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My apps look ugly as sin. How do I improve my design skill?
27 points by psycovic23 1282 days ago | comments
I've been working on apps where packaged themes don't quite cut it due to UI requirements. I've never had technical trouble implementing ideas, but my layouts, colors, and general UI leave a lot to be desired. How do I improve my design know-how?



I just compiled a list of reading (and watching) materials for this yesterday. Here you go:

http://blip.tv/djangocon-europe-2010/idan-gazit-design-for-d... (great overview of the major design aspects - nearly 1hr)

http://media1.kadavy.net/allthefontsyoulleverneed-kadavy.pdf

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4X4f83C8ANg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkJ6fPPRA5Q

18min http://vimeo.com/1542721

http://journal.drawar.com/d/we-do-not-need-you-to-design-any...

http://designingfortheweb.co.uk/book/ (free)

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Awesome collection! Cant wait to go through all of them!

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Don't.

Go here: http://themeforest.net/category/site-templates/admin-templat...

Purchase a theme for $20 that would take you weeks to design and more time to slice and code. Get profitable, then hire a professional designer.

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I agree with dchuk .

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Gathering skill will take time, so for that read up on the sources often linked here. But to get your apps looking less than fugly asap, just copy others. Buy some cheap wordpress themes, view source, rip them apart to pick and choose individual elements. Copy the CSS from the best designed sites out there.

Initially it will feel like you're cheating, but over time you will learn the patterns and develop your own style.

EDIT: This couldn't have arrived at a better time - https://postgres.heroku.com. Just look at that beautiful design. A lot to be learnt (and copied!) there.

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Agreed. It's very easy to learn by example, and with all the great CSS frameworks out there you won't need Photoshop to produce good-looking widgets. A lot of my early designs were based on ideas from this book:

http://www.amazon.com/Web-Designers-Idea-Book-Vol/dp/1600619...

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There are a number of resources that can be found via Google (i.e. "app design") but Smashing Magazine has some good articles relating to app design and layout in general. You can also try searching for "beautiful apps" which brings up links to collections of different apps that might provide an idea. As far as color goes, I like searching for web site templates or 'best web design of 2011' collections and finding a color scheme that I like or think would work well with the general feel of what my product does. Remember, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery"

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An easy first step is to focus on spacing and alignment. Make sure everything is consistently spaced with equal distance between items. This will make even a mediocre layout look better designed.

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I used to stress about making my apps look good. Now I just use Skeleton (http://www.getskeleton.com/) to cover the basics and when my app is ready I pay a designer to make something that looks awesome.

Other options include Less Framework (http://lessframework.com/) and Twitter's Bootstrap (http://twitter.github.com/bootstrap/)

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I like http://colourlovers.com. I can choose what I like as a color and then see 4 other colors that other people felt went well with it. Saves me the brain power.

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If you've got anything that needs work, maybe we can help demonstrate by critiquing it:

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2971477

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This is a great guide: http://paulstamatiou.com/startup-web-design-ux-crash-course

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Copy. Modify. Repeat many times. Pretty soon you'll be doing "original" work that's really the sum of everything you've learned copying other people + your influence.

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not out yet, but i like the approach of this book (i got some good tips from the mailing list)

http://www.amazon.com/Design-Hackers-Reverse-Engineering-Bea...

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Google: "PSD UI" you will find tons of elements to make a web app.

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Hire a professional designer and spend your time programming. I personally don't think skill of "designing" can be learnt, it's something you already have, adjusting and refining all the way.

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That is as silly as the myth that mathematics is either something you have or you don't.

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