What skills do you need to become a UI/UX designer? Learn how to grow your UX and UI design skillset with this introductory guide.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
Being a relatively new field, there’s no clear-cut path towards becoming a credentialed UI/UX designer. Many professional UI/UX designers originate from unrelated fields and bring transferable skills such as visual design, software development, or digital marketing.
Similarly, a UI/UX designer’s educational background is not immediately obvious. While a degree in graphic design or web design can help, UI/UX design is all about how people think, meaning a background in psychology can be just as helpful to a UI/UX designer as a degree in graphic design.
Read on to learn more about the types of skills you'll need to become a UI/UX designer.
Need to know more about the essentials of UI/UX design? Visit our comprehensive guide on how to become a UI/UX designer here.
UI/UX designers use the following six essential programs.
Most UX design does not require coding. However, most UX designers have some basic knowledge of code, including HTML and CSS. A basic understanding of coding in UX design will give you a competitive advantage in more advanced UX design roles.
According to a survey by Invision, 80% of hiring managers look for coding skills in product design candidates. If you’re designing a digital product, you’ll work closely with software engineers, so a basic understanding of code and software architecture constraints makes for smoother collaboration.
Coding may also come in handy for conveying your ideas, prototyping a responsive design, or inputting minor website changes in response to real-time A/B testing or business intelligence. If you’re interested in specializing in UI design, coding knowledge becomes more necessary so you can make iterative website changes without the help of a developer.
All good UI/UX designers should possess these essential UI/UX technical skills.
UX designers should have the ability to gather qualitative and quantitative data about users through research and analysis. Methods include user interviews (open-ended or structured), observing users in their natural environment or under test conditions, issuing surveys, and conducting focus groups. You should know how to select participants for a focus group and record results from a relatively unstructured discussion or write sufficiently open-ended survey questions that don’t lead the user to answer in one way or another. Finally, you must be familiar with usability test methods such as card sorting and heat maps.
A wireframe is a layout of a webpage that shows what interface elements will exist on key pages. UI/UX designers decide which features to display, which to omit, where to position them, and how to present them visually to provide the simplest, most efficient user experience. You must know how to denote UI elements such as images, CTA buttons, and menus in diagrammatic form. Once the wireframes are approved you’ll work on mockups, which are preliminary models of a product created to test a concept or process. For this, you’ll need to be familiar with popular prototyping tools such as Invision or Marvel. In the final stage, you’ll create a high-fidelity design, which is a final mockup of the product that closely resembles the final product once it is coded and implemented. UI/UX designers are expected to have the ability to produce wireframes and prototypes quickly and effectively.
UX writing is a niche specialty. UX writing skills can really elevate your ability to design and craft a good experience for users through microcopy: the words we read or hear when we use a digital product and are a key element of website navigability and the overall experience. Effective UX writing is concise, useful, and reflects the brand’s values and tone. UX writing works together with interaction and visual design to create an environment where the user can achieve their goals.
Visual design in UX concerns so much more than how a website looks and feels—although that is important, too. Think of standardized UI elements such as the hamburger menu or even the playback button. When users see these icons they immediately know they’re clickable and what they represent. An effective visual communication skillset is about minimizing the need for written instructions and using visual cues to guide the user and help them understand where to go next, how to find the information they need, and what other actions they can take.
Successful digital products hinge on intuitive interaction design that enables a user to achieve desired tasks with minimal effort. Interaction design consists of elements such as aesthetics, motion, sound, and physical space (where and how the product is used) that affect a user’s interaction with a product. You should be obsessed with user flows, information access, and the effectiveness of screen layout.
UI/UX designers don’t need to be coding experts, but they should have basic HTML and CSS skills and be capable of making minor website changes. This is important because you’ll likely be testing and iterating website features at a fast pace, and must be able to code minor changes without a developer’s help. Coding knowledge and skills also help you collaborate better with software engineers because you’ll intuitively understand software architecture constraints and can create designs that are more realistic.
Even after a product or feature is sent to production, usability testing isn’t done yet. Your job as a UI/UX designer is to constantly monitor data on product usability and find ways to improve existing products while using data to infer new product ideas. When you create an app or website, you need to test it. Understanding numbers, percentages, and ratios will help you evaluate the performance of your design.
Content must be structured, labeled, and organized properly for users to find it. Information architecture refers to everything from conversation pathways within a chatbot to how your webpages are organized. UI/UX designers also consider a user’s need for education and knowledge around the product—especially when it comes to a complicated software application—which involves a content strategy.
Many UI/UX designers come from unrelated fields and are self-taught or took a UI/UX certification course. Others come from tangential fields like visual design, software development, or data analytics and bring transferable skills.
There’s no cut-and-dried pathway towards becoming a UI/UX designer, but an online bootcamp like Springboard’s UI/UX Design Career Track includes a certification, project work for your portfolio, one-on-one mentorship, and access to a range of career services and job leads, including a job guarantee.
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.
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!
Download our guide to UX design fundamentals
This 50-page guide will take you through the foundations of user experience, including information architecture, user experience, and user interface.
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