Sometimes it’s tough to let go. As designers, it is easy to love making things look nice. It’s in our nature. We see ugly things and sometimes whether those solutions work or not we judge. We want to solve problems, test, iterate, and sometimes pixel-push something with our own touch.
I’ve been there. I’ve allowed myself to feel like less of a designer if I wasn’t creating every aspect of a solution. Even if it made sense for the business and budget, I would feel guilty using stock elements. The same thoughts have crept into my mind about using pre-made UI components, but I have learned to get it go. Because looking back, I could have been more effective if I had spent more time solving problems. Understanding the bigger picture. Researching. Asking why.
Visual design is important. It’s vital to know when to push outside of existing systems to create unique solutions. But not at the expense of solving the real problem, or for the sake of doing something fresh alone.
Google Materials is an example of a visual framework crafted just for this reason. But how do you know when step outside and make something completely unique?
Accept that that decision usually shouldn’t happen early in the process. Prototype, test and confirm some problems to solve. Then it’s much easier to determine if pre-made components will fit your goals. When basic UI components are no longer enough to meet your goals, you might want to consider something unique. That doesn’t always mean a completely new system, and can sometimes be fulfilled by using them as a foundation.
Be aware of the tendency you may have to please your peers. Dribbble and Instagram Likes make you feel good, but compare the effects to a night out. After that buzz wears off, you sometime realize the original idea wasn’t so good. Drink your water and pace yourself.
Give yourself permission to use tools that exist to focus on what design can really do. Solve problems. It is not cheating to use UI components, stock elements, or frameworks that do the job. Spend more time uncovering, asking why, and researching options.
Design is not just making things look nice. Visual design is just a portion of the equation. Design is strategy.