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The other title of this question could also be: How to improve my creativeness?

During the past years I noticed that a loot of my small applications that I write in my free time to ease my life could also be useful for some of my friends. They asked me to get them a copy. Even if the applications are working as they should I feel a little bit embarrassed because they GUIs are all looking really ugly.

The problem is, I always used standard and default-looking Buttons, TextBoxes etc. Now I thought about how to improve this. And yes I know it is possible to use themes, ImageButtons, ColorBrushes and so on. And now the real problem is:

I can't really see which colors fit together and make a good design. Are there any techniques, books, other resources that help to improve to get a feeling for good designs, color combinations, UI element choose?

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closed as too broad by gnat, GlenH7, MichaelT, Giorgio, Bart van Ingen Schenau Aug 24 at 14:42

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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I think you should ask this question on ui.stackexchange.com –  Mayank Feb 10 '11 at 10:59
    
Can someone move it or do I have to reopen it? –  RoflcoptrException Feb 10 '11 at 11:00
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it can be moved if that's what you want. –  ChrisF Feb 10 '11 at 11:26
    
@ChrisF yes I think it is better suited there!. Thanks. –  RoflcoptrException Feb 13 '11 at 10:50
    
Oh man... I thought there was a ui.stackexchange.com and it just redirects to UX. *shakes fist at lousy UX snakeoil salesmen. –  Erik Reppen Jun 16 '13 at 5:13

6 Answers 6

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I'm awful at designing UIs but there are a couple of things that I find very useful:

  • You'd be amazed at what a difference using an icon set, as opposed to default images on buttons and other controls, will make. (There are free icon sets (silk icons is a good one, I think) but be careful of licensing.)

  • Always get a second opinion.

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+1: For using an icon set. –  Jim G. Feb 10 '11 at 16:13

I am guessing the simplest solution is to find a designer to work with. Good products have great designers, and UI designers are not as easy to come by.

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This is such a programmers question.. I'd like to answer this question. But I'm not a teacher. I'm sure there are places you can learn this. Based on how colors work together (complimentary colors). Studying colors and what they each communicate. But if you want to make good designs they don't just look good they communicate values. You can learn from a book or internet but most of the time learning this takes time and feedback from other professional designers. Also remember designers learn how to make things sexy by learning from others and other designs and learning why something looks sexy or fashionable.

Also remember that what is sexy or fashionable 10 years ago may not be now and you always have too keep an eye on what the current trends of designs are.

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Sexiness is an opinion, and that's your problem. While there are general rules of thumb for creating professional looking applications, the world of great design is always changes with the times. Compare custom apps from today with the custom apps of five years ago and you'll find a significant difference.

But again, this question should be posted over on ui.stackexchange.com, but it might be even too general for them. If you could narrow your focus to a type of application, you might get a better response.

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The Non-Designer's Design Book, while oriented to general design will give you an overview of why some things look better than others in general design terms. It doesn't cover colour theory so much but I found it generally helpful in understanding the basics of how to make things look better.

You could find more on colour theory in design if you know that term is what you are looking for. In fact, for a general overview these tutorials look potentially handy.

If you really want to learn a lot about this, find a good interface designer and pay them to rework one of your interfaces. In the same way that you can write code that works, they can figure out how to put together a design that looks good.

Of course, the most beautiful design is not necessarily the easiest to use, so don't skimp on usability testing, even if you're just asking people to use your software while you watch and see what works and what doesn't.

You may find some useful solutions asking about this over on ui.stackexchange.com.

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What applications do you find "sexy"? It might be worthwhile to think about that to grasp the concepts that make it look attractive and then endeavour to employ it in your UI design.

For anything colour related, you could try using Adobe Kuler. Even though it's primarily for web site design, I'm sure you could easily adopt it and find it useful.

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