UXswitch.com spoke exclusively to Zsolt Szilvai at UXstudio about doing the awesome and daunting 100 Day UI Challenge.

Is a design challenge a waste of time or is it really worth it? I started the daily design challenge because I wanted to do some visual exercises to polish my aesthetic skills and become faster at designing, but at the end I realized that I learned much more.

Lots of research

Since the challenge was about creating a piece of user interface design every day for a hundred consecutive days, even at weekends and on holidays, I had to figure out how to collect ideas to work on. Designers like Paul Flavius Nechita inspired me and I also searched for concepts and unique interfaces on Dribbble, Behance and UpLabs. I took screenshots of the interface dieas and saved all the interesting designs/links related to the topics. Now I had a great collection of dashboards, sidebars, landing pages, list elements etc. that I could use as inspiration. I can now use these in the future for real projects also.

My time management skills

So you have to deliver a design every day for 100 days, which can be challenging if you have a full-time . Not to mention that you are committed to work even at weekends and on holidays, so you have to learn how to manage your time properly.

My tactics consisted of three phases:

  • Browsing the Internet to find some inspiration – in the morning from bed and while commuting.
  • Thinking about how my design would look like and how it can be unique (forcing myself to have at least 2 or 3 different ideas) – during the day, mainly on my lunch break.
  • Creating the final design in Sketch (animate it in Principle) – in the evening

Thanks to time pressure I have learned how to focus on the important things. I followed this pattern so as to be as fast as possible.

The quality of my design

During this exercise, I learned new design patterns and tried uncommon solutions, played around with typography, paddings, margins, colours, etc. I believe that you can get better with experimenting, and during this design challenge I had the opportunity to work on some really interesting concepts.

Below: Experimenting with a blurred app bar and a bended image (Day 85 – Cinema Application)

100 day challenge

 

Great new tools

In most of my former projects I had to use Photoshop and Illustrator, because the clients or the developers required it for some reason. I used Sketch and Principle once in a blue moon, but I never really got to work with them for a longer period. That’s why I decided to complete the challenge with using only tools that I’m not so familiar with. Now I’m a fan of Sketch and Principle, and I can’t imagine my life without them. Here you can read more about the best UX design tools.

Below: Animation made with Principle (Day 24 – Newsletter Subscription)

100 day challenge

 

Learning from my mistakes

I believe that receiving feedback is the most important part of the challenge, as you can get a lot of different ideas and learn from your mistakes. Therefore, I uploaded my screens to Behance and to Dribble every day. I didn’t really get any useful feedback from these platforms however. That’s why I decided to organize weekly feedback sessions where I asked for my colleagues’ opinions instead.

On day 9, I created a recipe app screen (see below). Based on the feedback I got, I noticed that the labels on the tags were barely readable. I realized that I have to learn about readability and contrast, so I dug deeper and read a range of useful articles on the subject. I learned how the web became unreadable and read about color vs. contrast. Also, web accessibility was also a revelation and I found a really cool color contrast checker tool here.

Below: Contrast problems with one of my designs (Day 9 – Recipe App)

 100 day challenge

 

Having fun

If you like experimenting, solving problems, learning new things and working on interesting projects, you would definitely enjoy completing a challenge like this. Here is an example of an animation that I especially loved working on.

Below: An exciting experiment made with Principle (Day 79 – Sidebar Animation)

100 day challenge

 

The Limitations

Of course, as a designer at UXstudio, a much wider skill set is required to deal with everyday real projects, but the skills that I managed to improve by this challenge definitely are a part of this.

A good looking user interface does not necessarily provide a good user . User testing is a must-have part of creating a truly great application. Something that is useful, usable and great to look at. On day 37 I created a file storage widget, and asked a bunch of people what they see and what they think about it.

Below: A nice user interface doesn’t necessarily provide a good user experience (Day 37 – File Storage Widget)

100 day challenge

 

 

It turned out that for my friends, the small blue bar in the bottom left corner looks like to be a progress bar, that shows the upload status in percentage. However, my intent with it was to show how much free space you’ve got left. I realized that it may be a usability issue, and if it was a real project, we would probably have to make changes on the UI, and test it again to make it work. But of course designing an out-of-context screen and showing it to some people will never teach you how to create an application for a real client. It just lacks the steps of a fully thought out process. If you want to do it right, learn more about the UX design process.

On Day 34, I created an animation. I soon I realized that there would be too much going on if it were a real app for real users. I was playing around with Principle and wanted to create some exciting interactions. Any of these could work on their own, but combined was just too much. Visually they are very pleasing but the user would find it difficult to understand what is happening because of the bouncing and moving elements. It may be a cliche, but it’s true, that sometimes less is more.

Below: Be careful with animations (Day 34 – Photo Filter App)

100 day challenge

 

Tips for starting the design challenge

  • Commit to the challenge. If you feel that one hundred days is too much for you, start a shorter one or give yourself more time for creating the screen (create only one screen every week). Either way, keep your deadlines, and finish what you’ve started.
  • Save your research data. Having a collection of UI elements and screens (a collection of login screens, dashboards, etc.) can be very useful when it comes to seeking inspiration. It can come in handy when you’re designing something similar for a real client.
  • Always ask for feedback. Uploading the results to social media (such as Dribbble or Instagram) regularly and getting followers can help keeping you in the game, but such platforms will only get you likes and comments like “nice” or “great job”. If you want to get valuable feedback, the best way is to directly ask other designers to analyse your design.
  • Document the feedback. Make sure that you understand why the feedback was given, notice how you can improve your designs and if you have time make changes on your screens.

The Benefits

Completing a design challenge is not only about improving your design’s quality, but is also a huge commitment. It can help you improve your time management skills, learn new design patterns, get to know best practice, learn new tools, and of course to have fun. The beauty of it is that you’re allowed to make mistakes. If you do it right, it can be a great way to receive feedback and hypothesize what the problems could be with your designs in real scenarios. This can help you see problems easier and earlier in future projects.

Grab every opportunity to learn something new, start your own challenge, implement your crazy ideas and experiment with unusual solutions. If you’d like to know more about how I faced this challenge, you can find it all on Dribbble.

 

Zsolt Szilvai UX/UI Designer at UXstudio

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