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Form vs Function

First In, Best Dressed

Many times, we have been tasked with creating a design document or functional demo that will be used to pitch a proof-of-concept for a project. Dozens of hours will be poured into developing a UI, adding features and ensuring a functional walk through the proposed solution.  When it comes time to present, the first comment is often about changing the color of buttons or perhaps a larger font size of the header.  While it can be demoralizing to have so much work overlooked, this process does highlight the importance of a good first impression, and the visual aspect is the first thing clients and prospective users will notice.

Create a Natural Flow

It is important to ensure that the basics of design are incorporated into the proposal.  Each necessary component (for example, the Page Header, Side Menu, or Main Content Area) should be obvious and provide a natural flow of information perception through the UI.  There should also be a clear hierarchy in terms of font size and style for header/content related information for the page and navigational menus.  Keeping a standardized design flow can reduce initial criticisms of the look and feel to keep the discussions more focused on the end goal.

Make It Do Something

Having an appealing design is important but no one is using your interface for its inviting color palette.  While having screenshots of user interactions can help show the available states, actual usage of the interface provides a better guide for the experience.  How many clicks will it take to complete a desired action?  Is it too many?  Should there be more confirmations, for instance confirmation dialogs?  Being able to actually see the user interface in action, even if it is using simulated dummy data, can lead to meaningful feedback.

Find a Balance

To ultimately have a successful and productive discussion around a proof-of-concept demo, there needs to be a balance of design and development fundamentals.  Start with what needs to be in the UI – employ use cases or user stories as your guides.  Select a color palette that fits the product being developed and create the standard elements of a header, navigation menu, and page content area.  Next you must decide which interactable elements are necessary, such as a navigational menu, push button elements, and any main features of the software.  For a demo, typically all that will be needed is a functional front end with simulated data for back-end integration. This approach follows the LEAN design model to incorporate only the Lowest Common Denominator to maximize resources.  Keeping this balance will ensure a focused discussion on what is necessary for the next step of the project.

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