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How to Become a UI Designer

Do you love explaining the advantages of implementing a toolbar versus a hamburger menu? Can you point to demographic research supporting your points? A position as a UI designer and developer might be the immersive, creative role that’s right for you.

UI designers and developers create the layouts of websites, mobile apps, or other digital products. They design each screen a user can or will encounter, including deciding where buttons, menu bars, and other interactive elements of the interface will “live” on the site or mobile app. Proficiency in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and other web development tools is crucial for any prospective UI designer.

UI designers use their expertise in visual design to bring site maps and workflows to life. They also rely on psychological and demographic research to predict how their target audience will engage with the product, then create UI that’s as intuitive as possible for that specific user. Great UI designers will be able to stand behind their layout choices, presenting them persuasively during creative and client reviews.

Sample job description

[Your Company Name] is currently looking for a UI designer to join their team during the next quarter. The UI designer will be responsible for crafting intuitive interfaces that balance form and function while adhering to best practices as established by the community. You will need proven experience as a UI designer or in a related role, be able to craft beautiful interfaces that are intuitive to use, collaborate with team members throughout the product lifecycle to create a cohesive experience for end-users, ensure designs adhere to UI standards and best practices, such as Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines, and have a strong understanding of design principles, user experience, and information architecture.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Work with UX designers to build storyboards, site maps, and conceptual designs
  • Conduct user research to inform UI layout decisions
  • Design dropdown menus, site layouts, and other aesthetic elements
  • Track human-computer interactions created by particular UI designs
  • Present concepts and defend design choices during creative and client reviews
  • Analyze consumer responses and monitor website traffic to inform revisions and improved design
  • Develop visual design and layout best practices

Education and experience

This position requires a bachelor’s degree in computer science, graphic design, web development, or a related field.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Expertise in visual design and use-system interactions
  • Proficiency in JavaScript, HTML, and CSS
  • Proficiency with creative design programs such as Adobe Creative Cloud
  • Strong communication and presentation skills
  • Robust creative-thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Ability to work under tight deadlines

Preferred qualifications

  • Excellent graphic design skills with a focus on typography, layout, and iconography
  • Proficient in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign
  • Knowledge of HTML and CSS
  • Familiarity with prototyping tools such as InVision

Typical work environment

UI designers typically work in an office setting or at home. They may spend time on their computer, sketching out ideas or wireframing in a program such as Photoshop or Illustrator. They may also meet with team members to discuss project progress and collaborate on ideas.

Typical hours

The typical work hours in an office setting for a UI designer are usually from 9 AM to 5 PM. Additional work hours can be required when approaching project deadlines.

Available certifications

There are no specific certifications required for a UI designer, but some employers may prefer candidates with a certification in graphic design or a related field. Certifications that could be beneficial for a UI designer include the Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) designation for Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, as well as the UX Certification from Human Factors International.

Career path

Becoming a UI designer and developer begins with earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science, digital media, graphic design, or a similar field. Many candidates will continue their formal education by pursuing a master’s degree to demonstrate their expertise and stand out to future employers.

UI designers pair their in-depth knowledge of visual design and human psychology with their technical skills in web development to create user-friendly interfaces. Building a substantial portfolio of design work is key to proving they have the necessary hands-on experience and expertise to perform this task.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 27-1021

2020 Employment31,500
Projected Employment in 203033,300
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 6% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift1,800 increase

User experience (UX) and UI designers will continue to work closely to create the “look and feel” of digital products. Many employers have even begun combining UX and UI roles into one hybrid position. As such, UI designers and developers will need to incorporate more conceptual thinking into their wheelhouse and brainstorm big-picture concepts with the creative team.

As interface design tools become more sophisticated, more possibilities for innovative, engaging UI elements will emerge. Streamlining UI for virtual and augmented reality will continue to be a priority as the media become more prevalent in the marketplace. 3D graphics will also continue to inform modern website and mobile app design, including the development of interactive, engaging UI.