By Amit Verma
I joined Dreamscape 5 years ago as a front-end developer. There was one more CSS developer at that time. Our profile was straightforward – receive PSDs, convert to HTML, handover to developers, and help in layout issues during integration. I was also assigned maintenance responsibilities for certain clients, where I had to take in content updates from them, and push them to live on a regular basis.
The work was not particularly challenging, and life went on.
Bringing out the unknown
I clearly remember the day and how it happened. Hungama has been one of our important clients. We had designed the UI and UX for the music app when it was first launched. Since then, they have engaged us for various design work for different products within the company.
Hungama wanted UI help on a music app for Jaguar’s touch screen interface (Yes, Jaguar!). At that time, we did not have a lead UI designer, as he had left the company recently, and there was very limited bandwidth with other designers to take this up.
Saumil came up to me, and asked me if I would do this. I had very limited design experience. But we have worked well together, and he assured me complete support to deliver the work. I jumped into it.
What happened next is a different blog article :). But for the next 25 days, I was lost in a maze of typography, colors, placements, layouts that I had never treaded before. I needed some help, but I emerged from the project a lot more confident of knowing what I needed to fix to become a better designer. It was the starting point to what would become the most exciting part of my professional career to date.
This was followed by multiple projects, including another Hungama UI assignment, and the opportunity to design parts of a prestigious website for the Government of India, one of our biggest opportunities. All through this, I continued to build on my front-end skill set, especially a deep focus on mobile responsive CSS using Bootstrap and Jquery.
It helped being part of the system where I was counted as a designer, because it led to the most important project I have delivered as a designer.
I’m a UI designer!
Dreamscape was signed on as the design agency for a startup called The Bag Talk. It was an e-commerce platform that focussed on selling bags – their own bags as well as a marketplace for other bag brands, across all segments and demographics. Saumil came up to me, again. And it was on.
Needless to say, the process was challenging, often exhausting. Design is the first impression for any website or mobile app, and for a new brand, getting it right is an iterative, evolving process. You have to map what the client wants to project, against what are best practices and standards, to deliver an output that is top quality. The process sucked me in, and I found myself unwilling to take up any work over this. It had my attention. Saumil drove the UX, I the UI and the front-end.
The output for gratifying, of course. The site will be live in early January 2017, for the world to see. I am satisfied to have delivered an entire e-commerce experience for a top notch client. We covered information and navigation design, shopping flows, product displays, check-out experience, and related customer communications like emailers and notifications. I also designed the UI for their loyalty points platform, another unique opportunity for me.
Some key takeaways from The Bag Talk’s UI work
- Image selection can define an UI. Even at a spec stage, always identify and chose a product image that the client could go live it. I had situations when the same UI with a dramatically different choice of image got an approval after previously being rejected. It drives everything else.
- My experience as a front-end developer became critical in proposing designs that were pre-vetted for feasibility. Especially important decisions regarding the mobile experience, where my suggestions and inputs ensured that the final UI adhered to basic good practices of a mobile responsive website.
- I understood the importance of research and referencing for being a good designer. There were many situations when I was not sure how a particular page should be laid out, or where the design should emphasize or not. Saumil would insist on looking at other sites that do what we were trying to do (in terms of the product and in terms of the design). Invariably, we got an answer or we got the way forward to arrive at our own answers.
I realize I’ve just got started. Every new milestone as a designer also means a new journey to learn something new. I want to master mobile app design, I want to understand the UX process a little better, I know I need a 101 on typography…the avenues are endless. I think I have something unique to offer, with my skills as a front-end dev and my growing experience as a designer. I hope to share this journey here as I go along, sharing whatever I learn so that someone can benefit from it.