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My Foray into UI/UX. – Noteworthy


It starts here.

Oluwatobi Afolabi
Photo by Gia Oris on Unsplash

The Beginning:

Like a rock into a pond, the idea dropped in my mind. A few months ago, in April, I, a writer, developed a sudden interest in User Interface design and so as any writer would do, I started reading about it. I was overwhelmed with the sheer amount of resources available online, from articles to YouTube videos and even dribbble shots from other designers. I signed up to newsletters, for free ebooks, bought courses, read articles, watched videos. I had all the time in the world, having just lost my job right before the lockdown caused by the coronavirus started.

It was all a bit overwhelming, but also quite welcome because it was new, but felt familiar, I guess my interest in design wasn’t so sudden(I did study art after all and I tinker with Canva a bit. If that counts. Lol.)

After weeks of reading, I decided to venture into my very first design and using Adobe XD, I designed the most awful log in screen I’d ever seen, even I, an amateur could tell that it was terrible.

But I was oddly proud of those first two screens and now I go back and look at them to see the rapid growth that has brought me here, to now.

The First Step

At first, all I was interested in designing were pretty screens that enticed users, with bright colours and novel icons and cool illustrations. I’m ashamed to admit it now, but design to me meant arranging icons, words and illustrations on a page without doing the very important work of considering the users and figuring out how to solve their problems quickly.

I also wasn’t aware of the sheer amount of work, research and careful introspection that other designers put into their work, I assumed it was like graphic design, where balance and contrast and colour were mostly what mattered. And this is not to shit on graphic design or to say that these things do not matter in UI, but I soon found that there is a certain deliberateness that is behind the placement of a single icon or button, and it’s never just about the aesthetics alone. There is a precise and thoroughly fascinating process that allows designers to gain insight into the mind of the user, simply by asking questions.

As a writer, I know and understand the power of words, the importance of communication and I believe that user experience is a form of communication. User experience research is a product designer’s way of communicating their desire to help their users. Good user experience is a way to tell users,

“I see you, and I’m here to help.”

So because I was willing to learn, my mindset was quickly reversed and as I consumed resources daily about the process, I trained my mind to see user experience in everything and for me, that drives home the importance of designing for real people to solve real problems.

The Second Step

Next came the fun part, I got to learn new things. I signed up for a course on Udemy on Adobe Xd and watched YouTube video after YouTube video. I also signed up for the Daily UI challenge after a friend told me about it and each day, I woke up excited to get the mail in my inbox essentially directing me to hone my skills. I sort of abandoned XD and started to use Figma instead.

I’d design screens each day, sometimes do prototypes and send to friends, who always had constructive feedback to share.

Shoutout to Eniola and Damian!

I still wasn’t completely sold on User experience, because after speaking to a few people in the industry, I found out that one can choose to be a user interface designer alone. I had that goal in mind and I was working towards building a UI portfolio, with the designs I made daily. They did improve from the first awful screens I made, but I still have a lot to learn, and I am so ready.

Which was why I signed up for Pelumi Adeyemi’s Design Class. It was a decision I made on a whim while scrolling through Twitter, pretty much like my decision to even start design in the first place. A few days later, the class started and my mind was opened up to new possibilities.

My First User Experience Research

In a class of about 22, there were people with varying degrees of experience with user research and then there was me, completely new to all of it. It was exciting for me to be in the same space as other designers, learn from the facilitator and other students. I had no expectations, only that I wanted to expand my (hard and soft) design skills, and I wanted to build a portfolio.

We were placed into groups, with each group handling a product that we were to design from scratch. That was exciting because I got to be part of and witness, a user experience design process and also see how to create something tangible- user interface from the results.

I was assigned leader of my group and we were to design a product called Lynes, which is a cloud-based journaling app. My job was a little more tasking because I had to rally my group members, hound them for their contributions at each stage of the design process.

I felt like I knew how the app would look and work, even before carrying out any research(there was that arrogance again) but this entire experience has sold me on user research for life. Read the case study here.

We set goals for the product, which was a mix mash of features we wanted it to have and the problem we wanted it to solve.

I created a basic survey via Google Forms and the results were extremely fascinating to me.

I gained new perspectives, discovered things I never would have if I hadn’t asked those questions and there it was. My mind had shifted completely from just creating pretty screens to having this desire to make the life of a user easier, because why else do products exist?

The part I enjoyed most has to be crafting the user personas. As a writer who conjures characters all the time, it was almost too easy for me to use these new insights into the users’ mind to create these people- who felt real to me, as all my characters do- who would be using our product. With the help of my team members, I highlighted their goals and pain points and once again, my eyes were completely opened to the invaluable need for user research because who would I be designing for otherwise? The answer is obvious.

Pelumi’s UX

Classes were typically supposed to be for two hours, 7–9 pm each weekday, via Google Hangouts, and it was strange to me at first because I was used to taking classes during the day. It occurred to me, however, that the facilitator and even other students probably had work, and maybe even school. Yes, we were all sort of relegated to remote work due to the global pandemic but remote work was still well…work.

To me, that was the very first indication of Pelumi’s character.

That somebody would be willing to give up his evenings that he could have spent relaxing to teach people, teach me, was something I didn’t think I could do.

But he teaches, and he does it so well. So gracefully. There were no stupid questions, there was no such thing as going over a particular idea too many times.

Pelumi is the most helpful, most patient guy, he’s truly good at what he does, and I don’t mean just design. I can still hear his voice asking,

“Do you guys understand?” because he was constantly insistent on carrying everyone along.

I don’t think I could have done any of it without his help. His expertise, boundless patience and grace have pushed me a lot in this journey, and I’m certain the other students will agree. Pelumi’s user experience? Top-notch👌🏾.

Now

I am still learning, incredibly excited about all the possibilities stretched out before me, the things I can do and create. I could never take this new-found knowledge for granted. When I went into user design, I knew that my writing skills would come in handy, especially in writing copy.

However, I’m most grateful for the ability to effectively communicate my entire design process because, without it, there would be no designing real products or writing real copy.

Right now though, I’m most grateful for being able to write this story you have just read.



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