What Does a UI/UX Designer Do?

Learn more about the key roles, responsibilities, and skills of a UI/UX designer and find out what employers look for in potential UI/UX candidates in this comprehensive guide.

Need to know more about the essentials of UI/UX design? Visit our comprehensive guide on how to become a UI/UX designer here.

What Is a UX Designer and What Does a UX Designer Do?

User experience (UX) designers are responsible for creating an optimal experience for the user when they interact with a digital or physical product, such as a website or a coffee machine. Some focus on service design, such as designing the overall experience of using public transportation or visiting a doctor.

Their main concern is studying users, understanding their behavior, and architecting a user journey that enables the user to achieve their desired tasks with minimal effort.

The day-to-day activities of a UX designer vary widely between companies or even between projects within the same company, but some general job functions include:

  • Conduct user research. Learning about users and their behavior, goals, motivations, and needs. UX teams may collect data via various methods, such as interviews with users/stakeholders, competitive analysis, online surveys, and focus groups. The data is analyzed and converted into qualitative and quantitative information that guides decision-making.
  • Create user personas. Identifying key user groups and creating representative personas of their behaviors and demographics. Personas can be used to make in-depth scenarios, a day-in-the-life of a persona, which shows how the product fits into the user’s everyday routine.

ux designer personas

  • Determine the information architecture of a digital product. Organizing content within an app or website to guide the user to accomplish tasks or educate them about the product. An effective information architecture tells users where they are and how to find the information they need—think of a sitemap or a chatbot with quick-answer prompts.
  • Design user flows and wireframes. Creating a low fidelity representation of a design. Wireframes represent a user’s journey as they interact with a website or app, including UI elements such as buttons or images. These are represented in a simplified version using placeholders.

ux designer user flow

  • Create prototypes. Generating an interactive final version of the product pre-development, which is either clickable or tangible. It should enable the user to test the main interactions of the product. Modern prototyping tools even allow designers to record prototypes as videos to guide users through the product’s design functions.
  • Test products on real users. Gathering feedback from users based on a minimum viable product (MVP). An MVP is the first iteration of a product with the minimum qualifications required for go-to-market. Product testing can be structured (designers gather user feedback by asking specific questions) or unstructured (the user is left to their own devices to figure out how to use the product, and feedback is gathered based on their natural response rather than explicit questioning).

Interested to see what a UX designer's portfolio looks like? Check out some Springboard graduate portfolios here!

What Is a UI Designer and What Does a UI Designer Do?

User interaction (UI) designers are primarily concerned with how a user navigates through a digital product. User interaction design is considered a UX function, so you will often see UI/UX used interchangeably in job titles and job descriptions, or it may fall under the responsibility of a product designer.

The day-to-day activities of a UI designer may include:

  • Determine how users interact with products. User interface design concerns the visual styling of an app or website. Think things like how icons are designed, how they’re arranged on the page, and how they relate to each other. Design elements such as font choice, color scheme, graphics, buttons, and menu styling are all elements of interface design. Together, these design choices help people understand what items can be clicked, tapped or swiped, which of a series of buttons is most important, and how to recognize calls-to-action.

UI design

  • Work closely with UX designers. UI designers work closely with UX designers to make sure the user journey reflects the UX team’s product vision. For instance, is a user able to complete all the steps in an online purchase? Do they respond to upsell or cross-sell prompts at checkout? Some UI designers work on voice user interfaces for voice-activated IoT devices, such as smart speakers or virtual assistants. Their job is to design conversation pathways that facilitate tasks for the user without the aid of a visual interface.

What Is the Salary of a UI/UX designer?

UX designers earn an average salary of $85,277 per year, according to Glassdoor. Entry-level UX designers can expect $64,622 (includes salary, bonuses, and overtime pay) according to Payscale.

UI designers earn slightly less at $83,837, while entry-level positions pay $49,995.

Learn more about UI/UX designer salaries here.

