Toptal Design Blog

The Toptal Design Blog is a hub for advanced design studies by professional designers in the Toptal network on all facets of digital design, ranging from detailed design tutorials to in-depth coverage of new design trends, techniques, and technologies.
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Everything You Need to Know about UX Sketching

UX sketching is a crucial, yet often overlooked, aspect of user-experience design. Sketching is a very efficient way of communicating design ideas while allowing designers to try out a multitude of options and iterate them before settling on one.

In this post, Toptal Freelance Designer Nick Vyhouski explains UX sketching step by step and outlines a range of tips and techniques used by leading designers.

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How Much Coding Should Designers Know?

Much of the digital design community is locked in debate over whether or not designers should code. Some are in favor of seeking out the unicorns who can design and code, while others claim they don’t exist, or just get in the way.

In this article, Toptal freelance designer Jônatas Vieira offers his own firsthand perspective on this issue. Can learning how to code elevate your career to the next level? Or would such skills go unused?

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Presenting Design Work: The Right Way

Designers spend much of their careers developing the ability to beautifully communicate the intentions of their products. Yet, some designers fail to direct these same skills towards the communication of their own work. The ability to present your design work is fundamental for any designer, as it is often the first step to landing a job with any new client or agency.

In this article, Toptal Director of Design Danielle Reid and Toptal Design Blog Editor Kent Mundle discuss what designers can do to present their work in the most effective ways. Give the products that you make some justice, and use these tips to effectively present your portfolio.

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Amazing Travel UIs

Check out a curated collection of beautiful and futuristic travel UIs created by different designers from around the world.

Some of the designs are captured from live products, some are still in development, and some are purely concepts designed to push the bounds of what is even considered possible.

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Usability for Conversion: Stop Using Fads, Start Using Data

There are many design tips out there that claim to be universal solutions for achieving high conversion rates. However, in this article, Toptal Freelance Designer Joel Lopez suggests avoiding these trends or fads and encourages us to instead thoughtfully collect data to inform the design of our products.

Although some quick-fix design moves may achieve high conversion rates in a product’s early years, they don’t lend themselves to establishing long-term user trust. Joel argues that this trust is essential to keep users coming back to promote your products.

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Alternative Housing Lifestyles for Remote Workers

An often mentioned virtue of remote work is the freedom for individuals to construct their lifestyles as they wish. However, much of contemporary society has not yet shifted to allow for the total freedom that many desire, especially when it comes to housing. Why should outdated housing standards prevent us from living in the way we want to live?

In this article, Toptal Technical Editor Kent Mundle surveys a group of housing alternatives that apply to several different types of remote workers. The digital nomad has different needs than the young professional or the working parent, and their housing options should reflect that.

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Design In A Remote Setting: A Toptal Design Talk

Without an office manager, or shift supervisor to look over your shoulder, or set your schedule for you, design in a remote setting can be difficult for some to manage. As well, for those who use the freedom that remote work offers, how can one ensure to find a healthy balance between life, fun and of course work?

In this article, Toptal Technical Editor Kent Mundle discusses strategies for designing in a remote setting with Lubos Volkov, Toptal Lead Designer. Lubos explains the importance of good planning, a strong will, but also the ability to break the rules and get outside when the world calls you.

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How CrunchBase Should Be Designed

Despite the widespread use of the start-up tracker CrunchBase, Toptal Freelance Designer Andrew Graunke believes that its site could use a redesign. Can the redesign transcend an aesthetic makeover, and improve user and business goals as well?

In this article, Andrew walks us through his thorough redesign and reorganization of the CrunchBase website. His process includes wireframes, design reviews, and a usability test.

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Produce DWGs Like It's 2016: Teigha For Architecture

Today, the notion of repetitively modeling or drawing the windows, doors, and walls of standardized buildings seems archaic, so why do it? If you want to handle DWG files and ACA objects programmatically, one of the best platform options is Teigha Architecture.

In this article, Toptal Freelance Designer Alexey Abramovsky walks us through the DWG production of a small house to introduce us to the benefits of Teigha. Go from foundations to full render in this quick tutorial.

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UX Testing For The Masses: Keep It Simple And Cost Effective

User Experience (UX) testing may be one of the more overlooked but ultimately necessary steps in UX design. It has to be effective and involve the most important people – your users and customers.

In this article, Toptal Freelance Designer Ruaridh Currie examines UX testing methods and processes used by designers who want to understand and employ User Centered Design (UCD) and put their UX designs to the test, preferably without burning a hole in their budget.

