Career Insight

What does a UI Designer Actually do?

What does a UI Designer Actually do?

Ever wonder why certain websites evoke certain emotions? Or, you may be curious about why some websites and apps are easier to navigate than others. You can thank user interface (UI) design for that. 

But what exactly is UI and how does it impact how a person experiences a website? Let’s explore the basics of UI design so you can get a better understanding of this creative tech position (and decide if you want to pursue a career in it). 

Here’s what we’ll get into today: 

  • What does a UI Designer actually do? 
  • What is UI design?
  • What skills do you need to be a UI Designer?
  • Is UI design a good career? 
  • How can I become a UI Designer? 

Let’s take a look at what a UI Designer’s job really entails. 

What is UI design? 

UI design is the discipline of designing user interfaces. A user interface is the point of contact a person has with an app, website, or software. Similar to graphic design and web design, a UI Designer is a type of visual designer. 

A UI Designer is different from a Web Designer because they focus on designing interfaces for websites, apps, and other digital products whereas web designs are focused solely on websites. 

Similar to UX Designers, UI Designers create in a human-centered approach, prioritizing users’ needs first.  A UI Designer’s job is to ensure the user interface is beautiful and intuitive (meaning a person can navigate easily through it without having to think too much about what they’re doing). UI design also helps shape a customer’s perception of a brand. 

Are UX and UI the same thing? 

Not exactly. They’re more like cousins or siblings. 

Chances are if you’ve heard of UI as a discipline, you’ve also heard the term “UX design”. UX and UI Designers work together to create awesome mobile apps, websites, and other digital products. But it’s also important to note that there’s a difference between UX and UI. 

User experience (UX) design is about the overall experience a user has with a digital or physical product. UX is more focused on the big picture while UI focuses more on visual details. Think of UX as the feel, and UI as the look. For a deeper explanation of their differences, check out this blog

Because they work so closely together, it’s not uncommon to hear the terms UI and UX used interchangeably. Sometimes, the roles are even combined into a single position. Set yourself apart in the field by learning skills from both user experience and user interface design. 

What does a UI Designer actually do? 

Now that you’ve got a basic understanding of what UI design is, let’s discuss what a UI Designer actually does. A user interface designer is responsible for creating the look of a website. They’re tasked with designing a user interface from the user’s point of view. They may be given a specific design problem and be asked to solve it. The end goal of UI design is to create an intuitive user interface that’s easy to follow along with while also being visually engaging. 

A UI Designer will work on tasks like: 

  • Competitive analysis on look & feel 
  • Create and maintain style guides 
  • Visual design – including typography, buttons, color palette
  • Interaction design – including animation, interactivity, prototypes 
  • Implementing cohesive branding across design elements
  • Front-end development

As a UI Designer, you’ll work closely on a team of people. Your team members and colleagues may include UX Designers, a Web Developer, an Art Director, and a Creative Director. 

What skills do you need to be a UI Designer?

The best user interface designers should possess several key traits. If you’re interested in entering the field, you should determine whether you have the following skills and traits: 

  • Creativity – UI Designers live in the creative world and need to come up with new design ideas. They should also solve problems in innovative ways, pushing the boundaries of aesthetic design while addressing user problems.  
  • Attention to detail – The best UX/UI Designers are detail-oriented, moving beyond the big picture and diving deep into granular design issues.  
  • Communication – UI Designers need solid communication skills as they often work on teams to create deliverables. You should be able to communicate your vision for designs to clients, developers, and other design team members.  
  • Empathy – User interface design is focused on the user. You’re not just designing beautiful interfaces. You’re designing beautiful interfaces that make the user’s experience easier. This means you’ll need to empathize with users, examining what problems might arise when navigating the interface you design. You’ll also need to be mindful of the fact that different design elements can evoke different emotions for a user. And you’ll need to be able to empathize to create accessible interfaces that can serve the visually impaired. 
  • Experience with design and prototyping tools – As a designer, you’ll use UX/UI tools like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Figma, Sketch, Proto.io, Adobe XD, and Invision Studio. 
  • Knowledge of design principles – UI and UX Designers follow standard design principles in their work. These tried-and-true principles help streamline the design process and ensure users can easily follow and understand the website, mobile app, or product they are navigating. They’ll also need to know concepts like color theory. 
  • Some experience with front end development – Knowing how to code can help set you apart in the job market. While it’s not always required for the role of UI/UX Designer, front-end development knowledge can assist you in the design process.  For example, you’ll have a better understanding of what is and isn’t possible when creating a design. 

Is UI design a good career? 

UI design can be an incredibly fulfilling career. UI Designers help shape the visual journeys people take on apps and websites. With so much of our world happening on digital devices right now, UI Designers play a critical role in ensuring users have positive experiences online. 

Your design work can help make things like online shopping, paying bills, remote learning, or online dating more fun and less stressful. While these activities may seem small in the grand scheme of things, they’re all part of people’s daily lives and the more we move our daily activities online, the more important UI design will become. 

