For aesthetic inspiration, websites like Awwwards and Dribbble are fine. Great, even — I use them quite often when I need colour ideas or typography inspiration. However, focusing on visual aesthetics alone won’t help you design interfaces that are both intuitive and helpful to the user. Great UI design should solve problems, in addition to having visual appeal.
Why Dribbble Isn’t the Best Place for Inspiration
Many designers complain about the "Dribbbilization of Design" ? the act of designing user interfaces with high visual appeal (fancy animations, trendy layouts, et cetera) but little consideration for user experience, in order to earn likes on Dribbble. When designs don't solve problems, they hold little value as inspiration, but where can we find UI inspiration that looks visually appealing while actively helping the user?
Lets take a look.
Look At Case Studies
Case studies are often the best types of inspiration. Instead of a 300 x 400px Dribbble shot, a case study will usually offer deeper insights into a design with various work samples and contextual annotations explaining the designers' process.
Here's what you should look for in a case study:
Process: look at case studies by designers that you admire. Observe how they start a design and make iterations based on the project goals at hand, and end with a buffed design.
Problem-solving: exceptional design should reduce difficulties. Good case studies will outline the users' difficulties and explain how the designer helped the user overcome them through design. Reading case studies are a valuable learning experience!
Metrics: look at case studies that quantify success. How many more users signed up because of the new on-boarding? How much did the bounce rate decrease by because of the home page redesign? Top case studies will measure success in this way.
Aesthetics: aesthetic choices, while not the most important aspect of design, still matter quite a bit; after all, visual appeal is what users tend to notice first. Great case studies will explain why the designer chose certain colours and fonts.
Look Within a Range of Different Industries
Looking only at what other designers in your space are doing won't do you any favours. Instead, try to find examples of meaningful UI design outside of the industry that you're working in as well (especially if you're working in a hugely competitive industry like technology, which tends to be more obsessed with following trends blindly than other industries).
Look at Your Competition
Objectively look at what your competitors are doing, not so you can outright copy their design, but so you can see how the market is responding to it, whats working, and what isn't.
An unwillingness to mimic intuitive, useful, helpful design, because it wasn't your idea, is egotistical, where in fact how you approach design is what sets you apart. It's companies like Netflix, Uber and Airbnb who are solving issues users didn't know they had, but in ways that've proven successful by leaders in other industries, and competitors in the same industry.
Here are some things you should be thinking about:
How big do they make their buttons?
Do they use the hamburger menu?
What font sizes are they using?
Great Websites for Meaningful UI Inspiration
Meaningful user interface inspiration is about more than visual appeal, it should be about results and go way beyond aesthetics. If you're looking in the right direction, searching for inspiration can be a valuable learning experience, helping you to design interfaces that stand out from the crowd.
Where do you look for inspiration?