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Sharpen Your Skills: The Value of Multidisciplinary Design

Although the different design disciplines are often divided into separate categories, many of their associated skills transcend the limits of nomenclature. For example, the ability of an architectural designer to present abstract concepts clearly might help the UX designer communicate an interface with improved efficiency and meaning, just as a graphic designer’s visual knowledge informs the UI designer’s interface compositions.

In this article, Toptal Freelance Designer Peter Varadi explains through his own experience how a multidisciplinary design background has broadened his skill set. Who knew that an architectural education could set you apart in the field of UX Design?

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Design A Better Website: Foundations First

Most designers only publish their finished, polished wireframes and mock-ups without revealing how much work really goes into research and content organization. What results is a community that assumes that design is all about jumping into a composition. This understanding of design produces faulty products.

In this article, Alex Gurevich gives us a walkthrough of his workflow for the design of a significant non-profit company’s website, explaining with each step how a thorough preliminary process leads to holistic web page design.

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The Art Of Meaningful UX Design

Everyone from designers to clients to users desires meaningful products, but how much do we know about what it takes to make consumer experiences meaningful? Can the psychology of consumer experience inform our UX design strategies?

In this article, Toptal Freelance Designer Kaushik Ghosh shows us how to design products that connect with users beyond basic needs and functions. The process of “Meaning Making” through appropriate design interventions can lead to significantly higher engagement, passion, and commitment from users.

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Going Guerrilla: Affordable UX Research Tips And Alternatives

There are plenty of methods for conducting user research; however, many of these methods are resource-intensive and can be slow. In other words, they tend to be expensive and take a while to implement. This means many projects are often completed without any research, and this may prove problematic on many levels.

User research doesn’t have to cost a fortune, though. In this post, Toptal Freelance Designer Ivan Annikov explains how it’s possible to conduct a sufficient amount of user research without burning heaps of money in the process.

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Who Knew Adobe CC Could Wireframe?

Wireframing is an essential step during interface design, no matter the project. But, who knew that Adobe CC, a platform typically associated with print design, could be a unique and powerful tool to aid designers in their wireframe workflow?

In this article, freelance designer Ivana Milicic walks us through a comprehensive wireframe process using Adobe CC tools. InDesign and Illustrator aren’t just for print anymore.

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Usability Past Its Breaking Point: A Toptal Design Talk

Should usability ever be sacrificed for design experimentation? What is there to be learned from products that challenge the expectations of users? Might portfolio projects be the ideal venue in which to push these boundaries?

In the first Toptal Design Talk, Toptal Technical Editor Kent Mundle and freelance designer Darko Stanimirovic discuss these questions over the contentious online portfolio for the art studio, Ro-Lu.

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How To Communicate The Value Of User Research

UX is more than a bunch of rules and heuristics that you follow in your product design process. UX is subjective. It is the experience that a user has while using a product. Therefore, we have to understand the needs and goals of potential users, their tasks, and the context in which they’ll use the product.

But that’s not all. We also have to communicate the value of user research to clients, which is often easier said than done. In this post, Toptal Freelance Designer Frauke Seewald explains how and why designers need to communicate the value of user research and steer clients in the right direction.

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A Typeface Overview For Print And Web Design

Today, designers chose a typeface from drop-down menus rather than physical typesets. As a result, designers have become very detached from the original industrial contexts for which their typefaces were designed. So, how can we better inform our design work with good typeface decision making?

In this article, Toptal Technical Editor Kent Mundle provides an overview of the essential typefaces that have influenced typography today, and why you should stop using them. If the platforms for our type are changing, shouldn’t our typefaces as well?

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Tutorial: How To Create A Custom Icon Webfont

The possibility of embedding a custom font in an HTML website revolutionized the potential of web development and opened up many new possibilities for designers. The key advantage of custom fonts over sprite graphics is their superior load time, but that’s not the only benefit.

In this article, Toptal Freelance Designer Ivo Gregurec explains how you can build your very own icon font, allowing you to create a consistently unique style, unified line weight, and pixel-perfect results.

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When We Should Redesign: An Automotive Case Study

When is the best possible time for a company to conduct a website redesign? What needs to be done in a redesign to ensure another won’t be needed for a long time to come?

In this article, Freelance Designer Goran Ramljak walks us through his redesign case study, exposing key issues with the automotive digital space in the process.

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