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UX or UI Design – Which Career Is Right for You?

Job in Tech
Job in Tech

With dozens of apps around, what makes an app worthy of space on your phone? That’s probably the app that is functional, intuitive, and enjoyable – the one that will evoke positive feelings and make you want to use it again. Creating such apps or websites is not easy and requires exceptional professionals: UX and UI designers. And no, these are not the same roles; they’re completely different and yet complementary. So, what is UX/UI design? Who are UX and UI designers? What are their tasks, and what does the future hold for them?

UX vs. UI design – what’s the difference?

In the world of product design, UX and UI make a pair of inseparable elements on a mission to create user-friendly and useful products. Can one exist without the other? In fact, not really – UX and UI complement each other and play an essential role in the process of creating successful products. And the product’s success is all about the users who want to use it. 

However, with so many high-quality apps, websites, and services around, getting users’ attention is more challenging than ever. No longer does the basic usability of a product or its price determine people’s decision whether to use it or not. Products must be intuitive, simple, and pleasant to interact with.

According to Donald A. Norman, an American expert in the fields of design, usability engineering, and cognitive science, “It’s not enough that we build products that function, that are understandable and usable, we also need to build products that bring joy and excitement, pleasure and fun, and yes, beauty to people’s lives.” 

That’s why it’s so important to put the users’ needs first, learn more about their expectations, and even exceed those expectations to end up with a great product and loyal customers. After all, when the users gain, so does the business.

Having said that, let’s explore the roles of UX and UI in the product development process and the differences between them.

UX design

First things first: what does UX actually mean? 

UX stands for “user experience” and refers to the way people interact with products or services, either physical or digital. For example, when you’re hungry but don’t feel like cooking, you might use a food delivery app to order some food right to your doorstep. Once you open the app, you start interacting with it. And things like the app’s layout, design elements, various options, and other features impact how you feel about the whole interaction. 

While using a product, people usually evaluate their experiences according to the criteria below:

  • Value – does the product give value? Is it useful?
  • Functionality – does it work?
  • Usability – is it intuitive and easy to use?
  • General impression – is it pleasant to use?

Suppose one element doesn’t meet the users’ expectations because something is confusing, clunky or slow. In that case, the whole interaction might result in a poor user experience, which can scare the users away for good. Obviously, nobody wants that to happen.

That’s why UX design is so important. Its main goal is to understand users’ problems, needs, behaviors, and the context in which they will use a given product. Then, find solutions, implement them, and make interaction with this product as intuitive, functional, and user-friendly as possible.

In other words, UX design is a process of designing a product in such a way that it generates positive emotions among its users. Usually, it’s done first, before UI design. It is about providing the skeletal structure of a product – determining the size and organization of the elements in the product, choosing functions and features, and planning how all of it will behave when users start interacting with it.

That’s UX design. What about UI design?

UI design

User interface (UI) design concerns the visual layer of a product. However, unlike UX design, which applies to both physical and digital products, UI design is a strictly digital term. And as the name suggests, UI design relates to digital screens and interfaces. So, whether it’s the interface of an app or a website, this is the point of interaction between humans and computers. So, the role of UI design is to design the appearance and behaviors of these digital interfaces so that the user’s interaction is simple, efficient, and delightful.

User interface (UI) design comes right after the UX part is done. It focuses on the design and layout of digital screens together with the elements they contain. That covers anything from colors and typography to buttons, menus, spacing and other visual and interactive features.

When compared to UX design, which is more about problem-solving, UI design is definitely the more artistic disciple of the two. By carefully considering each and every visual and interactive element the users might come across, it’s possible to create enjoyable, frustration-free, and more personalized experiences. Note that delighted and happy users will keep coming back.

Good UI design is also emotional design. It should communicate brand values and evoke positive feelings among users.

UX and UI designers – who are they, and what exactly do they do?

UX designers and UI designers have two entirely different roles, yet complementary, in the process of product development. However, more often, it’s possible to notice that companies look for UX/UI designers – specialists who can perform both UX and UI tasks.

Thus, let’s have a look at the tasks and responsibilities of both UX and UI designers.

