The Marriage of Patterns & Creativity UI/UX Design
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things”. — Steve Jobs
Wise words from the late Steve Jobs; we use what we see around us to build new and better things. We experience quite a few of these recycled thoughts, used in different ways, places, and styles but all of them do the same thing. Take the hamburger icon as an example. Though there is much controversy around it, it’s quite a brilliant concept. Three bars in my head mean “navigation”. Another example is links, often a shade of blue or even underlined. We often choose to keep links blue because most (if not all) users know its a link because of it. Simply put, they’re patterns. They come about by designers recycling the same solution to a common problem or flaw. The solution that proves most consistent to a happy user experience is often the one that is adopted. Any designer (regardless of their level of experience) can tell you that patterns are extremely helpful to create a great user experience. They reduce the amount of guessing from users (the semi-experienced and up) and allows them to open an application they have never used and be able to operate it comfortably. What if we only use patterns, and allow them to make every decision, like size, style, and placement? Well, then the little person in your brain named “creativity” just wastes away, eating microwave burritos and watching wheel of fortune (that’s the best metaphor I can give of someone wasting away).
This brings me to my next point: patterns are suggestions, not obligations. We must look at patterns as our marble stone and use our creativity as a chisel, to sculpt a great experience. With this, we will create an experience for the users that is both fresh and fulfilling. Just because everyone and their mother have a hero header doesn’t mean you need one. Very few things are required in a website and still some of them have an edge case that allow you to get around them. Many times I have been asked while presenting a design “why did you do ‘X’?”. Honestly, sometimes it’s just because I thought it made the design look neat. Designers can make stylistic changes without a purpose other than improving a look or feel. Sometimes those little nuggets of color or abstract positioning can add to a user experience, although they don’t have to. Statistically speaking, some decisions reflect better than others; but I believe that without some creative paint splattered onto the canvas, one’s design will just blend into the rest of the “cookie cutter looks” created by a mediocre designer.
Now don’t go too far left, this doesn’t mean you should go wild and change every pattern that ever was. Creativity needs its boundaries, otherwise your user experience suffers greatly. This is breaking the number one rule in all of UI/UX design: DO NOT ANGER THE USER. They’re fragile creatures, overload them and it’s game over. Creativity is a boost, not the base, and we should use it in places that are lacking.
Thanks For Reading!
Proof reading done by the Amazing Timo.