What Does a UI/UX Designer Do? (Real UI/UX Designers Explain)

Today I’m going to tell you what exactly a UI/UX Designer is and what we do.

 

I, Zander, have been involved in UI/UX design for about 5 years now, and Lydia has been involved for 4 years.

 

We know from personal experience how confusing terms such as UI and UX can be, so we’re here to give you a simple explanation without the BS.

 

Let’s get started.

What Does a UI/UX Designer Do?

To explain what a UI/UX designer does, I need to first explain UX and UI separately. So you may be asking, what are the differences between UX and UI designers?

What is a UI Designer?

A UI designer, or user interface designer, is responsible for making the visual design of a website or app appealing to users while following a business’ brand guidelines.

What is a UX Designer?

A UX designer, or user experience designer, is responsible for making the best experience possible for users that interact with their products.

You might be thinking, “Yowza, the definition of UX design sounds really broad!” If so, you’d be right.

 

UX design has many subsections to it. As a matter of fact, UI design is the more visual side part UX design. But a UX designer is often also involved in researching competitors, defining who the users are and their goals, understanding how to combine that with the business’ goals, and more.

 

There’s a ton to cover with UX design, so for a deeper dive into what UX design is, read our article on UX design explained in 9 easy steps.


We also have an easy-to-read article explaining more in-depth the differences between UX vs UI vs IA vs IxD.

So...What Exactly Does a UI/UX Designer Do?

A UI/UX designer is expected to both do research into users as well as design wireframes, mockups, and prototypes. You’ll also probably test the prototype with users through usability testing.

 

If you’re just a UI designer, you wouldn’t be involved in the research. If you’re just a UX designer, depending on the job description, you probably won’t be involved in designing the user interface (UI) yourself.

What Does Our Day-To-Day Look Like As UI/UX Designers?

The great thing about being a UI/UX designer is that you never get bored. What I’m doing depends on where we are on the life-cycle of our product.

 

For example, when I have a new project that I’m working on, I’m mostly busy doing research. Some parts of the research phase include:

 

  1. Defining the users and the business’ goals
  2. Analyzing competitors through a competitive analysis
  3. Designing personas and user journey maps.

 

Towards the middle of a project, I might be in the designing phase:

 

  1. Designing wireframes (i.e. simplified versions of an interface/mockup)
  2. Designing mockups (now with color and close to being pixel-perfect)
  3. Designing prototypes (basically, interactable versions of mockups where you can click buttons and move from page to page)

 

Then, I would go into the testing phase:

 

  1. Conducting usability tests with users (to get concrete evidence of what they like/don’t like)
  2. There are other tests you can perform, such as A/B tests to see how users react to small design changes
  3. Reviewing what worked and what didn’t work for users and the business

 

You might think it ends there, but UI/UX design is iterative. In other words, you keep going through these cycles of research, design, and testing because technology and our culture are always evolving.

Why Be A UI/UX Designer?

Goal #5: List What Skills You’ll Have to Learn

UX has been a buzzword for a few years now along with “agile” and, let’s not forget, “synergy.”

 

It’s also a field that pays very well. According to Glassdoor, “The national average salary for a Junior User Experience Designer is $68,663 in the United States [in 2019].”

 

Not bad for a starting salary!

 

You’ll also rarely get bored. As mentioned above, what you’re doing in your day-to-day changes according to the life-cycle of a product.

 

Of course, if you’re into that creativity stuff, being a UI/UX designer will be a great fit for you.

 

It might also be a good fit for you if you’re into research, strategy, and working with others.

Who Can Be A UI/UX Designer?

I have personally seen people from all kinds of majors and backgrounds go into UI/UX design. 

 

From my sister (who went to graduate school to be a prosthetist) to psychology majors to developers, you will find that anyone under the sun can go into UI/UX design.

 

However, some typical majors that go into UI/UX design are psychology majors and graphic design majors.

What Promotions Come After UI/UX Designer?

UI/UX design can lead to multiple paths when it comes to promotions.

 

Probably the most logical promotion is the become a senior UI/UX designer, which simply means you have an X amount of years under your belt with the title (although it’s arguable how many years that should be by different companies).