It’s also critical to a business’ bottom line to offer quality user interfaces and user experiences to digital customers. 

There’s been a lot of talk about this specifically when it comes to B2B payment companies and banks moving online. Those who have been quick to adopt user-friendly digital interfaces and experiences have found success. For example, B2B e-commerce merchant Payer has mimicked B2C customer experiences to make the B2B payment process less of a hassle for users. Meanwhile, those that haven’t are facing new challenges and potential customer loss. 

All of this to say, user interface and user experience are super important aspects of a company’s business model right now. And, as a result, it can present a fulfilling and successful career option. 

How can I become a UI Designer? 

There are many paths to becoming a successful UI Designer. Some UX/UI Designers arrive at their careers by studying design at the university level, while others upskill or reskill after working in other industries. 

The good news is that no matter where you are in your career or what you studied in college, you can become a UX or UI Designer. It’s super common for people to make career changes into UX/UI. In fact, bringing in experience from other fields can help you succeed in design jobs as you can transfer an abundance of skills to the role. 

You’ll likely meet designers who used to be psychologists, IT professionals, journalists, educators, or marketers on a design team. They may have learned empathy, communication skills, technical know-how, and branding on the job. When paired with design skills, these professionals are ready to succeed in the tech industry. 

So, just how can you become a UI Designer? 

A great way to upskill or reskill for a career in UX/UI design is through a bootcamp or upskill program. At Kenzie Academy, we offer a UX Design Career program. This program is built for working professionals who are either already working in tech or who would like to. 

In this part-time 6-month program, you’ll learn the ins and outs of design patterns, user research, design thinking, and more. 

You’ll graduate with a portfolio full of UI and UX projects to showcase to potential employers. You’ll build design wireframes, interaction models, and work on web and mobile app designs. 

Courses are taught by industry experts so you can be sure you’re learning from the best. After completing the course, you’ll have the skills needed to work as a Product Designer, UX Designer, UI Designer, or in other types of visual designer roles. You’ll use product design and prototyping tools like Figma and Sketch. 

Ready to enroll? Apply for our next cohort here so you can get trained and hired for a UI/UX career.

Additional Resources 

Still deciding if you want to become a UI/UX Designer? Check out these additional resources and related articles to learn more about the profession. 

Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things by Don Norman

Ever wonder why people shell out thousands for designer handbags? Or, why do people seem to love the simplicity of Apple products so much? It all lies in the emotional appeal these products provide. Emotions play a big role in how users react to websites, apps, and products. Whether you want to be a UI Designer or Product Designer, this book is a great introduction into the psychology of design.  

10 Heuristics for User Interface Design by Jakob Nielsen 

Jakob Nielsen, co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group, created a short but sweet list of general principles for interaction design back in 1994. While the list is more than 20 years old, its rules still apply in 2020. Jakob also includes links to other related articles and videos to help illustrate each principle… The learning just doesn’t stop.  

Don’t Make Me Think Revisited by Steve Krug

Steve Krug’s book is considered a classic in the design community. In this no-nonsense guide, he explains the design principles behind intuitive navigation and information design in a witty and fun way. His writing style will help you get a clearer picture of how to design with empathy for your user. The latest edition comes with an added chapter on mobile usability and updated illustrations. 

So You Wanna Make Games? | Episode 9: User Interface Design by Riot Games 

This YouTube lecture is engaging and packed with tons of great info (and beautiful UI). In it, you’ll learn how UI plays into video game production. Spoiler: video games depend a lot on UI designers. These tech professionals help make sure information is presented clearly and beautifully so users can get their game on without a hitch. Even further, some game genres require more UI work than others. If you’re a gamer, this one’s for you. 

Designing Interfaces: Patterns for Effective Interaction Design by Jennifer Tidwell 

Are you a visual learner? If so, you might benefit from checking out this book. With full-color examples, you’ll learn about various design patterns and how to solve common problems. The book also discusses design concepts that are often misunderstood including affordances, visual hierarchy, navigational distance, and the use of color. 

Related articles: 

Should you Consider a Career in UX Design Right Now? 

What is a Typical UX Designer Salary? 

Ace Your UX Designer Whiteboard Interview

Have additional questions about becoming a UI or UX Designer? Contact us! We’d love to discuss your professional goals and how the UX Design Career program could help you accomplish them. 


Ready to jumpstart your career as a UX Designer or Coder? Learn more about our Software Engineering and UX Design programs, or check out our free beginner’s coding program Kenzie Free.

Alexa Goins

Alexa Goins

Alexa Goins is the Content Marketer at Kenzie Academy. Before she joined the field of higher education marketing, she worked as a journalist and taught English in the South of France. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading non-fiction works, doing embodiment yoga, or planning her next trip to Paris. You can find more of her work at www.alexagoins.com.

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  • Date
    October 14, 2020
  • Posted In
    Career Insight
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