28 Dec, 2021

The only true way to become a better designer

A lot of people argue what is more important, good UX or good UI, and I always tend to say - both. If one fails you can't make an impact on your users. However often times users don't think of what the UX is and value a product based on its looks.

Table of contents


Denislav Jeliazkov
Founder @uilearn

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You might have heard the term just iterate, especially if you are working with startups.

What does this actually mean?

The design process covers starting from Research/IA, Wireframing, Visual Design, Prototyping.

Iteration basically means when you tackle a specific problem you just keep digging down to find a better solution. For example, you start designing a news feed and you are happy with the way it’s turning out and instead of tweaking that one screen you make a new artboard so this first screen is your starting point of reference.

And you try to improve minor details add or remove unnecessary elements.

When you go to prototyping you go back go Research mainly to test out your idea and you dig down again in the same process so really it’s an endless loop and you always need to be back and forward.

So after you have gathered some valuable feedback on your designs you open the sketchbook sketch some more ideas, bring it to a tool of choice, and start trying to improve.

Color, fonts, images.

When you start developing a better design intuition you will find out this process super easy as when you have feedback from people you will form the ideas in your hand and it will be super easy for you to accomplish the user goals.

In the research phase, you can also see how other apps are solving this problem that you want to tackle, my favorite part is actually not looking for exactly the same screen but whole apps and discovering patterns that is something new and interesting and I gather it for future reference.

What you are doing currently might not be the solution for this project but you can always come back to this for some other project and already have solved this problem.

“What we call a design solution is just an assumption.”

Three key elements of the Design Process Cycle


The idea of seeing the process as a cycle shouldn’t be limited to the big picture. A design process, which is the phase where we collect inputs from the context and deliver possible solutions to be implemented, could also follow this approach. In this case, I have identified three smaller phases that we as designers should keep in mind every time we address a problem of any size.

“Through iterations, designers understand, explore and validate their assumptions, with the ability to always go back and forth through this process until the assumption achieves a lower risk of failure.”

The importance of seeing the design process from this approach addresses the need to improve our capabilities to explore, validate, and improve our solutions effectively. Imagine a design solution as a car passing through an assembly line in a factory, every iteration is like an assembly station where we shape the solution a bit more every time. Until the final product has less possibilities to fail when it’s confronted with the user’s context.

1. Understand first, design later

Understanding is the foundation for the solution of any problem. It might seem very basic but many times we forget this, even in our daily life. How many times have we tried to make a point in a discussion before having a real understanding of the initial problem? In design, the risk of addressing a solution without proper understanding can transform into a new problem once it arrives to the user’s context.

2. Iterations and exploration

Once the problem has been correctly understood, the phase starts where the most important tools are questions. Technically speaking this should be the phase where we design screens, prototypes, and any other assets, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. From my perspective, the core of this stage is about making hypotheses, like this one:

3. Validating assumptions

This is the phase where solutions are reviewed in order to validate our assumptions. It’s not just about asking for feedback, the real goal should be to confront the possible solutions, as result of the previous phase, with simulated realities. If the previous phase was about making questions, this is the phase where these questions find answers in the form of inputs.

“A simulated reality is an effort to recreate a context where iteration can occur. It’s a context where the assumptions can be tested.”

Who should we ask for validation? There are many inputs we need to consider when we want to validate a solution. I like to see those inputs as circles of validation.

“Designing a product is a collaborative effort. A designer is only one gear in the design team engine.”

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