Adobe knows the importance of user experience. As the manufacturer of so many top design tools, they spend their days discovering how to make beautiful design easy and attainable. So it came as no surprise today when Adobe XD CC released five free UI kits to inspire designers around the world and facilitate innovative designs across the board and add to Adobe's Creative Cloud experience.
The Adobe UI kits include options for game design, smart watches, Apple Dashboard, and transportation and travel apps. They were designed in partnership with various well-known designers and can be downloaded for free here.
What are user interface design kits?
User interface (UI) kits are files (typically PSDs) that are distributed to help designers with workflow on projects and design elements such as sliders and avatars. They ultimately provide a guide to creating a seamless experience, from solving common problems to determining intuitive navigation. Think of UI kits as a cheat sheet to user interface design.
So, what's the difference between UI design and UX design?
User experience design and user interface design are two peas in a pod. Ultimately, user experience design directly influences the way your users feel when they are exploring your website, app, or other interactive design.
UX design is important on web and mobile apps. You want the process of navigating an app on your iPhone and Android device to be easy and pleasing.
Meanwhile, user interface design finesses those experiences that a UX designer is creating, dealing with the aesthetics and ensuring the experience is pleasing to look at — not just use — as well. In a way, user interface design is a little more like a graphic designer than a web designer, as a UI designer must ensure that their material design layout is aesthetically pleasing.
How can UI kits improve overall user experience?
A reliance on overall user experience (aka UX and UI) in website design is on the rise. According to Adobe, it's the tech industry's fastest growing field and is projected to grow in demand by up to 73 percent — which is why they were so quick to add it to its the Creative Cloud offering. This drastic increase calls for more streamlined processes that still produce stunning designs that consumers enjoy, thus, making curated UI kits a godsend for designers everywhere.
As with anything, UI kits have pros and cons attached to them. Your ability to personalize and customize is more limited than if you were starting from scratch, as with any template. In addition, the more popular a UI kit, the more likely another brand will have a similar aesthetic as you.
However, despite the above drawbacks, UI kits bring a ton of value to the design community, which is why they are increasingly popular. As they are developed by major designers and companies — just like Adobe's batch of UI kits — they typically have limited errors and are frequently updated.
Utilizing UI kits also enables you to explore design elements that you may not have tried on your own and, since it streamlines much of the workflow into a template, frees up much of your time and brainpower to focus on the most important components of a design, such as interactions and user flows.
What's more? UI kits can also be utilized by UX designers, making them particularly helpful for small teams, limited budgets, or designers who are looking to expand their skillset.
What do designers have to say about UX design, UI design and the rise in popularity of UI kits?
To get a better understanding of how all these elements of design work together, and how these UI kits can help expand the design process, we spoke to Marcelo Silva, a design director at Live Planet who created Adobe's Apple Watch UI kit.
UX designer demand is on the rise. Why do you think there is such emphasis on user experience?
"The thing about technology is that things that were luxury a few years ago are now standard. Like cars for example. A few years ago, having a touchscreen was a luxury, now even some base models have some sort of cool touch screen system. As visually stunning products become more and more of a standard than a luxury, companies need to find new ways to differentiate from their competitors. User experience is that differentiator. It’s not enough to just create something that looks good, you have to create something that is seamless to use and that will get people to keep using it."
How has technology influenced UX design and where do you see user experience heading in the next few years?
"UX used to be focused on how people interact with displays, but as technology advances and products become more and more “invisible,” the more flexible we have to be as designers to adapt. But the principle of UX needs to stay the same - how do we make sure the interaction between human and technology (whatever shape or form that technology takes) is as seamless as possible? It’s hard to predict where technology will take us (UX designers) but I think as we can already see there is a huge focus on virtual reality and artificial intelligence. Different mediums, but same concept - make the interaction seamless, fun and engaging."
For those of us who don't quite know, what is a UI kit?
"There are different ways to view UI kits. I personally view them as just a series of components that are used as a starting point for your app or web design. UI kits are especially useful if you have a tight deadline or need a creative boost to start your project. When I created the smartwatch UI kit for Adobe XD, I tried to create as many components/screens as possible to make sure I covered a lot of use cases. You have everything from different kinds of charts to a bunch of list styles and other things."
Are they meant for young designers, experienced designers, or both?
