You may not necessarily be a designer if you’re reading this blog, but you at least care about design. Which means you — like me — may often feel an itch to improve the interfaces of your own stuff: your blog, or your wedding site, or your online photo collection. Still, actually figuring out how to do that is a daunting prospect. Well be daunted no longer, amateur interface nerds: UI Sketcher for iPad gives you the same simple, intuitive toolset that the pros at Box UK use to generate ideas for their big name clients. Give it a whirl and you’ll be giving unsolicited design advice to your friends in no time!
UI Sketcher is based on a simple visual brainstorming technique, developed by O.G.’s of user experience design Adaptive Path and refined by Box UK, called “sketchboarding.” Basically it’s a fancy term for “burp out six hastily scrawled thumbnail ideas in 10 minutes, pick your favorite, and then scrawl it bigger and in slightly more detail.” The folks at Box did this with Sharpie markers on massive sheets of butcher paper, but the iPad version lets you do the same thing with a lot less mess.
If that sounds almost ridiculously simple to you, that’s the whole point. Good user interface design is simple, but sometimes the only way to uncover that purity is to splatter a bunch of ideas (good and bad) out quickly. UI Sketcher’s own interface walks the walk with an inviting, intuitive “paper look” and a set of “markers” (including a red Sharpie and a fat yellow highlighter) you can invoke by tapping the screen with three fingers. For fun, I attempted to sketchboard a mobile-phone interface for Co.Design:
I only got as far as three. Probably for the best.
It feels as easy and free and fun as finger painting. Indeed, UI Sketcher is aimed at “anyone with a finger,” Lisa Innes of Box UK tells Co.Design. “An understanding of the sketchboarding technique makes the app much more relevant, but if the concept makes sense to you then it’s a friendly and intuitive app that enables users to spend their time focusing on the creative processes of UI design ? generating and evaluating ideas.” I see UI Sketcher as a stealthy way of improving design literacy among non-designers. Let’s face it: the web — and the world — is full of utterly crappy interfaces. The only way we’re going to change that is by rolling our sleeves up and coming up with ways to improve them. Even us amateurs.