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Jane Portman is the creator and author of UI Breakfast, a practical resource full of UX design and business lessons based on her extensive experience with both. It also contains an amazing column called UI Practicum where she tackles common UI problems in a useful and digestible way.
We're big fans of UI Breakfast at Balsamiq because of the clarity of Jane's writing and her love of wireframes. Jane describes her rationale for choosing wireframes over interactive prototypes in this Q&A post about translating an idea into an actual product.
As a developer, you’ll have a natural urge to skip wireframes and jump right into code (I used to be the same way as a designer, doing high-fidelity mockups right away). But wireframes create that 10,000 ft view to objectively revise your functionality.
This wireframe from one of her blog posts demonstrates her expert use of wireframes to convey all the right information.
It's a perfect balance of generic and specific. The use of breaklines and annotations conveys to the viewer what they do (and don't) need to know about in order to build it, without relying on color or interactivity.
Lots more goodies from Jane in our interview below.
I’m a UI/UX consultant who helps SaaS founders build focused, profitable products. My role is to identify critical design flaws in web applications — causing unreasonable churn or high support volumes — and help fix them. Previously a creative director at a large agency, I also enjoy doing visual design, but lately I’ve chosen to focus on most strategic, "expensive" problems in the UX domain.
The state of things in the SaaS world is very exciting! As opposed to its early days, now everyone understands the value of well-designed, quality software — both the users (as a business tool) and the founders (as a source of income). The users have also matured enough to learn the basic UX patterns, which designers can now safely rely on.
It’s also amazing that flat design and minimalism are now a big trend. Ten years ago it was nearly impossible to sign off such designs with clients. Today, everybody is hyped about keeping things clean and simple — which I love!
The key is to approach design problems from the business standpoint. In addition to polishing your key UI/UX skills, you also need to teach yourself essentials from other relevant areas: entrepreneurship, product management, copywriting, and marketing. People ask me about that all the time, so I put together a special content guide which includes free (or very affordable) resources on each of these topics.
It’s also a great strategy to work on your own products: you’ll be able to polish all of the above skills in practice, diversify your income streams, and understand how exactly your clients feel while running their business. My own biggest success so far is my third book, The UI Audit (help yourself to a sample chapter here).
Overuse of dashboards is the curse of modern web apps! They make an app seem cool, while being not necessary in most cases (unless you run a mission-critical service). Users want to dive into their work instead of observing bells and whistles. Imagine if Gmail showed you a fancy dashboard instead of your inbox?
For a bootstrapped startup, the best roadmap is the following:
Balsamiq is my primary tool for wireframing! I use it for wireframing sessions with clients, and also in educational blog posts. UI Practicum is my weekly article series where I solve challenging UX problems in web applications. Illustrations for these articles are made entirely with Balsamiq Mockups, like this article on scheduling.
I don’t rely on the interactive part too much, but I love the ability to create detailed, style-agnostic layouts. And I also dig the cute look of arrows and explanations!
Don’t have any critical ones. But I’ve been working on a wizard lately, and had to hack it together with great difficulty (see the wireframe below). It would be awesome if such component was pre-baked in Balsamiq.
My feed includes Paul Jarvis, Shawn Blanc, Joanna Wiebe, Brian Casel, Amy Hoy, Seth Godin, and a handful of “girly” lifestyle blogs about psychology, fashion, makeup, and interior design.
Among fellow UI/UX writers I can highly recommend Sarah Doody and Samuel Hulick.
Global principles stay the same, but the library of common patterns evolves. Users learn fresh patterns as new software products appear in the mass market. The whole UX industry is maturing, while still being a hot subject.
For more, head on over to UI Breakfast. Thanks, Jane, for all you do to help rid the world of bad software. You're a champion!
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