No-nonsense design that "just works" — that's my philosophy. Design that’s simple, functional, accessible, performant and pleasing to the eye.
For those interested in the details of the projects mentioned here, I suggest a look at my portfolio. Here, I will go through a broad look across my projects and talk about some of the behind-the-scenes processes that go into my digital design work.
New projects often start with a design sprint. Following that, I create the blueprint for the product experience — how the app (or site) will look and work. The deliverables are a prototype, a design system and a user testing report which act as blueprints for the full build of the product.
Just like an architectural blueprint, my design work sets the creative direction for the project. This means that stakeholders know exactly what will be built, and software engineers know exactly what needs to be built. Essentially, it demystifies the project and creates clarity and a product vision.
Damir is a *true* UX designer: when he works on something, from the tiniest little feature change to the biggest all-new project, his goal is to solve a problem for the user. Not only does he have a great sense of style and balance - he is also able to perfectly combine aesthetics with user needs. And to combine both with business requirements and goals.Fiorella Rizzà Senior UX Writer at Booking.com
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a prototype is worth a thousand requirement specification documents. Prototypes are the birth of an idea into a tangible form and they are invaluable.
Prototypes take me from a few days, to a few weeks to create. Building the full product often takes many months. We can start validating product ideas with about 1/10th of the time and budget by first building and testing a prototype. Does the potential audience "get it"? Would they know how to use it? Does this idea hold water, or do we need to go back to the drawing board? If we need to change course, we want to find out now. Not months from now. And, that's why prototypes are invaluable.
I use Figma for prototype creation. It's my all-in-one design, prototyping, and dev handover tool.
Take some of my prototypes for a test drive:
- Ideaverse (created in Sketch & InVision)
- NSW Climate Data Portal (created in Figma)
- Boston North End Public Art (created in Figma)
- Zhejiang Museum AR App (created in Figma)
- Event Manager App (created in Figma)
I validate our idea by testing the prototype with potential users.
If the prototype tests well, we'll move to the development phase with confidence. If not, we'll change direction, and try again. Most times I hit the mark pretty close on the first go, and after some quick fine-tuning the development can start.
User testing report
I'll summarise all the insights gained from the user testing, and on most projects I'll send an email or chat message highlighting what I've learned and my recommendations for the next steps.
Unless specifically requested, I don't prepare the long and boring user testing reports that are common in the industry. Most stakeholders don't care for long academic reports. Instead they just want the key insights in a short and snappy way, so we can continue work. And that's what I deliver.
Design system creation
Delivering a bunch of static Photoshop mockups is so 2010. Frameworks like Material Design, Carbon and Bootstrap have paved the way for design systems. In a nutshell, design systems make for scalable design. Scalable design makes for scalable products, and scalable products make for scalable and financially successful businesses.
For fast-turnaround projects I regularly utilise Material Design as a foundation for new design systems. Material design is incredibly flexible, comes with dozens of UI components ready to go, and with tools like Material-UI React library it makes dev handover easy on React codebases. And if you do it right, as I do, the end result doesn't end up looking like a typical Google UI. As I said, it's flexible and can be customised to any brand or creative direction.
Even for larger projects I default to starting with the material design approach because it's a fast, tried and proven method. But for some projects, like iOS apps where Material Design isn't applicable or some projects where uniqueness is key, I'll start with a completely blank canvas.
Designing for web
I've designed responsive, performant, SEO-friendly and accessible websites for Envato, Booking.com, the New South Wales government, Harvard University professors, and many startups.
I both design and develop web UIs. On some projects I lead the design effort, and hand over design deliverables to devs. On other projects I go all the way and code up the UI using HTML/CSS/jQuery. More on my web dev skills.
Designing for the web requires more than just an eye for design. One must think about the limitations of web technologies, and create a universal experience for an ever-growing list of browsers and devices. Simplicity is a designer's best friend when designing for web.
Designing for mobile
I use the same prototyping process that I describe above to create high-fidelity, engaging experiences for iOS and Android. My design philosophy is heavily influenced by Apple and their motto "it just works". I'm a big fan of simplicity and I'll often reference great apps like the App Store app, Twitter, Slack, Telegram, Spotify, and others, during my app design process.
A word on designing for iOS and Android. Each platform has its own intricacies. iOS has no physical back button, permissions are granted individually, a bottom bar is often used for global navigation. Android, on the other hand, primarily utilises "drawer menu" global navigation, floating actions buttons for a view's primary action, radio buttons instead of check boxes for multi-select lists (weird).
Each platform has its own pros and cons, and it's important to be aware of them, but what's even more important is to design an app that feels "just right" to the user on each platform.
I aim to create a balance between creating bespoke components and utilising native components, and further balancing the differences between iOS and Android. But what always matters most is that the app produces the desired outcome — that users love it, that it's easy-to-use, and that it keeps users engaged.
Designing for XR
AR and VR have become mainstream thanks to technology like ARKit and Oculus Go. I have lead the design efforts on a dozen different XR projects for Harvard University professors and archaeologists.
Great AR apps feel like magic. Most late-generation smart phones support AR, so it's far more accessible than VR, and it encourages the user to experience the world around them instead of being a couch potato.
I lead the initial kick-off on these projects, painting a picture of what's possible for clients, and helping my dev team by creating a prototype which clearly illustrates how the app is to be built.
I'd need about a week to create these prototypes, and then I'd oversee and do quality analysis on the output from the dev team to fine-tune the details. What I loved most about these AR projects were the "wows" and the astonished reactions we'd get from clients and users.
Virtual and Mixed Reality
VR is as innovative and immersive as it gets. I have previously written about my experiences with the state of VR design. The state of VR design is still in a messy, early stage. It's easy to make bad design mistakes if not careful, and a poor experience in VR means literally making your users nauseous. A good designer will know how to avoid that by taking into consideration a vast number of spatial design and ergonomics factors when designing for VR.
Mixed reality is a lighter way of experiencing virtual spaces. It's less immersive, but also less dizzying, safer, and one can still see and interact with people and the environment around them. Therefore it's well suited for classroom learning and museum group tour experiences.
While XR is more complex than digital design for 2D user interfaces, my traditional design process still applies. Like on every project, I become familiar with the requirements, run collaborative workshops as needed, visualise the end goal, design an engaging prototype that I test on potential users, and deliver detailed mockups that guide the development team during the build.
360° Tours for the Web
The most accessible way to experience virtual spaces is on a good old web browser — whether on phone or laptop. In terms of global reach the web is still the gold standard. Not as big of a wow-factor as AR or VR, but more comfortable (meaning longer sessions) — and more accessible to people with disabilities.
That concludes a look at my approach to digital product design and prototyping. See my portfolio for a full list of all my projects across web, mobile and XR.
Email me and I'll help take your web, mobile or XR design to the next level.