UX designer’s tasks and responsibilities

As a UX designer, you must ensure that people using apps or websites have a satisfying and smooth user experience. Your duties may vary depending on the company you work for. However, usually, you’ll have to:

  • Discover customer needs by meeting with stakeholders or running workshops.
  • Make a competitor analysis and conduct user research to discover user behaviors and needs.
  • Create and evaluate user personas and customer journeys based on the collected data and insights.
  • Prepare a range of visual concepts, on paper as well as in software applications.
  • Using professional tools to translate these concepts into wireframes (two-dimensional visual representation of a web page or an app interface), prototypes, and user flows (diagrams showing users’ journey of interactions with the product).
  • Design the product’s information architecture – organizing and labeling information/data in the app/website.
  • Collaborate with other people such as project managers, engineers, designers etc.
  • Report on the progress of their work and identify some areas for improvement.
  • Design and redesign websites and apps to be responsive and easy to use.
  • Plan and conduct usability tests with real users to check if the design meets their needs and if it’s functional, efficient, and enjoyable.

UI designer’s tasks and responsibilities 

As a UI designer, on the other hand, you’ll need to design the look, feel, and interactivity of a digital product. Therefore, your main goal will be to create user interfaces that look attractive, convey the brand, and are easy to navigate. Typically, you’ll have to:

  • Conduct competitor analysis to check what interfaces and features users are already used to in similar products.
  • Understand user needs and product goals.
  • Design the interfaces – choose typography and colors, and design individual elements such as buttons, forms, icons etc.
  • Design interactive properties of various elements in the interface (e.g., animations) and determine what happens when a user clicks on a given button.
  • Communicate interaction and design ideas by creating wireframes, storyboards, user flows, and prototypes.
  • Hand designs over to developers.
  • Use professional tools to get the job done, e.g., Figma, AdobeXD, Sketch, UXPin, MockFlow and many others.

What skills do you need to get started in UX and UI design?

As you already know, UX and UI design are two separate fields that complement each other and work in tandem. To launch a successful career in any of them, you need both hard and soft skills. Generally, UX design requires different skills than UI design. However, it’s sometimes possible that some of the skills overlap.

Typically, in the case of UX design, you’ll need to have:

  • Great problem-solving skills.
  • Effective communication skills to cooperate with clients and team members.
  • Listening skills and empathy for users so that you understand their needs, emotions, and behaviors.
  • Design and spatial skills to measure the usability of an app or a website/an eye for detail.
  • Proficiency in UX design tools such as Figma, Sketch, AdobeXD etc.
  • Knowledge of prototyping, wireframing, user flows, and mockups.
  • Knowledge of Information Architecture (IA) to organize and structure content effectively.
  • Ability to conduct user research and usability testing.

As a UI designer, on the other hand, you’re expected to have:

  • Aptitude for problem-solving to troubleshoot and apply solutions effectively.
  • Communication skills to collaborate with clients and various people on the team.
  • Understanding of application development.
  • Creativity and knowledge of interaction and visual design principles such as typography, color theory, and branding. 
  • Ability to create wireframes and prototypes.
  • Knowledge of professional industry tools.
  • Excellent attention to detail.

Usually, these two roles function as two different professions. So, there are people that either specialize in UX or UI design. Interestingly enough, recently, it’s been quite common for some companies, especially those with small design teams, to look for specialists that can perform both UX and UI roles. That’s why you might more often come across companies hiring for “UX/UI designer” positions.

Job prospects for UX and UI designers

If you’re already working in the UX/UI industry or just looking to start a career, you might be wondering whether the demand for specialists with such roles is still there. And if it will be there in the future.

The job market for UX/UI specialists can be competitive and frustrating, especially with so many candidates hunting for a limited number of jobs. However, while for designers with little experience, it can be quite challenging to land a job quickly, there are still many opportunities for more experienced UX and UI designers. With determination and patience, they can find well-paid and rewarding jobs in the UX/UI industry.

At this point, it’s important to highlight that both UX and UI design are up-and-coming fields. With so many new technologies around (such as Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Motion-sensing, Artificial Intelligence, and many others), UX and UI roles are not going to disappear anytime soon. Quite the opposite – they’ll constantly evolve.

To check the latest job openings for specialists in the UX/UI industry, visit our website and use our job search tool. And if you’d like to check the current average salaries for UX designers in the largest Polish cities, go to our Salary Calculator. 

Are you curious what the situation looks like in the case of Scrum Masters and DevOps Engineers? Check out our articles on Scrum Masters and DevOps Engineer Salary in Poland.