What Does a UI Designer Actually Do?

What Does a UI Designer Actually Do?

February 9, 2021

UX and UI are often conflated in reference to product development, but the two terms refer to distinct roles in design. 

While user experience design revolves around user research, persona identification, and designing frameworks, user interface design is more concerned with the hands-on graphic design work. 

Think of it this way: UX designers create the “feel” of a product, while UI designers create the “look.” All interactive and visual elements of a website, application, or other digital product are created by UI designers, whether it’s an image gallery, color scheme, or navigation buttons.

What skills do you need to be a UI designer?

User interface design involves a comprehensive set of soft skills such as strong communication, collaboration, and empathy, as well as hard skills including proficiency in design and prototyping tools. 

When a UX designer has completed their research, wireframes, and prototypes, it’s time for a UI designer to step in and actually build out the graphic elements. The hand-off and idea-sharing require strong communication skills for both the UX and UI designers. UI designers will need to communicate with clients, stakeholders, and other product developers on the team to ensure the visual elements are in step with what’s been decided in the UX design phase.

UI designers collaborate consistently throughout the design process, requiring strong team-working skills such as listening and troubleshooting with others. In addition to collaboration, they will also approach their work with empathy for the user and other stakeholders. 

UI designers should be able to put themselves in the users’ shoes to create intuitive pathways and layouts that are both easy to navigate and aesthetically pleasing.

Designers responsible for user interface also need hard design and prototyping skills. Proficiency in tools such as Sketch, Adobe XD, and InVision are crucial for carrying out the overall design work. There are also foundational practices that help establish the basis of user interface design, such as typography, color theory, and Gestalt Principles. 

Many who are interested in UI design want to know: Do I need to learn how to code to become a UI designer? While knowing fundamentals of web design such as HTML, CSS, and Javascript can give you an advantage, it’s not necessary to know how to code to become a UI designer. 

Hard coding for a product comes in later stages. Web and software developers take on that piece of the product design puzzle.

What’s in the job description for a UI designer?

A typical job description for UI design roles would include tasks such as collaboration, hands-on design, and prototyping. Let’s take a closer look at each task.

Collaboration with the product development team

It’s standard for a UI designer to work closely with both the UX designer and the client to create the final product. While much of the product and user research will be under the auspices of the UX designer, a strong familiarity with the product and client will help UI designers create powerful interfaces.

Beyond the UX designer and client, a UI designer will also collaborate with the developers to carry out the final product creation. Communication across teams demands strong collaboration skills for UI designers.

Hands-on design work

For many UI designers, this is the fun part. Getting hands-on with the design is perhaps the biggest part of a UI designer’s role in product development. Taking the wireframing and information architecture created by the UX designer, UI designers will then bring ideas to life by creating all visual design elements that the end-user will navigate. 

As part of the design work, UI designers will create a style guide that can be used for all visual elements of the product. UI designers decide elements such as layout, how much space there is between elements, and intuitive usability components such as navigation buttons and menus. Other UI elements include icons, scrollbars, animations, and image sliders.

Prototyping for testing designs

As UI designers carry out the design process, they’re continuously testing their work with prototyping. Prototyping allows UI designers to test out various elements and functions to make changes and tweak as needed. UI designers often use various tools for prototyping including Adobe Photoshop, InVision, Principle, and Figma.

What is a UI designer’s salary?

UI designers earn competitive salaries. Entry-level UI designers can make, on average, $50,000 per year. After a few years of experience, that figure jumps considerably to an average of about $84,000. 

What should I learn to be a UI designer?

There are fundamental skill sets that every UI designer should learn, including how to create mockups, wireframes, and conduct the necessary research. Along with fundamental hard skills, you’ll need to gain a deep understanding of design theory.

As you enter the world of UI design, it’s a good idea to immerse yourself in UI culture by reading blogs to learn about the latest developments in the industry. Consider joining professional networks to help build your industry knowledge and gain connections in the field. 

Becoming a UI designer doesn’t take years of studying—many can get started with immersive bootcamps such as those offered by Eleven Fifty Academy. If you’re interested in learning more about the options available at Eleven Fifty, consider joining a free UI design course. During the free intro class, you’ll learn about the curriculum and tuition options for Eleven Fifty’s full UX/UI design class online.

For more on this subject, check out The Ultimate Guide to UX/UI Design.

To read about past students’ experiences, be sure to read reviews of Eleven Fifty Academy.

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