User interface design is growing increasingly important as more and more activity moves online and particularly to mobile platforms with small screen sizes. Many companies are switching to a "mobile first" application development strategy. It's not enough to create responsive designs that merely adapt browser-based interfaces to smartphones; the entire design must be created with its usability as a priority.
As a result of this strategy, the UI architect role is growing increasingly important to organizations, as well. The role requires more than the ability to implement a design. In order to get hired as a UI architect, job seekers need to have the following key experiences and capabilities on their resumes:
• User-centric research.
Understanding the users' needs is the starting point for all interface design. The UI architect needs to gather the requirements and implement research to validate design ideas. The architect may also need to lead usability testing during the QA phase.
• Interpersonal skills.
The UI architect often needs to lead a team of designers and front end developers. The architect also needs to work with customers and product managers to craft designs that meet business needs.
• Understand portals and modular UI design.
UI architects need to design frameworks that can be leveraged across multiple applications and easily expanded to accommodate additional use cases.
• Understand and develop standards.
• Implement front-end build systems.
Front-end code needs a repeatable process for managing versions and compiling the components into the executable package.
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Code is important, but code is invisible. No matter how elegant the code, end users never see it. End users don't interact with code; they interact with buttons, images, links, lists, and menus. Those interface items and the sequence of clicks they have to make to accomplish something are how they judge their experience with a website or software application, and that's why the UI architect role is critical in developing successful software.
Although the UI Architect role is defined differently in different companies, you should expect to have the following abilities to fulfill job responsibilities:
Understand End Users
UI architects need to understand how software works, but it's more important that they understand how people work. By understanding how people want to work, they can design interfaces that streamline the processes and make them fun, instead of frustrating. Study psychology and human-computer interaction to understand how to achieve this.
Understand Interface Tools
UI architects never work alone; no software project consists solely of a UI. It's therefore important that the architect work well with teams. Creating the interface architecture requires communicating with both developers and users. It also requires the ability to meet short project deadlines, especially as most projects turn to agile development and deliver in two week sprints.
Today's applications need to run in multiple environments: desktop, web browser, mobile web, tablet, phone – even watch. Understanding the capabilities and limitations of each environment is key to designing an effective, enjoyable user experience.
Most of all, the UI architect role requires the ability to envision something that doesn't exist yet. UI architects use their understanding of users, developers, technology, and tools to design a brand new way of accomplishing a task. When done at its best, it's hard to imagine any other way of doing it.