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How to Become a UI Designer

What Does a UI Designer Do?

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A UI Designer’s work is related to the conception, design, and assembly of interactive elements, but this depends on the type of product they’re creating, their level of seniority, and the size of the company they work for, among other factors.

Typically, however, the work of a UI Designer can be broken down into three stages.

What Are the Tasks for a UI Designer?

Idea Generation

Before the elements of a product can be designed, someone has to think up what those elements are going to be—what functionality is required, how things will appear on screen, how they’ll work together, and so on.

This is obviously a very collaborative stage of the process. Just how involved a UI Designer is during this stage will depend on their level of seniority. A Senior UI Designer may be expected to take over much of this initial design ideation, working with a UX Designer to help determine the user requirements and overall aesthetic.

A more Junior UI Designer may have less of a hand in conceptualizing the plans for a product’s overarching look and feel, but will most likely be responsible for generating (or helping to generate) the storyboards, process flows, and sitemaps that guide the design phase that follows. Working in collaboration with the UX Designer, the UI Designer can also expect to have a hand in building the mockups and prototypes that show how the final product will look, feel, and function, and which serve as blueprints for the product’s development.

Design

At all levels of seniority, it’s the UI Designer’s responsibility to take the research and personas the UX Designer has developed and run with them, conceiving and creating interactive design elements like menus, tabs, widgets, buttons, sliders, scrollbars, page navigation and search fields, and even layouts, typefaces, color palettes, images, icons, and original graphic designs, illustrations, and animations.

These essentially add up to the design of each screen or page a user interacts with—the overall layout of the page, including what goes where and the overall density and hierarchy of information. It’s worth remembering that websites and apps are viewed on all sorts of different screens; getting the layout to look consistent (and good!) across a range of screen dimensions is also the UI Designer’s job.

Finally, every visual element will adhere to a style guide to ensure consistency throughout the product’s interface pages and beyond—the UI Designer is frequently responsible for creating and enforcing the style guide.

Prototyping

Once all the visual elements have been generated and assembled, it’s time to make sure they work, first by identifying and troubleshooting issues with basic functionality, and later, by allowing test users to interact with the product prototypes to get feedback on their experiences (and, obviously, to make changes to the product based on that feedback).

This typically takes place in two stages: first, via basic clickable wireframes or prototypes, which give Developers and test users a chance to interact with the information architecture and ensure the design is easy to understand and use. With that blueprint in place, the UI Designer, working with the UX Designer, will build a high-fidelity prototype complete with all the visual elements in place, including images, animations, and page transitions. Once all those elements have been given a high polish, the development team can take the product into the final stages of development—and the UI Designer’s work is done.

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