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I was hoping to see if anyone could help me out by sharing suggestions for great places to check out for tutorials, worksheets, tips and even books to improve ui design skill. This would perhaps be for sort of a free-time, DIY UI/UX education, one might say.

I have checked out some sites such as uxmag.com, smashing magazine, and some others with not too much luck. I would love as many awesome learning materials as I can get my hands on! I am especially interested in improving my UI sketching skills (especially conveying dynamic things, such as animation, highlighting, scaling, and other effects), but welcome any general UI/UX educational materials as well.

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By far, the single most useful online resource that I know for improving your UX design skills is this site. Having said that, this is not a question that can have a "correct" answer, so I'm afraid it's not a good fit for this site. –  Vitaly Mijiritsky Oct 24 '12 at 6:53
    
Apologies for not fitting the correct question format; I should have guessed my question was too open-ended. Thanks for explaining! –  mikeybaby173 Oct 24 '12 at 18:09
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closed as not constructive by ChrisF, Vitaly Mijiritsky, Benny Skogberg, dhmholley, dnbrv Oct 24 '12 at 13:38

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3 Answers

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On the sketching front I would particularly recommend:

  • Sketching User Experiences by Bill Buxton
  • Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam

I also find myself largely agreeing with http://konigi.com/book/sketch-book

However the absolute best way of improving is just that tedious process of practice ;-)

A couple of years back I filled a couple of notebooks with a resolution of 'sketch for five minutes every day'. It's amazing how much my sketching improved after that (if you think it's bad now - you should have seen it then ;-)

Draw every day. Draw a work problem. Try and draw whatever you're looking at on the train. Try drawing a tree in the park. Fill a page drawing squares and circles. Draw stick figures. Scribble. Just spend a few minutes every single day sticking something down on paper. It's not to show people. It's for you. To absorb how pen and paper work.

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This is great advice; I try to sketch a bit everyday (or when I can, coding work sometimes follows me home haha). I have definitely improved in many respects, but I'm still a long way off from drawing very clean perfect circles and using markers to shade effectively, but you are certainly right that practice is the best path to improvement! –  mikeybaby173 Oct 24 '12 at 18:04
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Some resources I like:

Jakob Nielsen http://useit.com

Donal Norman http://jnd.org

Bruce Tognazzini http://asktog.com

Designer Forum http://designerstalk.com

http://alistapart.com

http://smashingmagazine.com

There's a lot more out there, I'm sure others will recommend their favorite resources.

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Thank you very much for your suggestions, I'm grateful to you for sharing these links!! Cheers! –  mikeybaby173 Oct 24 '12 at 17:53
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I'm going to bet that you've already found a ton of good resources to read about that explain how to do design and follow design processes. I think your best bet of improving your actual design skills, though, is by actually doing design work.

It might be worthwhile for you to just pick up some "throwaway" or "do it just because" design work, and get real feedback from real people. I'd try places that do crowd sourced design work like:

There's a couple of others you can find, too. You (probably) won't get paid, but it'll give you an excuse and a real project.

It sounds like you're most interested in the aspects of interaction design that require you to convey something to the reader/viewer that's beyond the basic static wireframes, so just pick projects that seem like they would make sense with whizzy designs (or hell, just make things whizzy just for fun).

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Thanks for the tips; actually doing is always the best way to improve! I actually did a few (and even once won) contests on 99designs- but now I'm anti-99, because spec work doesn't really foster good 'user-centric design' growth, since everything is generated in a vacuum, and the decisions are so arbitrary and mostly feedback-less. That, and it sort of supports the undermining of professional designers and their services with crowd-sourced mediocrity... but its true that there are probably great potential "do-it-just-because" projects to be had on sites such as those! Thanks for the advice!! –  mikeybaby173 Oct 24 '12 at 17:51
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