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UI Essentials

On any multidisciplinary team, solid collaboration relies on great communication. Your ability as an engineer to speak the same language as your design team is vitally important—now more than ever. By gaining insight into the design process, you’ll be able to better communicate with your designers, leading to more efficient projects. This course is not a design workshop and no design experience is necessary.

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In this 4-hour workshop, you’ll sketch out three screens for a food truck app. This immersive approach gets you thinking like a designer by having you do what a designer does: create user interfaces that users will actually use. By the end of the course, you’ll know how to make useful, understandable, and styled screens. You don’t need to be an artist or know any design principles, just bring a pen, a pencil, an open mind, and a willingness to try. We’ll lead you through the rest.

Who should take this class?

  • Developers or Product Owners looking to effectively communicate and understand design.

What you'll learn:

  • How to narrow down features by taking into consideration user needs versus user wants. 

  • The difference between recall and recognition and how they’re used to create intuitive interfaces. 

  • How to elegantly compose user interface elements on a screen in order for the user to focus on key tasks to complete.

How to prepare:

There is no pre-reading or major prep work for this course. That said, you will need:

  • Something to write with: fine-tip pen or sharp pencil, a broad, black marker (Sharpie or similar), and a broad, colored marker (Sharpie or similar)
  • A print out of the Big Nerd Ranch Design Workbook
  • The ability to take a photo of the completed workbook sheets (8.5”x11”) and upload them in order to share with the class.
  • A mobile device (iOS or Android) for application research. Either a phone or tablet will be fine.



  • What you’ll learn during class


  • Brainstorm features for a hypothetical application.

  • What is user want versus user need.

  • Reducing features from a brainstorming session in order to create a well tailored application.


  • Using the concept of recall versus recognition in order to make intuitive interfaces. 

  • The importance of using hierarchy in order to organize content and user interface elements.

  • Using human language rather than computer language to more fully inform the user.


  • Building intuitive interfaces that better direct a user's eye to the most important elements.

  • Optimizing app features to create a less distracting interface for the user.

  • Creating consistent interface elements in order to cut down on user confusion and cognitive load.

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