Search “UI designer” in Google and you may find yourself even more confused than before. It doesn’t help that UI and UX are often lumped together, making it difficult to see where one ends and the other begins.
Whilst the two are inextricably linked, it’s important to know that User Interface Design is a field in its own right. Sure, there’s some overlap, but ultimately, UI design comes with its own set of tasks and therefore calls upon entirely different skills
1. Brief UI design
first things first—what is UI design?
User Interface Design is a crucial subset of UX. They both share the same end goal—to provide a positive experience for the user—but UI Design comprises an entirely separate leg of the journey.
Put simply, UI is what you use to interact with a product, while UX is concerned with how this overall interaction feels. We’ve already written extensively about the differences between user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design, so from now on, we’ll focus solely on UI. If, after reading all about the role of a UI designer, you feel inclined to become one, be sure to move gracefully over to senior UI designer Eric Biller ’s step-by-step guide on how to do exactly that, or watch the video tutorial below in which UI design mentor Eliza gives you a hands-on, practical introduction to the world of user interface design.
2. UI Design: Visual Aspect
UI design focuses on the user’s visual experience. It determines how a user interacts with an interface—be it an app, a video game or a website. It’s all about how the user navigates from A to B via different visual touch points. Think tapping a button or swiping through pictures
3. UI Design: The Human Aspect
At the same time, a UI designer works with human behavior in mind.
Look at it this way. A good interface requires barely any thought from the user. Consider your favorite app: it’s easy on the eye and simple to use, right? When you first installed it, you didn’t spend ages working out how to get from A to B—it was just obvious.
The UI designer is pivotal to this. They think about the human user and how the mind works. They use things like patterns, spacing, and color to guide the user.
4. What skills does a UI designer need?
When it comes to the skills UI designers need to thrive in the field, it’s a lot more diverse than you might think. Sure, a UI designer needs a keen eye for detail—but, as we’ve discussed, being a UI designer is so much more than just sitting in front of a screen. UX designers thrive in a team setting when they have excellent soft skills—they are equally important as mastery of the technical tools and methods
* Soft skills
Communication is key in UI design. As you hand off your designs to the developers, you need to effectively communicate the intended function of each element you’ve designed. Communicating with your client and stakeholders is a big part of any UI design role. You often need to explain—and even justify—your design decisions in as much detail as possible
* Hard skills
UI designers require a solid understanding of the fundamental methods, theories, and practices that form the basis of UI design. These include color theory, typography, and UI design patterns, as well as fundamental design approaches such as the Gestalt Principles that will help you to gain a deeper insight into how users perceive and interpret your work.
As we touched on earlier, collaboration is an unavoidable aspect of UI design. At the start of the process especially, you can expect to work closely with both the client and the UX designer. UI is all about humans, after all, so you’ll need to spend some time getting to know the brand and its target user. What goals drive the user as they move around your interface, and what are their expectations?
Of course, a role in UI will require you to get very hands-on with design. This includes designing screens and creating visual touchpoints, as well as the interactivity behind them. UI designers are also responsible for ensuring consistency, so creating a style guide, or visual language, to be used across the board
As a UI designer, it’s also important to repeatedly test your designs – and this is where prototyping comes in. Prototypes enable you to showcase your visual designs in action, helping you to quickly identify flaws and smooth over any rough edges. Prototyping and testing is a crucial part of the UI design workflow, as it will allow you to ensure that the final product ticks all the boxes