6 Exercises and Resources that will make you a Better Designer
With the ever-changing world of web design and development, we have to keep ourselves updated and constantly in motion in order to get the better jobs, and be better designers ourselves.
But sometimes it is difficult to keep track of the new tools, the new ways of nurturing yourself with enough knowledge, that you feel you’re a little left behind.
But worry not, pals ;) Because this is my job, and today, I’m gonna tell you some exercises, so that your colleagues look in awe at the new skills you have developed. Just read up on this tips, tools and exercises, and you’ll definitely be on the good track to becoming a better designer later.
1. Build a trustable source of news and design related blogs
This is a never-ending work that requires craft and a little bit of attention everyday. Don’t worry, five or ten minutes a day will probably do. Use something like Feedly to search for good sources and pay attention to them every day. In the morning, during lunch time, any time you have some extra time to drift off work for a little while, go on and check on the latest news for web and UX/UI designers and you’ll be up and running on what’s going on.
Some trustable and very interesting sources are:
Sidebar.io: The 5 most important design links of the day, every day. These tend to be really well put together, and will generally give you a good representation of the news for the day.
Designer news: Same concept, but the people in this case choose the best links of the day. A version of Hacker News, but for designers.
Nielsen Norman Group Blog: Beautiful set of articles with a focus on research and methodical writing. Very professional, very analytical. Everything you should be in order to be the best UX designer around
Studio by UXPin: A great blog by the guys at UXPin. They create great content, and often release free ebooks about UX practices that are simple and great tools for learning.
Designmodo: One of the classics that never gets old, Designmodo is a norm in the world of design blogs, and it’s still very influential.
Pixel2HTML: A little humblebrag here, we have weekly posts on UX/UI design for all your design needs, and useful guides that’ll help you be a better designer
2. Learn the new tools that are crowding the market:
A few years back, Photoshop was the only weapon of choice, and *+Sketch** was making it slowly. But this has now changed. With Sketch being more and more used, even that is changing, and new tools are emerging with the new needs of the market.
Now there are a lot of tools for UX Designers that can solve and make your workflow easier, and many are a must for job requirements. In 2016, there are many apps that have flourished and might help you create beautiful things as a UX designer, such as interactions and different kinds of wireframes:
Proto.io: This is a great prototyping tool that has gathered a lot of attention lately. Learning it how to use it properly might give a new life to your prototypes and make them more lifelike to your clients, thus earning you a lot more credibility and ways to show off your work.
Framer.js: Same as before, but it requires to be knowledgeable in some code for properly using it. However, the rewards can be big, and the ability to prototype new non-existing patterns is a big plus.
InVision: InVision is an all in one tool. It lets you prototype, give feedback and iterate on your design with your team. It is a great tool for overall work and works as a charm, with your clients and team being able to give direct feedback, right on the design to avoid confusion.
After Effects: After Effects has also set itself as a kind of standard for prototyping animations. And as an Adobe CC tool, it can integrate quite well into your workflow. Here’s how to integrate it into a UX design workflow.
Pixate: Pixate is another great tool for prototyping that lets you see your prototypes live in their devices, worth a watch.
UserTesting: For User testing and seeing how your users interact with your design, this is a great tool. It gets your results in an hour and it’s great for quick feedback.
Optimizely: Same as before, but focuses on A/B Testing.
3. Create work and more work, and iterate
This video has great advice for the starters, and it’s completely true in its entirety. Always and constantly work. Focus on generating great stuff, and iterating over and over it like there’s no tomorrow. Constantly iterating and trying will make you the best work that you can be proud of.
Do work every week. Make sure to finish something you can show every week, so you have new and exciting content for your portfolio.
Use InVision to gather constant feedback and see what works and what doesn’t.
Take a look back at your work and see what things you could improve and why. Always look for a reason, this is the basis for any good UX work.
4. Find a Mentor, or follow up on online courses for paid mentorship
Advice from a mentor or from professional UX designers will be of great help when trying to improve your skills.
If you’re lucky enough and have enough time, try to get in forums, ask interesting questions, show your work for reviews, and eventually you might be lucky enough to get a good relationship going with someone that can mentors you. This is the natural way of getting a mentor and it’s great, but difficult to achieve.
The easy way is to look for help in User Experience courses like the ones in Interaction Design Foundation. These will give you reviews of your works or assignments by experts, and will help you gather very important feedback that can help you grow. This is a kind of mentorship, it’s easier to get and it’s awesome.
Skillshare and also has a set of interesting courses and gives you deadline for deliveries that you can take advantage of, take a look!
If you like to learn at your own pace and still get certified you can also take a look at our friends from Platzi who offer courses free and paid both in English and Spanish.
5. Exercise: Create a Wireframe of a Website you’re in love, and another of a website you hate
Wireframing it’s not the most important part of a UX workflow, but you’re damn right it’s needed. You have to become a master of this in order to properly craft interfaces before you dig deep into the design aspect of it. For this, a good exercise is to pick two websites: One that you love, and one that you hate.
Let’s start with the one that you love. Pick it out and start wireframing its elements one by one. This will be a simple exercise to map out and properly identify everything in a layout. The one where you’ll have the most fun is the design that you hate the most. Pick something that frustrates you to the point of no return, and start dissecting its elements as before.
This time, though, edit its elements and start creating a layout that’s more to your liking. Figure out why you hate it, and what could make it better, and then voila! You’ve made yourself a great exercise for practicing your critical skills.
6. Another Exercise: Select an app simple enough, and lay over the user flow of it
We love exercises! Don’t you? This one is like the wireframing, but it requires a little bit more work. This is why you have to make it simple: with a very complex app you’ll go crazy.
Select an app that you like, and start by drawing it’s user flow. Do it easy, probably on paper, and make sure to be detailed enough to mark all the different paths a user can take:
What’s the golden flow of this app? Make an ideal path that you think the designers created for a standard user
What are all the options and paths you can take? Make sure you cover all the options in every case, be as detailed as possible.
Is there something that could be done better? What would you change? Make sure to improve it if you think there’s room for doing that.
All of these are a few things that you can do to make yourself a better designer, take them seriously and apply them constantly and you’ll get better in no time. Although design is something that’s constantly evolving and changing, keeping up and constantly practising will help you keep yourself at the top of the game, and improve your game like no other.
Do you have any other tips that can help everyone be a better designer? Let us know in the comments.