What Is a Typical UI/UX Designer Job Description?

A typical UI/UX designer job description incorporates a mix of key responsibilities and qualifications. Potential candidates will be expected to:

  • Create user-centered designs by understanding business requirements, the voice of the customer, user journeys, customer feedback, and usability findings
  • Quickly and iteratively create user flows, wireframes, prototypes, low and high fidelity mockups
  • Communicate with product and engineering teams, as well as business stakeholders and executive leadership
  • Ensure the voice of the customer is present by incorporating customer feedback, usage metrics, and usability findings into design
  • Performing metrics analysis post-launch to inform design/UX optimization efforts
  • Know how to use prototyping tools such as Sketch, Invision, or equivalent
  • Possess excellent communication, presentation, collaboration, and interpersonal skills

What does it take to be a UX designer at Google? Find out in the video below!

What Are the Key Skills of a UI/UX Designer?

The job description of UI/UX designers varies widely. Many professional UI/UX designers originate from unrelated fields and bring transferable skills such as visual design, software development, or digital marketing.

Likewise, their educational backgrounds are diverse, although a degree in graphic design or web design can help. UI/UX designers need a range of technical skills such as UX research, wireframing and prototyping, interaction design, visual communication, and information architecture.

Because UI/UX design is such a people-focused job, hiring managers differentiate candidates more heavily on their soft skills than their credentials. Soft skills are what make a mediocre designer exceptional. As such, UI/UX designers must show that they are good communicators, are curious, flexible, and empathetic to the user.

Learn more about the key skills of UI/UX designers here.

5 Common UI/UX Designer Job Roles

UI/UX design is a multidisciplinary field with a growing range of niche specializations including UX writing, interaction design, usability testing, visual design, and more. UI/UX job descriptions usually mention a mix of these roles.

  1. UI/UX design. The scope of this job is on creating the user interface based on user research insights. To achieve this, designers use processes such as wireframing and prototyping, followed by usability testing. The UI/UX design title is the most comprehensive and may include some or all of the below functions. In most organizations, UI/UX functions are blended under one job title.
  2. Visual design. Visual designers are responsible for the look and feel of a physical or digital product. This can include everything from packaging to web design. They work closely with interaction designers and UI/UX copywriters to create a user experience that is aesthetically pleasing, user-friendly, and efficient. They may also assist UI/UX designers with developing high-fidelity prototypes towards the end of the design phase.
  3. Research and usability. UI/UX researchers focus on gathering input from users. They conduct user interviews, observe users in their natural habitat or a testing environment, host focus groups and design surveys. They are also responsible for converting structured and unstructured qualitative and quantitative data into usable insights for the UI/UX team, which means they must be skilled data analysts.
  4. Coding. UX engineers are liaisons between the design and engineering teams. They are responsible for taking a design and bringing it to life with code. A UX engineer’s arsenal includes computer languages such as HTML, JS, CSS, and so on.
  5. UI/UX writing. UI/UX writing is a niche specialty, but it helps to have an understanding of it. Microcopy is a powerful tool to create a good experience for users. These are the words we read or hear when we use a digital product and are a key element of website navigability and the overall experience.

Learn more about UI/UX designer job roles here.

What Are the Key Responsibilities of a UI/UX Designer?

UI/UX designers are responsible for overall user satisfaction with a product. Their priority is to continually look for ways to improve the product experience, even for bestselling products that have been on the market for years.

They may do this by making the product faster, easier to use, or more fun.

In fact, UI/UX design at its core encompasses the entire user experience. For a physical product, this includes packaging, the purchasing process, and the transportation of the product. For a digital product, it encompasses technical troubleshooting and even how hard or easy it is to explain the product to other people.

Learn more about the key responsibilities of UI/UX designers here.

UI/UX Designer Job FAQs

Want to know more about UI/UX design? Read on to find the answers to some frequently asked questions.

Is UI/UX design right for me?