"I’d say both, for different reasons though. It’s good for young designers because one kit is the equivalent of watching hours and hours of YouTube videos on how to design. Especially for visual learners, when you get to look into a design that a more experienced designer created and see how they did things, it is like going to design school. You can learn so much just from dissecting those designs. If you’re an experienced designer already, the kit can help save time. It lets you focus on more nuanced details that will make your design pop by eliminating the initial heavy lifting. I’ve recently used UI kits for a client project because we didn’t have time to start a design from scratch. Especially if you work for a startup the turnaround is super important."
Do UI kits benefit designers contracted at a particular company, or are they better for freelancers?
"They can be helpful in both situations, but I’d say in general full-time designers have more time at their disposal than freelancers. So, although it is helpful for both, freelancers can especially benefit from UI kits because the time you save in one project will allow you to work on other projects (and that means sending out more of those sweet invoices)."
Tell us about the process of brainstorming and designing your personalized UI kit for Adobe XD CC?
"The folks at Adobe are constantly looking for ways to provide value to the design community (Adobe XD CC is in itself an example of that relentless pursuit to empower). They approached me with the idea to create a UI kit for the community and we worked together on a theme. I took it from there with the design itself. We started the UI kit mid-December with a pencil and paper wireframing each screen. I wanted the kit to have very practical applications and not just a lot of useless components (like a lot of the UI kits out there do, unfortunately)."
How can designers use UI kits to improve their workflow or designs?
"You can improve your workflow by saving time and mental overhead. There’s a good chance that if you’re designing a smartwatch app you will find components in this kit that apply to your app. You have a huge head-start if you have a smartwatch UI kit at your disposal (it’s also free, so you literally have nothing to lose). The best way to use this kit is to go crazy with it. Use it as a starting point for your amazingly creative mind to make something magical. Have fun dissecting components and creating your own unique designs."
Can designers create their own UI kits?
"Yes! That’s how design systems are created (which is a whole other subject). If you treat your product designs as little UI kits you can save those components, so the team can reuse them as the company grows and the product evolves. I think that’s the coolest thing about UI kits. Give your product team reusable components and they will love you forever."
What else is included in the Adobe XD update?
These unprecedented Adobe UI kits aren't the only items Adobe XD Creative Cloud is offering users this week. Their recent program update, also released today, includes a wide array of new features, one of which is an integration with file hosting and sharing program Dropbox.
This program partnership with Dropbox supports native XD file previews on mobile, web and desktop. To access this feature, users simply save an XD file to Dropbox. Automatically, a preview will be visible to everyone who has access to that particular Dropbox, ensuring clients and designers can collaborate and create experiences together even faster.
“Adobe XD is an innovative all-in-one tool for UX designers, and we’re excited to bring the power of Dropbox, Adobe XD and Creative Cloud to our joint users,” said Daniel Wagner, engineering lead of Dropbox Previews. “Our goal is to unleash creative energy through an expanding partner ecosystem, and connect design tools like Adobe XD with core Dropbox mobile, web and desktop products.”
Dropbox isn't the only tool Adobe XD added to the program's features. Users can also export projects into third-party programs, such as Zeplin, Avocode and Sympli. While not part of the Adobe ecosystem, those other programs are frequently used by designers. Integrating them into XD allows for a more streamlined workflow — clearly, the topic of the week — by ensuring designers can pass off design projects in various states of production smoothly.
What's more? Adobe XD has improved advanced animation elements by coordinating with ProtoPie and Kite Composer and added these improvements to the program:
- Usability improvements to Design Specs (Beta), making it simpler for users to navigate design specs in the browser and work easily with masked layers.
- Ability to switch between HEX, RGB, HSB in Color Picker. Users can choose any of the aforementioned options from a drop-down menu, making it easy to toggle between the color models in screen design.
- Batch export, a new export option that can be accessed through the file menu. Users simply right-click in the Layers panel to mark any object that should be included in a batch export.
All in all, Adobe XD's many updates coupled with the five free UI kits make this version its best yet. The new Adobe UX Update offers:
- Five free UI kits
- Dropbox integration
- Additional third-party app integration including Zeplin, Avocode and Sympli
- Usability improvements to Design Specs
- Ability to switch between HEX, RGB, HSB in Color Picker
- Easy and efficient batch export
Through flawless integration with external programs and improved workflows, designers near and far will certainly be able to maximize their time and create innovative designs, putting them in a perfect position for their large demand in the future.
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