this -> one (link to AppStore)

However, most of time things do not go extreme. For a project or two:

  • I had some sort of art direction in mind
  • I talked to the designer about what I wanted
  • The design came back with a draft
  • I was not satisfied and asked for another version
  • After two iterations ... didn't work out
  • I paid the fee for the draft and I gave up (and the project was dead)

Now there is dribbble and I see great design works. Every time I hit the Hire me button, I hesitate. I am so worried that I pay but do not get what I pay for.

So, what's correct way to convey with designers. In software, requirements are clearly laid down with a screen flow storyboard, plus functional requirements of how each UI element work. How can I tell a designer what to design if what I want is something I cannot imagine?

I almost wanted to write to a designer, "Can you build a UI for my app like that artwork on http://dribbble.com/__?" But I worried that could be offensive.

Let's use a real example. I have just finished -> this app (link to AppStore)

But I don't think it's good looking enough. If I am going to talk to a designer, what should I write to let him know:

  • I want my app to look good
  • I wish the design is minimalism
  • The numbers and alphabets should be in font that is available on iPhone, not bitmaps (as I want to let users change fonts)
  • I wish the design is good for both keypad layouts (one fewer keys, one more)

Thanks for reading a long question.

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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Maybe:

Dear Designer

I saw your portfolio on dribbble and liked what you did so far, especially xyz. I myself am an app developer and seeking a designer who will redesign my app.

Here are the functional requirements.

Here are examples of apps that I like.

I understand it would make no sense to ask you to build an interface exactly like the one I linked but hopefully it will give you an idea what I am looking for.

Here are some artistic requirements I came up with:

  • I want my app to look good
  • I wish the design is minimalism
  • The numbers and alphabets should be in font that is available on iPhone, not bitmaps (as I want to let users change fonts)
  • I wish the design is good for both keypad layouts (one fewer keys, one more)

I hope this gives you a clear understanding of what I am looking for. Please let me know if you are interested in this work.

Best,

ohho

How can you tell a designer what to design if what you want is something you cannot imagine?

Designers have to work with technical requirements all the time. And their job is to come up with solutions for those requirements that no one has thought up yet. So I don't see how this process is incorrect in any way.

The biggest issue I have is what you said about the last designer. Three versions and no satisfaction? Surely possible. But I find it unlikely that there was no solution even coming close. Unless you have a specific image in your head on how it should look. Because then you have the designer guessing for it. And from my experience, this doesn't work.

So my best guess is: be very very clear about the requirements. No matter how technical. And maybe explain why you weren't satisfied with the last design. Make clear what went wrong so you don't have to repeat the same process again.

A few words about your requirements:

"I want my app to look good" This is very subjective. You should find a way (perhaps through examples) to describe better what that means and to what audience it should appeal.

"The numbers and alphabets should be in font that is available on iPhone, not bitmaps" You can actually include different fonts in your app, so that's not really the issue.

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Three versions and no satisfaction? The example is about a clock design. I briefly said, a retro feel. What I got is indeed a retro clock. However, that's not good enough (my guess is watch design is not his area). –  ohho Jan 25 '13 at 10:17
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Like Lauren said, you got what you asked and weren't happy. Without further detail it's hard for a designer to correct the work. Or in other words: If meeting the requirements isn't good enough, what will be? –  KMSTR Jan 25 '13 at 11:49
    
I am drafting an email to a designer using your template. Thank you! –  ohho Jan 28 '13 at 9:01
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I almost wanted to write to a designer, "Can you build a UI for my app like that artwork on .....?" But I worried that could be offensive.

No, for me as a designer that would be great. In fact, I ask my clients deliberately, "Find me other sites you like so we can both agree on what you're looking for." Having the same picture in front of us at the same time — well, there's a reason the "thousand words" cliché was coined. (I also ask "Find me sites you hate so I know what you don't want.")

I think if you got three iterations from the designer but weren't satisfied, then you were not communicating clearly what you wanted. "I wanted a clock design, retro feel" got you three retro clocks. But if none of them made you happy, why? Did you explain what bothered you? Did the designer respond by fixing exactly what bothered you?

"That's not good enough" is not sufficient art direction. I need to know what's wrong. It's too Art Deco? It's too fussy? Not enough contrast? Too crowded? Hard to read?

As KMSTR notes, some of your requirements are subjective. "Minimalist" to you may not mean the same thing to me. So showing me a picture and saying "make it like THIS" is actually really useful. I can at least get a feel for what appeals to you.

Now, it's also my responsibility as a designer to open my mouth and ask you questions before doing work. "Okay, so a thin typeface, a lot of white space in the center, but a warm wood feel rather than high-gloss metal, right?" And then you can immediately agree or disagree.

I think most of your workflow is fine; you just need to add details and get feedback sooner in the cycle.

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"That's not good enough" is not sufficient art direction. I need to know what's wrong. It was mainly my mistake. I saw a few retro clocks. However, I did not tell the designer what I saw. Only after I received draft work from the designer, I realized we were too much off track ... That was when I didn't know pointing to a reference work of another designer is ok etiquette. –  ohho Jan 25 '13 at 12:43
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