Dribbble shot designs can make you a worse UI designer

And how to practice functional UI.

David Portelli


The rise of design portfolio platforms has made it easy for designers of all sorts to showcase their work. We showcase work to build profiles, inspire communities, receive feedback and to gain recognition for our skills.

The benefits of showcasing our work are countless and clear, as a result, we may sometimes think about what we may add to our profile in order to get an edge. When these thoughts kick in, it’s tempting to assume that if our presentation is stunning, then we’d roll some eyeballs and get more of what we want; namely recognition and interest.

Some designers pursue this objective by working on daily UIs and Dribbble shots for fun where constraints don’t exist and the sky is the limit. The thinking I assume is that if the sky is the limit then the outcome may potentially be more impressive; and who wouldn’t want a portfolio of impressive pieces?

The issue with this line of thought however is that there can be no design without a customer, a problem and some constraints. Therefore engaging heavily in the visual aspect alone leads to unrealistic outcomes which also misrepresent product design as a practice. Another real issue with practicing design without customers, problems and constraints is that it will lead to bad practice which could make you a worse designer.

With this being said, I believe there are ways to practice UI deliberately and build a stunning portfolio which is both realistic and also more likely to interest people who know product well.

How to practice UI deliberately and become a better designer

Practicing UI is not a bad thing, however it’s worth remembering that UI is one part of a much larger process and by going through the full design process, you’ll reach the UI stage with more context and can make better decisions as a result.

When I practice UI, I typically mimic the full design process in a short period of time in order to get context and direction, however I’d spend the bulk of my time in the UI stage to ensure that I’m getting the practice I set out to get. After all a UI exercise is a UI exercise. This way I can make…