UX design might be a young industry, but it’s growing at full speed. Today, people are flocking to the world of UX and seeking to learn as much as they can about it. The most common ways of learning UX include classics like taking a class, learning from experienced designers or learning by yourself with any materials you can find.
A UX designer and UI designer both work on creating beautiful interfaces, but their involvement and skill sets are required at different times during the design and development process. So how do you know which career is the best fit for you?
User Experience (UX) Designer
UX designers are skilled at identifying problems and making interfaces as easy to use as possible.
UX designers are known for being obsessed with customers and ensuring the intuitiveness of all designs. A UX designer’s work is often less visual than that of a UI designer and requires an understanding of analytics and testing interfaces.
But what does this look like on a day to day basis?
UX designers take on a variety of roles on a project, so your day to day will change on the stage of the project you’re working on.
You might start your morning recruiting or screening potential users for your next usability test, or typing up the script for your next remote user testing. You could be rethinking wireframes based on technical limitations or feedback that was just analyzed from a user test.
If you’re working on a smaller team, you might take on a wider range of tasks like helping with information architecture or project management and coordination with development teams.
- Strategy: UX designers must clearly know the goals they’re working towards. Is it to increase sign-ups? Create a clear dashboard of information? Whatever the goal, the UX designers are responsible for creating the strategy to achieve a more usable interface.
- Research and Usability Testing: You’ll need to understand how to test your ideas to confirm that you’re working on the right strategy. Usability testing requires recruiting users, creating scripts to follow for your tests, and analyzing and presenting your findings.
- Prototyping: Testing requires prototypes, and for a UX designer, this usually means creating wireframes and thinking through interactivity. Some prototypes might start with a sketch, but a UX designer might be responsible for taking them to a higher fidelity with a tool like InVision or Figma.
UX designers don’t work in isolation. On a digital project, UX designers can expect to work closely with UI designers, project managers, and front-end developers. They need an understanding of a project lifecycle, to be able to understand basic technical components of a build and to have knowledge of good visual design principles.
As an emerging career, there aren’t traditional paths to becoming a UX designer. Oftentimes people who have studied sociology, psychology or human-computer interaction are drawn to the field, but there is no prerequisite and basic skills can be acquired quickly.
User Interface (UI) Designer
User interface designers are responsible for creating interfaces that are aesthetically beautiful — from color palettes to the interaction of a dropdown menu.
UI designers take the wireframes from UX designers and use them like blueprints to apply a wide range of stylistic elements. UI designers are the brains behind the beauty and interactivity of a site.
UI designers are typically involved after some UX work has been completed. You’ll likely start a project with design research and figure out how to apply existing brand guidelines to a new interface.
You’ll make decisions on everything from choosing the best typeface to creating button styles — and you’ll likely have to convince others about your choices.
As a UI designer, you’ll need to understand responsive design and make decisions about how transitions and interactivity work. As your designs progress, you’ll likely work with UX designers to test your work before it goes into development.
- Visual Interface Design: UI designers are responsible for the entire visual interface. This includes everything from putting together style guides that detail how everything from icons to menus should look.
- Interaction and Animation: This is the area where UX and UI designers might share work. A UX or a UI designer might be behind the strategy of what touches and taps will do, but a UI designer applies the idea visually so that user to understand an interface without directions. The interactions a UI designer creates help make an interface intuitive.
UI designers can expect to work with other UI designers, project managers, UX designers and a development team, depending on the size of the team. A UI designer is also responsible for documenting design decisions so that others may apply their guidelines.
Because of the visual nature of UI design, many professionals have a background in fine arts, graphic design or front-end development. A formal degree in design isn’t required, but a strong portfolio is.
Don’t Decide, Do Both!
Although large corporate job postings or freelance projects may require expertise in one area — the reality is that you don’t need to choose. You’re at a competitive advantage if you can do both UX and UI design because you can do both the analytical and project management pieces and then add the necessary aesthetics and interactions. You’ll likely get paid more, too.