Web Design Experts Discuss Importance of UI Design

Our June meeting featured a lively panel discussion on user interface design at LeanDog on the beautiful shore of Lake Erie. Thanks to Debbie Stahl of LeanDog, Custom Software Development & Consulting for sharing their beautiful ship shape office space.

Photos by Christine Kaminski

The 5 person panel consisted of:

  • Lisa Gruber-Gebby – a Principal of OrangeWall Creative a design and interactive firm with over 25 years experience. Lisa is the god-mother of the CDPUG Showcase.
  • Dallas Riffle – President of DRM, a growing full-service marketing agency in Fairview Park, Ohio.
  • Adam Corrao – owner of Corrao Designs, a website design and development agency based out of Parma, Ohio.
  • Heidi Cool of Heidi Adams Cool • Web Design & Strategy – a marketer and web strategist with 25 years experience in web development.
  • Remington Phillips – a CDPUG Past President and current Director of Digital at radio broadcaster Connoisseur Media.

The discussion began with some general comments from each panelist describing what user interface (UI) design means. Overall, UI has to do with how a visitor explores or navigates a website. It includes the design and elements of the entire site – buttons, menus, paragraphs, photos, etc. Simplicity and organization of information are key. The goal is to guide users to a destination. User interface (UI) is a small part of the entire user experience (UX). Lisa encouraged us to visit a great resource at usability.gov.

Visit usability.gov for more information on UX and UI.

Panelists continued to provide tips on the overall process. When you begin work on a website Dallas emphasized that you need to obtain or write your content first – then look at the layout. Everyone mentioned how important it is to have a goal and know who your audience is. What is it that your user should perceive? Is it a product or service? Heidi provided several hand drawn visuals showing how to take your goal and use it to create a site map and then a wireframe.

Dallas advised making sure all things have a purpose. He felt many sites have a lot of clutter. Designers should make sure they have a reason for adding something to an interface. Lisa brought up various sites both here and throughout the panel discussion as samples.

Remington mentioned that you need to analyze or look at the website for sticking points – whether that be by simply letting family and friends test it out or doing something more organized like creating a focus group.

The meeting continued with a Q&A session. When asked their opinions on sliders – everyone agreed that they tend to be overused and you need to limit them to 3-5 slides. Also, once again – make sure they have a purpose.

Someone else asked the panel how they address creating mobile vs. desktop set ups. Adam suggested using the “inspector” in Chrome (or similar tools on other browsers) to evaluate your site on different sized screens. 

When asked about customizing templates, Heidi mentioned that you may need the help of a developer or designer. In order to do it yourself, she also said it is necessary to know CSS, HTML, Java Script and PHP.

Adam and Dallas brought up the importance of using “child themes” to create new designs. This way, any code changes you make are preserved in the child theme and won’t be overwritten when an update of the parent theme rolls out. If you put custom code in the parent theme and it gets updated, your modifications would be lost.

Another member asked if it was possible to back up or preserve revisions to your sites in case clients want to go back to a certain version—like graphic designers frequently do. There were several good suggestions including using the “revert” feature in WordPress, using plugins to perform automatic backups (such as UpdraftPlus), and accessing backups saved by most hosting companies. To make things more organized, it is recommended you use your own naming system to keep track of which backups are which.

The Q&A session wrapped up with suggestions on how to get or update WordPress.

Remington concluded by reminding us of the importance of incorporating web accessibility tools so everyone can use your site and the sites meet certain medical, government and restaurant industry requirements.

Thank you so much to all the panelists for taking time from their busy schedules to participate. We appreciated your input and advice!

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