 

Another promotion is to become a UX manager. With this title, you’ll end up managing some underlings…erm…I mean more junior UI/UX designers. You’ll teach them and guide them, but will probably do less of the designing yourself.

 

Another promotion I’ve seen some UX/UI designers go into is product management or becoming a PM. This role tends to be less UX or UI-centric, and more concerned with the success of the product as a whole (including that it’s designed and developed well and on time).

 

Eventually, you can become a UX director, and perhaps down the line, a chief creative officer.

 

The sky is the limit with what you can become!

Where Do You Find UI/UX Designers?

UI/UX design can lead to multiple paths when it comes to promotions.

 

Probably the most logical promotion is the become a senior UI/UX designer, which simply means you have an X amount of years under your belt with the title (although it’s arguable how many years that should be by different companies).

 

Another promotion is to become a UX manager. With this title, you’ll end up managing some underlings…erm…I mean more junior UI/UX designers. You’ll teach them and guide them, but will probably do less of the designing yourself.

 

Another promotion I’ve seen some UX/UI designers go into is product management or becoming a PM. This role tends to be less UX or UI-centric, and more concerned with the success of the product as a whole (including that it’s designed and developed well and on time).

 

Eventually, you can become a UX director, and perhaps down the line, a chief creative officer.

 

The sky is the limit with what you can become!

Physical Locations

UX designers can be found all over the United States and around the world, such as in Europe.

 

But in the U.S., you’ll find that UI/UX designers tend to be clustered around certain cities. Some common places to find them are in big tech cities, like San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, or New York.

 

You can also find UI/UX design jobs in lesser-clustered cities. For example, I work as a UI/UX designer in Detroit, MI, and Lydia works as a UI/UX designer in Los Angeles, CA.

Online Locations

Online, you can find UI/UX designers on LinkedIn if you want to connect. I’m always open to connecting on LinkedIn.


Dribbble and Behance are two websites known for designers posting and sharing images they’ve created. I’d love to connect with you on Dribbble too!

How to Be A UI/UX Designer

Do I Need a UX Degree to Be a UI/UX Designer?

To be honest, a UX degree isn’t required. There are some bootcamps out there that will get you a certificate to help you get your foot in the door. They could also be a way to get some connections by other UI/UX designers.

 

But full disclosure, I never did one of the UX bootcamps before. I graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelors of Science in Information (with a focus on UX design). So I can tell you that a UX degree is really helpful since it gives you some more credibility on your resume.


However, Lydia graduated with an Art and Design major and was still able to become a UI/UX designer. So the proof is in the pudding that you don’t need a UX degree.

What Skills Do I Need to Be a UI/UX Designer?

A UI/UX designer is involved in research and design. To be a good UI/UX designer, you need to learn strategy. You have to learn what the best course of action is according to your product’s needs and where your team is at.

 

For a few examples:

 

  • Is it best to do an A/B test next or should you do a usability test? 
  • What’s the best way to work with developers and the product lead? 
  • How can I make this product as user-friendly as possible?
  • How do they feel when they’re at point A?
  • What’s the best way to get them to point B in this app?

 

Another good skill to have is a (visual) eye for design.

 

For a few examples:

 

  • Understanding composition
  • Seeing what colors work well together
  • Knowing what typography and colors are difficult for users to read
  • How to successfully use branding in your designs

 

A really big plus for UI/UX designers that can help you get hired is knowing how to code––or at least, the basics of coding. 

 

This is because you’ll be able to better communicate with developers on how to implement your designs in HTML and CSS (which is on the front-end of coding).


I started learning how to code with Codecademy a few years ago, and it has been the best decision I could have made since I knew nothing about front-end development.

What Resources Can Help Me Learn UI/UX Design?

Why this website of course! We have all kinds of articles on UX design and UI Design. We also provide all sorts of UI templates and UX templates to help you in your design process.

 

If you need something that shows UX/UI design in a more chronological order, you can check out UXEducate.

 

As mentioned earlier, if you want to learn the basics of coding, check out Codecademy. It will help you code your online portfolio website, and saying you coded your website sounds 10x more impressive to employers than saying you have a Squarespace-generated website.

 

Did we answer your burning UI/UX questions? 

 

If not, let us know in the comments what else you’d like to know!

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