What is a UI/UX designer’s job? What skills should you have to become one?

Every product has a design. Granted, some of them have a bad one, but that is beside the point. So if products and solutions have a design, there must be someone creating it. What about websites and applications? Have you ever been curious about what is a UI/UX designer’s job in the first place and what exactly those “UI/UX” letters in the job title mean?

Our article will shed light on all your pressing questions about UI/UX designer’s tasks and responsibilities, including what skills a person should have to thrive in UI and UX design services, how to tell UI and UX designers apart, and last but not least - tips on what to do to become a UI/UX designer.

User interface and user experience design

So, about those letters. UI stands for user interface, and UX a priori means user experience. You probably already knew that. But what do they mean in the context of a design profession? Both user interface and user experience design deal with how users perceive and interact with a website, web application, mobile application, or any other kind of software that has an interface.

The user interface means the product’s graphical layout. People can click on buttons, read text, view images, type on the text fields, scroll, etc. In short, do whatever you usually do on websites or apps. User interface design is all about aesthetics. Every visual element has to be presented in a flattering yet coherent way. UI designers deal with numerous combinations of fonts, colors, shapes, images, and animations.

Meanwhile, user experience design deals with the product’s functionality and practical experiences. UX designers outline and then design users' entire journey from the start (when they first become familiar with your product) to the last task they have, usually either checkout or any other desired outcome. The number one priority of UX design is effectiveness and intuitiveness with the human-first approach.

Is a UI designer the same as a UX designer?

Semantically, no. Unless it’s specified in the job title and description. The person is then called a UI/UX designer. Typically, nowadays, you’ll find many wonderful specialists holding a combined role of both UI and UX. Although these are two separate disciplines, depending on the project’s complexity, UI and UX can be either one of two different jobs.

All in all, we mentioned earlier how UX and UI design varies from one another and has different duties within the product. However, how well they work together determines the project’s success. And it’s the same with the designers themselves. Their tasks may differ, but their goal is the same - to produce a product that people will like using.

UX vs UI designer
UX vs UI designer

UX designer tasks and responsibilities

Let’s now delve deeper into what those tasks are. For user experience designers, their tasks and responsibilities in the job description include:

  • Performing a competitive analysis to collect valuable insights from similar products that occupy the same niche;
  • Conducting user research to learn more about the client's goals and behaviors and create user personas based off of them;
  • Determining the information architecture of the future product, which will show its structure;
  • Making low-fidelity representations of future design in the form of user flows and wireframes;
  • Producing interactive prototypes of the product that serves as its pre-development version for testing the interactions;
  • Testing the product on real people and gathering feedback from them.

UI Designer tasks and responsibilities

On the other hand, to create that great look and feel of all your favorite products, UI designers have to:

  • Research how users interact with the type of product they are creating, which includes any interaction with any of the visual elements, such as buttons, fields, texts, images, graphics, menus, etc.;
  • Translate requirements into style guides;
  • Create user guides and storylines;
  • User interface design prototyping and design all interactive elements;
  • Design the product’s branding and visual identity - logo, overall style and its consistency, marketing design, color palette, fonts, and typography;
  • Work jointly with user experience designers to make sure the user interface was designed according to the UX research findings and following the user-centric approach.

Required skills for UI/UX design

To thrive in the UI/UX field, a person eager to become a designer should possess a series of important skills, both soft and technical. Even though it’s not an exact science, to become a true expert in user interface and user experience design, you will need to master pretty much every skill below.

Unfortunately, it’s not a “got 5 out of 10 and still passed” kind of situation. It’s not our intention to scare you off, though. All these skills are somewhat interconnected, and if you take your design journey seriously, you’ll be able to acquire them all fair and square relatively quickly.

Top UI/UX designer skills
Top UI/UX designer skills

Design software proficiency

Every UX/UI designer should master a few essential tools in their arsenal to carry out all their day-to-day design tasks. For example, a few of these “must-haves” include Figma or Sketch as an all-in vector-based collaboration toolkit for building dynamic prototypes. Other handy instruments include Proto.io for high-fidelity prototypes, Axure for wireframing, etc.

User research

Every UX/UI design gets accompanied by lots of user research to be as effective and enjoyable for consumers as possible. Being able to productively gather qualitative and quantitative user data is a necessary skill for designers, and it includes methods like user interviews, surveys, focus groups, field studies, and card sorting.

Data analysis

Just conducting the research isn’t enough. Designers should know how to analyze the gathered information to create a data-informed design. That very process of transforming raw chunks of data into actionable insights is vital to producing the desired results in any project - you have to know how to use analytics tools and always be able to filter and prioritize research findings.

Information architecture

Information architecture is an indispensable UX/UI design skill that involves structuring and organizing every design component and piece of information in a logical and neat manner and pattern. Information architecture covers everything from the navigation and the search functionality to the way you organize your pages on the sitemap.