UI/UX design is such a multidisciplinary field that there’s no hard and fast rule about who can become a UI/UX designer. That said, certain personality traits may be predisposed to thriving on the job.

  • Putting the user first. UI/UX designers advocate for user needs throughout the design and implementation process, even if the research contradicts the status quo. Perhaps you’ve worked in customer support, you’re empathetic or you just really enjoy being around people and finding out what makes them tick. The point is, you realize you’re there to make a change.
  • Humanizing technology. Gadgets, devices, and software are only effective if people know how to use them. A UI/UX designer’s job is to create user-friendly interfaces that enable users to understand how to use complex technical products. If you’re passionate about the latest technology trends and devices, you’ll find great fulfillment in being involved in the design process for the next hot gadget.
  • Switching between tasks. Variety is one of the top perks of being a UI/UX designer. One day you’ll be conducting a focus group and the next you’ll be working with a graphic designer to finalize some high-fidelity mock-ups. Being flexible and able to pivot from one task to the next is an important soft skill for a UI/UX designer.
  • Communicating with other teams. If you loathe public speaking, consider brushing up on it before you enter the field. UI/UX designers routinely make presentations to stakeholders on their research, or present in front of users at a focus group discussion. Communication is one of the most important skills for a UI/UX designer because the role is so collaborative. You should also be able to discuss design principles with non-design folks, such as developers.

Will UI/UX design be automated?

Certain parts of the UI/UX design process may be handled by AI, such as data analytics for gauging product performance. However, the discipline as a whole is so grounded in understanding humans through user research, a process that demands emotional intelligence and one-on-one communication with users in real-time, that it’s highly unlikely that UI/UX design can be significantly automated anytime soon.

On the other hand, coding has become slightly less of a necessity as more and more prototyping and wireframing tools are being designed with non-programmers in mind.

How do you measure the user experience?

UI/UX design is an iterative process, so using data analytics to evaluate performance and usability is key. UX metrics are a set of quantitative data points used to track the user experience of a website or mobile app over time. They are also used during usability research, such as UX benchmarking, which is a way of comparing certain product metrics with those of competitors.

This is important because every metric is relative. For instance, the average time on site metric of eight minutes is great for a publisher, but for a bank, it could mean the user is struggling to complete a certain task or can’t find the information they need.

Metrics also need to be adjusted to the channel you’re measuring. For instance, important website metrics include factors like traffic, page views, and bounce rate, while social media success is measured by the number of followers and engagement. Overall, UX quality can also be inferred from sales data, such as average order value or conversions, because these represent users having a favorable user experience and brand perception.

How do you improve the user experience?

Reducing effort is a huge component of improving UI/UX design. People don’t want to have to hunt for information or click on buttons that lead to dead links. They’ll also choose interfaces that enable them to accomplish tasks in the shortest possible time, and abandon brands that don’t meet these efficiency and ease-of-use standards.

For example, one of the biggest pain points in booking a doctor’s appointment is finding healthcare providers that accept your insurance. ZocDoc is a mobile app that enables users to select search filters for finding general practitioners that accept certain types of health insurance. They can also book their appointment through the app without having to call the doctor’s office, and receive automatic calendar reminders regarding their visit.

Ready to switch careers to UI/UX Design?

Springboard offers a comprehensive UI/UX design bootcamp. No design background required—all you need is an eye for good visual design and the ability to empathize with your user. In the course, you’ll work on substantial design projects and complete a real-world externship with an industry client. After nine months, you’ll graduate with a UI/UX design mindset and a portfolio to show for it.

Check out Springboard's UI/UX Design Career Track to see if you qualify.

Not sure if UI/UX design is the right career for you?

Springboard now offers an Introduction to Design course. Learn what designers do on the job by working through a project with 1-on-1 mentorship from an industry expert. Topics covered include design tools, research, sketching, designing in high fidelity, and wireframing.

Check out Springboard’s Introduction to Design Course—enrollments are open to all!

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