UI Designer Job Description
UI (or User Interface) designers are responsible for developing, designing, and revising user-facing aspects of applications, websites, and other consumer products. This role balances a keen understanding of technology with a strong sense of how users view and interact with applications, websites, and interfaces on technology including televisions, vehicles, and smart appliances.
This role is primarily focused on design and aesthetics, with a focus on the end-user and creating an interface that engages consumers and provides an attractive and usable application or website.
UI Designer Duties and Responsibilities
Develop and Design Graphical Elements
Graphic design is one of the most important elements of a UI designer’s role. Successful UI designers need a strong grasp of graphic design trends and principles, particularly as they relate to web and application design. UI designers are familiar with a wide range of graphic design and prototyping programs and use these to design graphical elements that work across platforms.
Determine Technological Needs and Limits
UI designers also need to have a keen grasp of the technology they are working with, understanding its use cases and limitations in order to design user-facing elements. In this role, UI designers have a strong sense of what users expect from the software or application and understand how design elements work with backend elements to balance attractive design with ease of use.
Build Mockups and Wireframes
Frequently, UI designers develop and present mockups and wireframes to clients, team members, and management. This is often an iterative process, with the UI designer developing several different versions, incorporating feedback and revision requests, and presenting updated versions before the project moves into the final design stage.
Conduct Consumer Research
UI designers may communicate directly with users, including beta testers and initial users, to receive feedback on design elements. This aspect of the role can involve A/B testing to determine which elements of a site or application users find most accessible and usable, as well as asking users to provide their general impressions of the look and feel of the application or site.
Collaborate with Team Members
UI designers work with cross-functional teams that can include product development and content management personnel, so successfully communicating and coordinating across departments is a major aspect of this role. UI designers may need to gather specifications and report their findings to other teams while also receiving updated guidelines and UI requirements throughout the design, testing, and deployment process.
Program and Code
UI Designer Skills and Qualifications
UI designers play a vital role in determining how applications and sites look and feel for the end user. They need both a strong design sense and extensive familiarity with technology to succeed in this role. Most employees hire UI designers with at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field, along with the following skills:
- Graphic Design – Successful UI designers have extensive familiarity with graphic design processes and principles and possess a keen understanding of how design elements work together
- Coding and Design Tools – UI designers use a variety of design and coding tools to develop and edit user-facing elements. They may also develop wireframes and prototypes during the design process
- Testing and Feedback – While developing projects, UI designers conduct usability testing and gather feedback from users. This provides helpful information for future iterations of the application or site
- Team Collaboration – UI designers usually work with cross-functional teams, so the ability to communicate with product development and content production personnel is key to successful UI design
- Presentation – Often, UI designers need to present and defend their design decisions during the project lifecycle. UI designers are able to justify design decisions and clearly articulate their reasoning behind those decisions
- Problem-Solving – UI designers think on their feet and rapidly adjust ideas and solve problems. Specifications may change, or a significant revision of backend code may result in the UI designer developing new solutions
Tools of the Trade
UI designers tend to work in office settings, and use standard office software and equipment as well as:
- Graphic Design Programs (Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Sketch)
- Prototyping Tools (Axure, MockFlow)
UI Designer Education and Training
Most UI designers have at least a bachelor’s degree, although there are many options when it comes to specific programs. UI designers may have a bachelor of arts degree in graphic design or fine arts, or a computer science or design-related degree in a field like information systems or interaction design.
UI Designer Salary and Outlook
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have specific wage data for UI designers, both Glassdoor and PayScale have gathered salary reports from this field. Glassdoor estimates that the median annual salary for UI designers is $81,794, with 1,626 salaries reported. PayScale reports that the median annual salary is $63,343, with a significantly smaller sample size of 809 reported salaries.
Increasingly, companies are combining the roles of UI designer and UX (User Experience) designer. These two roles do have some overlap, so job seekers looking to enter this field may have better prospects if they have experience with both.
If you’re interested in beginning a career as a UI designer, we found several resources to help you learn more about the field:
“What Do I Need to Know to Become a UI Designer?” – This article provides a look at the creative process and provides exercises and tips for people looking for a career as a UI designer.
Designing with the Mind in Mind, Second Edition: Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Guidelines by Jeff Johnson – Read about principles and best practices for UI design, including user perspectives.
“Why UI Designers Should Learn to Code” – Read this blog article about the many benefits of learning to code when you work as a UI designer.
UI is Communication: How to Design Intuitive, User Centered Interfaces by Focusing on Effective Communication by Everett N. McKay – This book examines the role of UI and provides guidance on designing accessible and intuitive experiences for end users.
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