BrainStation's UI Designer career guide is intended to help you take the first steps toward a lucrative career in UI design. The guide provides an in-depth overview of the design skills you should learn, the best available UI design training options, career paths in UI design, and more.
A User Interface (UI) Designer is a member of a design team responsible for creating what users see when they visit a website or product, including all the screens users move through while using sites or mobile apps as well as the visual design elements that underscore that motion.
UI Designers and others who specialize in user interface design work closely with user experience designers (UX Designers) as well as other team members who work in product, development, and marketing to ultimately ensure that users have smooth and positive experiences navigating products.
Find out more about UI Designers.
What’s the Difference Between UX and UI Design?
User interface design is considered a subset of user experience (UX) design, and that can lead to a lot of confusion among outsiders or even team members about where the job titles overlap and split away.
Here’s a quick overview of the differences and similarities between UX and UI design:
User Experience (UX) Design
Human-first approach to the design process
Focuses on the entire user experience from users’ very first point of contact
Can be applied to physical and digital products and experiences
Creates products that delight users
User Interface (UI) Design
Human-first approach to the visual design process
Focuses on visual elements users interact with (interaction design) and factors like style, color theory, and visual effects
Can be applied to digital products
Creates products that delight users with their aesthetic and visual appeal
What Does a UI Designer Do?
UI designers design, create, and lay out interactive elements on a digital product in collaboration with and according to the visions of UX Designers, a Product Designer, a Creative Director, or other development team members who will have provided a project roadmap.
A UI Designer’s job is to create and design the way a user interacts with a web product, although the exact amount of input a UI designer has into design decisions and what they’re creating might depend on the type of product, their years of experience, and the industry or companies they’re working for.
UI Designers have to design user interfaces from the user’s point of view, ultimately making design decisions with users in mind and creating an intuitive user interface that is visually compelling and easy to use.
A UI Designer's job typically involves the following job tasks:
Research on look and feel of competing companies
Handling interaction design, including animation
Handling visual designs, including typography and buttons
Design UI that is attractive and functional
Offering input into product design, web designs, and incorporating responsive design
Implementing consistent and cohesive style and branding across companies’ products
Working according to a style guide or creating a style guide when necessary
Conducting user research to identify potential problems with user interface design
Conducting usability testing to ensure meeting industry best practices for usability
Find out more about what a UI Designer does.
Types of UI Design
Although there are many types of user interface design, these are three of the most popular types of UI design:
Graphical User Interfaces: Think visual – any time users interact with visual objects on a digital screen (whether using a mouse or their fingers), they’re interacting with Graphical User Interfaces. Consistency is a big focus when looking at this type of UI design.
Voice User Interfaces: Fast-rising in popularity – just think of how many voice-enabled products are being sold now compared to a few years ago – voice user interfaces require a totally different design process, in which words and syntax are crucial.
Menu-Driven Interfaces: Another type of user interface allows users to select from a range of commands organized into menus.
Benefits of UI Design
There are many benefits for companies considering investing more energy and effort into user interface design, including:
Customer retention and acquisition. Smart UI design is a big part of overall positive user experience, which is crucial to gaining and retaining new customers. Good user interface design should lead to a lower probability of users bouncing and a higher conversion rate overall.
Boost revenue. If potential customers or clients can quickly and smoothly accomplish what they need to on your website or app, it’ll make for an easier path to maximizing sales or revenue.
Fewer customer support requests. A well-organized and easy-to-navigate user interface will reduce potential pain points for users and reduce the likelihood that users will need to seek out IT support, which in turn will relieve a lot of pressure on companies.
Better brand reputation. Companies don’t want to be associated with frustrating to use or visually unappealing products. UI Designers create web products that make a good first impression and maintain that reputation among users.
UI Designer Salaries
While the average User Interface Designer job salary will vary dramatically based on location and your years of experience, a user interface designer tends to bring home a bigger salary than other designers.
