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Design for Software: A Playbook for Developers by Erik Klimczak

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Chapter 9: Visual Communication

“How do I design a clean UI?”

IF YOU WORK in the technology industry, you’ve undoubtedly had clients say they want an application or website that’s intuitive, user-friendly, and clean. And if you’re like me, you probably sit in your chair rolling your eyes thinking, “Of course you do, who doesn’t?” What would the alternative be anyway—a hard-to-use, cumbersome, cluttered app? What do the terms innovative, intuitive, and clean even mean? What’s worse, as designers and developers, we’re usually hard-pressed to articulate what those terms mean to us.

So, exactly what is a clean design? A clean design combines clarity, consistency, and order; it’s stripped of all superfluous elements. Those attributes might seem a little obvious, so my plan is to show examples of what these things mean when creating software.

But, first, step back for a moment. In spite of the slightly dry title of this chapter, I named it “Visual Communication” because I want you to look at things holistically, rather than at the pixel level. As with many things, once you understand the basic principles of design, it’s too easy to fixate on a particular aesthetic trend or style and completely miss the big picture. Instead, remember, everything you do will affect the user’s experience—the labels, colors, alignment, and even the text casing. Knowing this, reflect on this question: “What am I saying with this design?” All those rounded corners, gradients, and giant font sizes may look ...

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