Communication and collaboration

Non-technical but extremely crucial skills to have in the design field are communication and collaboration skills. They work in unison and provide harmony in any team. You may be a lone wolf, but the inability to work in a group can cause many great projects to fail due to miscommunication or a destructive “tug of war” in the crew.

Flexibility

There are two types of flexibility required in UX/UI design. First, designers should be able to adapt to changes in requirements and project scope either because of the shift in business needs of the stakeholders or because the research deemed the initial idea futile. Secondly, having enough flexibility to deal with ambiguity in the design process.

Wireframing and prototyping

The two most principal skills in the design process, wireframing and prototyping, help UI/UX designers visualize what their creation will look like. Wireframing stands for a basic layout of a page devoid of all visual design, just a pure structure to see how to set up elements. Designers design prototypes to create a demo version of the final product for testing and feedback.

Usability testing

The knowledge and skill of usability testing come in handy when designers need to validate their design choices. Even after incorporating every relevant insight from previously conducted user research, you need to run them by your users. UI/UX professionals primarily use either moderated or unmoderated usability tests, both remote and in-person.

Agile practices

This skill on our list of UX/UI essentials has nothing to do with the design tools or testing. Agile is a combination of project management practices oriented toward a more iterative approach to product design and development. In UX/UI, it means that the next iteration or phase comes right after the previous one, creating a continuous workflow and a faster delivery.

UI and visual communication

When using a product, we use our perceptions. In digital products such as websites and apps, most of those perceptions come from the way something looks. Good visual communication involves creating an effective UI, using standardized elements that users are familiar with, setting up an understandable hierarchy, showing clearly when an object is clickable, etc.

Coding

While computer programming skills are not necessary for either a UX designer or UI designer, the basic knowledge of such important languages as HTML and CSS for the next step after design - front-end development - is invaluable in making designers understand the link between design and development and craft a more realistic UI/UX.

UX writing

The design of a website or application does not only contain visual elements but also various types of text - welcoming text on landing pages, error messages, onboarding pages, product descriptions, app instructions, captions, etc. Helpful and inviting microcopy helps designers craft an overall pleasurable experience of their products.

Empathy

And last but just as important in design is empathy towards your users. If you design for yourself and completely disregard what your users want and need in a product, it will never be successful and effective. Empathy should carry designers through user research, testing, initial product sketches, and every next iteration meant to improve user experience.

How to become a UI/UX designer

There are two most common paths to becoming a UI/UX designer - either a self-taught journey or taking specialized courses. To be frank, whatever path you choose, it’s the experience that matters the most. You can take UX and UI courses but lack the practical application of your knowledge or be a self-taught designer with an extensive portfolio of exciting projects.

Based on numerous UX/UI designer job descriptions and our own experience in the tech field, here’s how you get relevant design experience and enrich your portfolio:

  • Use free pre-made UI kits you can find all over various design blogs and websites to help you build your own project as quickly as possible;
  • Redesign existing websites and put your work on different design platforms and social networking sites to showcase your style;
  • Try to find your area of interest and build your cases around it;
  • Take online courses that also offer practical tasks and small projects in addition to design theory;
  • Find a mentor who used to go through a similar path that will help you with the ins and outs of the profession.

To find an entry-level position in UI/UX design, you should also be prepared to take a myriad of interviews. Study the typical HR manager interview questions. Make your portfolio presentable, and don’t forget about cover letters. You should also build connections with people in your industry to not miss out on opportunities you won’t get just by browsing job boards.  

When we hire UX/UI professionals, we always look at the person's passion and willingness to grow. Of course, other crucial aspects we look at are a minimum of 3 years experience in Figma, their English level, and a strong portfolio, but without passion - there's not much you can do.

Elisabeth Hyliuk, Head of Design

Examples of UI and UX design

There are so many examples of UI and UX design out and about on the Internet - just open any website, for example. To truly show you the variety, it should be a separate article in and out of itself. For instance, we have a whole piece on websites with the best UX.

Not to beat around the bush, we also recommend checking out our case studies, where you can see the examples of UI and UX design that our team did recently, and the variety consistently grows larger.

Wrap-up

UI/UX designer is an inspiring profession filled with loads of both creativity and day-to-day routine. Though just like any other job, it requires heaps of effort and hours of learning and training to do your best.

If you have decided UI and UX design is the path you want to take or are just curious about what this career entails, we hope our article has given you enough information to munch on. For more interesting stuff about design, be sure to check out our Merge blog.

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Serhii Hyliuk

Head of Growth

Head of Growth and Customer Success. I'm interested in design, new tech, fashion, exploring new places and languages. My mission is to make our clients happy.

Head of Growth and Customer Success. I'm interested in design, new tech, fashion, exploring new places and languages. My mission is to make our clients happy.

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