The average salary for a UI Designer is nearly $80,000. An entry-level job as a UI Designer might start out in the $40,000 range, while a job as a Senior UI Designer will easily carry a salary of $100,000 or more.
Read more about how much a UI Designer makes.
Demand for UI Designers
UI Designers are in high demand, as companies are placing an increasing focus on user experience and design overall.
A recent job and career guide from Onward Search ranked UI/UX Designer as the third-most in-demand job role when looking at digital creative talent, while the top spot went to a role that similarly considers user interface design. Further, UI design is closely related to UX design, and UX Designers are also in high demand right now.
Read more about the demand for UI Designers.
What Tools Do UI Designers Use?
UI Designers need to use a range of tools, with the following standing as perhaps the most popular with user interface designers:
InVision. UX and UI Designers alike love InVision as a feature-rich web-based prototyping tool.
Zeplin. A UI Designer will use Zeplin to automatically generate specs and guidelines for their designs and communicate them to the rest of a team.
Balsamiq. A popular wireframing tool for UI and UX Designers, Balsamiq offers a user interface library with a range of UI elements that can be dragged and dropped onto a wireframe. It can also be used to run usability tests.
Sketch. Another popular wireframing and prototyping tool, Sketch is another one that will be agreed upon by beloved by UI Designers and UX Designers alike.
Figma. With a powerful suite of editing tools and features, this interface design tool is especially helpful to a UI Designer for its constraints feature, which allows you to adapt designs when the screen size changes.
Flinto. This interactive prototyping app helps UI Designers bring designs to life and incorporate things like video layers, screen transitions, and sound effects.
Adobe XD. This versatile tool is great for UI Designers already committed to working in the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite.
Read more about the tools UI Designers use.
What Skills Does a UI Designer Need?
A UI Designer typically has a mix of design skills and technical skills that they bring to the table. Here a few of the essential skills for UI design pros:
Technical Design Skills
To pursue a career as a UI Designer, you’ll want to focus on technical skills including wireframing and prototyping, responsive design, web design, product design, and widely used industry tools to bring designs to life. Other important skills include the principles of interaction design, usability, research and testing, and how to create personas.
Important Soft Skills
UI Designers typically work within a larger team, so communication and collaboration skills are important. UI Designers are also often interacting with people outside the team, including test users or key stakeholders. Empathy is another important soft skill for UI Designers. You must be able to put yourself in the shoes of users.
Find out more about the skills UI Designers need.
UI Designer Career Paths
Because UI Design sits at the nexus of so many other disciplines, UI Designers have a number of different career paths to consider.
UI and UX are closely linked, so certainly someone with career experience in user interface design would also be a natural fit for jobs in UX design, including UX Designer, User Researcher or Usability Tester. Similarly, UX design and product management are linked, so this career path could lead to a job in that discipline as well.
A UI Designer also likely has many of the skills and sensibilities for a job as a Web Designer. A UI Designer who knows how to code could also look for a job in the web development field, perhaps as a Front End Developer.
Visual design and graphic design are also viable career paths for anyone with job experience in UI design.
Common UI Designer Job Titles
- Web Designer
- Product Designer
- User Experience Designer
- User Researcher
- UX Researcher
- Usability Tester
- Information Architect
- Graphic Designer
- Interaction Designer
- Information Architect
- Product Design Specialist
- Visual Designer
- Content Strategist
Kick-Start Your UI Designer Career
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Recommended Courses for UI Designer
The User Experience Design bootcamp is designed to introduce the skills and concepts required to become a User Experience Designer.
User Interface (UI) Design is the practice of transforming user goals and requirements into beautiful, intuitive, and functional digital interfaces.
The part-time User Experience (UX) Design course was developed for professionals with an interest in digital design, web development, and improving the user experience of their product or digital properties.
The Design Thinking training course gives you the skills to solve complex business problems using the design thinking process.