6 Time-Saving and Effective UI Design Hacks

Digital design can be something of a paradox. To become a pro at user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design you must adhere to certain principles. However learning those rules does take time. The paradox lies in the fact that once you do understand the basics of UI design, you can push ahead with time-saving digital design hacks. There are numerous effective and time-saving UI design hacks out there that can help you crank up your output and take your design skills to the next level. Working smarter is the key to success when using these hacks.

Furthermore, making the most of the resources available to you is the key to getting more done, more consistently and to a higher level. But what are some of the best time-saving digital design hacks to turn to? We’ve done the hard yards to bring you this quick-fire list of tips and resources…

1. Set small, achievable goals

When presented with the big picture, many designers want to find the nearest human-sized cupboard and hide. With larger design jobs it can be difficult to see the wood for the trees. Granted, it’s hardly revolutionary, but getting into the habit of breaking down large design jobs into smaller individual tasks will give your day a structure and help to keep you positive and motivated. Especially if you’re freelance, ensuring that your goals for the day are set out at the start will help productivity and alleviate workload stress.

When setting your goals, be specific and use strict timelines to keep you on track. Understanding the purpose of the task and the part it has in the bigger picture will help you persevere. Understanding the brief does take time but making sure time is allocated to clarifying the full scope of the task will ensure smooth running.

2. Use quality UI design kits

When you want to get your new app or website idea up and running quickly, UI kits can streamline the design process and save you time and money. Typically, UI kits include the interface components that provide functionality to users, such as widgets, checkboxes, progress bars and navigation buttons, all of which provide a framework to underpin your design. With a full library of components at your fingertips, you will have plenty of inspiration for your next project.

If you worry that using cookie-cutter UI components will make your project just another face in the crowd – don’t. On UiPie there are hundreds of free downloadable UI kits, many of which come in a variety of styles and for various devices to make sure your design is unique. UI design kits are commonly found to be created in PSD, Sketch or Adobe XD formats, therefore digital designers can find one to suit most workflows.

Split iOS UI kit "combines the modern beauty of iOS and elegant functionality", quotes Craftwork.
Split iOS UI kit “combines the modern beauty of iOS and elegant functionality”, quotes Craftwork. This free iOS UI kit has been crafted for use in Sketch, utilising the symbols feature and creating stunning layer and text styles to choose from.

3. Introduce software efficiencies and custom automation

Automating those repeatable actions every designer does is a simple and incredibly effective way to help you complete tasks more quickly. There are a number of apps you can use to automate elements of your workflow. TextExpander is a useful app to reduce your typing time, allowing you to use custom abbreviations or simple keyboard shortcuts to insert code chunks and images etc. without having to copy and paste. If you’re looking for an Apple based product, try Alfred, it’s an award-winning app for Mac OS X that does much the same thing.

Designers and developers produce plugins for various design tools to help improve individual workflows. Multiple tools and resources are out there to help you save time. For example, if you’re a Sketch users there are a lot of incredible plugins to help improve your workflow including artboard managers and automation via Craft by Invision. Websites such as Sketch Tricks can help designers source the ultimate free plugins for Sketch.

Craft is a suite of plugins to let you design with real data in mind. Manage them via the new Craft Manager for incredibly easy updating.

4. Make the most of product mockups

If you want to get to your online store to market fast then digital product mockups help you create quick, consistent product photos for your site. Some designers get product mockups and stock imagery confused, but it’s important to understand the difference between the two.

Product mockups are digitally-illustrated images of your products and devices. They remove the need for time-consuming product photography, uploading and image editing tasks. All you need is basic knowledge of Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator or Sketch and you’ll be able to use our huge bank of product mockups from independent creators for products and industries of every type.

There are two significant differences with GUI designs; one of which is for apps and one set for web, depending on the solution you’re looking for, choose wisely. Both sets have components that can work effectively for their purpose. Be it material design or the latest iOS kit full of components, you’ll find a mock-up to suit your needs. Through GUI screen designs designers can create quick and effective mock-ups of designs. Various viewports allow for quick iteration and amends to conceptual web designs and apps.

Free PSD for a new website concept MI MUSIC. All 6 files are fully editable, layered, carefully organized and use free Google fonts. A modern, colorful and fresh web design, perfect for any aspiring new or established music band. By Tran Mau Tri Tam.

5. Get sign-off on designs as you go

As a designer, the last thing you want is to present the completed design to the client, only to receive a “nope, don’t like it”. Getting clients to sign-off on designs throughout the project helps to reduce the likelihood of those awkward conversations when you’ve hit the brief but the client isn’t happy. Tools like LayerVault, Basecamp (below) and DesignSignoff improve collaboration so designers can present and get approval for designs at every stage of the project. UI design hacks such as this are invaluable for progression with projects.

Basecamp organises your communication, projects, and client work together so you have a central source of truth.

6. Iron out issues with user testing

It’s all too easy to get carried away with the look and feel of an app or website. You can sometimes lose sight of the most important thing of all – creating a workable, viable product. User testing is an essential part of the process. Testing allows you to identify any problems early on in the process. It also helps you make informed UX decisions based on the data. Tools like UserZoom and Validately help you get it right on the first time of asking to boost productivity and save you time.      

Do you have any favourite digital design hacks we haven’t mentioned? Please share your favourite resources with our readers in the comments section below.   

Learning UI design doesn’t have to be hard. Our latest article ‘Learn UI Design in 15 Steps’ provides simple tips and techniques for the budding UI designer to become a pro in no time.

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