I have a lot of personal bias about this particular topic due to my past experiences as a designer. In graphic design (or any design discipline for that matter) there is a very important question that we ask: does my design do the job that it was intended to?
The design of a band poster can look great aesthetically as a beautiful piece of art, but did it list the date and time effectively for the event? No? It’s not a good design. We’re artists, yes, but we have a very specific job to do and if we don’t address it, we’ve failed. Want to make a poster that is just aesthetically pleasing without any info on it at all? That’s a very different job that you’ve undertaken. You want a gorgeous print to sell. BOOM! You succeeded.
As far as a good iOS app goes, the functionality and UI are on equal grounds. If the app works like a dream but has a horrible interface, I won’t use it. That’s not 100% true, obviously, but I will seek out an alternative. I tend to use sleeker versions of the iOS standard apps whenever possible. I use Sunrise over Calendar, Waze over Apple Maps, and I am still hunting for the perfect weather app.
That’s not saying these Apple apps are bad, but they’re definitely a less appealing experience and caused me to wander. Am I a perfectionist who has a very specific definition of “good design”? Yes. Are my opinions the reflection of the general populous? Not remotely. Does that mean I am going to design apps that just work without being aesthetically appealing or having a innovative and successful UI? No way.
I also strongly believe that the developer and the designer should work together from the very beginning. You can see the disconnect when a designer hands off his PSDs without having consulted the development team ahead of time. The few times I’ve had the opportunity to work with a developer on site on a project, it has been an amazing experience. Those are the projects and apps that have a great user experience and functionality that all works together seamlessly.
Yeah, that was sort of an answer? Maybe? I’m a little upset you didn’t get to see all of the hand gestures I would’ve made. Oh well.
How this is related to my own projects
I just submitted my first project to Udacity for my grade. I did not improve upon the design or the UI in any way, but I did focus all of my energy on the code itself. Does this contradict my earlier statements? Considering this is the first round of critiques on this particular app, I don’t think so. Once my core functionality is sound, then I will go back and revamp the UI and generate all of my own assets. I’ve worked this way with developers in the past on projects.
I would make wire frames with the development team, get them approved, work on the design, hand it off, and when we go to the production of those designs, we would run into issues or limitations with the modules or CMS we were using. So we’d have to go back and adjust the designs based on user tests or client feedback. I am taking the first version of this app as the first round of designs and then I will be revamping them.