Have you ever felt puzzled when people talk about UX (User Experience) and UI (User Interface) Design, and not quite sure what each really means? Don’t worry; you’re not alone! UX vs UI is the ultimate debate!
In this article, we’re here to help you sort out the differences between UX and UI design in a way that’s easy to understand. By the time you finish reading, you’ll be crystal clear on these concepts.
But that’s not all! We’re also going to explore UX Research, another topic that often gets mixed up with UX Design. Stick with us until the end. user research
UI vs UX Design – Initial Considerations
Picture a digital product as a house under construction. User Experience (UX) is like the foundation and layout, making sure the house functions smoothly and feels comfortable to live in.
On the other hand, User Interface (UI) is akin to the interior design, adding the finishing touches that make the house cozy. Without both UX and UI design, it’s like having a half-built house – it’s not quite a home yet.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the differences between UX and UI design, how they function together, and some guidance to help you choose the right specialty for you.
UX Designer, a Critical Role for Smooth Product Design
In our house-building analogy, think of yourself as the architect in charge of planning the house’s layout and how it all flows together. When it comes to constructing a digital product, that’s precisely the role of a UX Designer.
From the instant users enter the app (or any other digital product, such as a website), UX Designers make sure the journey is smooth, just like an architect ensures you can move around your house with ease and without any confusion.
Similar to how an architect carefully plans spaces and pathways, UX designers take on the task of crafting wireframes and prototypes, and fine-tuning designs based on user input.
UX Designers answer critical questions, such as:
- Who is the intended audience for this product, and what is its purpose?
- How do users go about accomplishing specific tasks within the app?
- Is it easy and intuitive for users to complete these tasks within the app?
- Can users effortlessly locate the information they require?
Here’s a quick glimpse into the work of UX Designers. Let’s dive into UI Designers’ roles.
UI Designer, the Mood Setter that Enhances Customer Experience
User Interface Design is all about creating the stylish décor and inviting atmosphere within your digital product. UI Designers ensure that every button, color, and visual element enhances the user’s experience, much like an interior designer curates a home’s ambiance.
Just as interior designers select materials, rugs, paint colors, and furniture to set a specific mood, UI designers choose color palettes, select fonts, and design icons to create an aesthetic appeal that complements UX.
They address critical questions such as:
- Do the chosen colors, fonts, and shapes enhance the user experience?
- Do our design choices elicit positive responses from our users?
- Is the visual design consistent with the brand identity?
- Does the user interface align with accessibility standards and guidelines?
How Do UX and UI Designers Work Together?
Just like an architect and an interior designer collaborate to create a home, UX and UI designers work closely to create a product.
UX Designers usually precede UI Designers in the construction process. They lay the foundations by defining the user personas, mapping out the user journey and identifying the pain points.
Once this blueprint is in place, UI Designers step in and breathe life into it. They use their creative flair to design the visual elements of the product. Importantly, they ensure that the user interface elements are not just aesthetically pleasing but also intuitively functional.
Throughout this process, constant communication and collaboration are key. UX and UI Designers exchange ideas, provide feedback, and iterate on their designs to achieve a harmonious blend of functionality and aesthetics. The end result is a digital product that not only works flawlessly but also looks inviting and engaging to users.
In essence, UX and UI Designers work hand in hand, with their distinct skills and expertise coming together to create a product that delights users on multiple fronts.
You might ask yourself: “what are those skills?” Let’s cover that in the next chapter.
Are You a UX or UI Designer?
You might be here because you’re contemplating a career in either of these two domains, or perhaps you’re simply intrigued. Regardless of your reason, we’re here to guide you in determining which path is most appealing and relevant for you, taking into account the essential skills and interests required for each role.
UX and UI designers collaborate closely, but their roles are distinct, each demanding a unique skill set and set of interests. We’ll delve into these skills shortly, but before that, let’s address a common question that often crosses people’s minds.
Do You need a Degree to Become a UX or UI Designer?
The short answer: no, it’s not strictly required. UX and UI design are unique in their emphasis on skills and experience. Your portfolio and body of work will open more doors for you than a degree will.
However, while a formal degree is not mandatory, it can still be beneficial in several ways. Some benefits of pursuing a degree in UX or UI design include:
A degree can provide you with a solid foundation in design principles and psychology, both of which are needed if you want to make it either as a UX or UI Designer.
Universities are often fertile networking grounds. They offer opportunities to connect with professors, fellow students who will go on to become professionals in the field, potential employers, and more. In some cases, connections can prove to be a determining factor in one’s success in the field.
Some larger or traditional companies may prefer candidates with formal degrees as a way to establish a minimum level of expertise.
Do not worry if you don’t have a formal education in UX or UI design, though. After all, degrees and formal education paths aren’t for everyone.
If your preferred method of learning is through self-practice and building projects, here are some alternatives that you might want to consider:
Bootcamps and Online Courses
Many specialized bootcamps and online courses offer hands-on training in UX and UI design. These programs often focus on practical skills and tools, making them a direct route to gaining the necessary knowledge. Some popular websites to learn UX and UI design include Hackdesign, Gymnasium, Udemy, Coursera and Skillshare.
Some designers are entirely self-taught through personal projects and freelance gigs. If you believe that you don’t have what it takes to engage in the latter, build some foundational knowledge, and then offer your services to local businesses that might need some refinement for their website or even application.
Proposing your services for a low amount of money, or even for free, is a very good way to get your foot in the door and have some early material to put on your portfolio.
Consider this as a side gig to bolster your skills, putting your theoretical knowledge and online resources to the test against the real-world challenges you’ll encounter in the field.
What are the skills needed to become a UX or UI Designer?
Whether you choose a formal education path or opt for self-learning, there are foundational skills shared by every UX and UI designer.
To draw a parallel with our house-building analogy, consider the fundamental differences in skills between an architect and an interior designer. If asked to summarize their skill sets in one word, you might lean toward “analytical” for the architect and “creative” for the interior designer. While these descriptions are somewhat simplified, they capture the essence of the roles. Similar distinctions apply to UX and UI designers.
Below, we’ll dissect some of these foundational skills, offering a more detailed view of the comparison. These skills encompass both soft and hard skills, including those unique to each profile and those that both roles share.
|Shared hard skills by both profiles|
|Behavioral psychology: Understanding user behavior and adapting to it.|
|Wireframing: Creating prototypes to outline layout and functionality.|
|Prototyping and Design Tools: Proficiency in software like Sketch, Figma, Adobe XD and Adobe Illustrator.|
|Shared soft skills by both profiles|
|Creativity: Thinking creatively to solve design problems and innovate.|
|Problem solving: Identifying and solving user pain points.|
|Empathy: Understanding and empathizing with users’ needs and frustrations.|
|Communication: Articulating design decisions and rationale clearly to others.|
|Collaboration: Working effectively with cross-functional teams and stakeholders.|
While these skills offer a glimpse into the responsibilities of both roles, it’s important to keep in mind that factors like your specific industry or your level of expertise may demand additional skills. Furthermore, qualities like project management and business understanding can be valuable supplements to any skill set.
Understanding the necessary skills and distinctions between roles is essential when choosing your specialization. However, career prospects and income considerations also hold significant weight. Let’s cover that next.
How much do UX and UI Designers earn? Are they in high demand?
A good rule of thumb to bear in mind regarding salaries is that candidates’ income expectations are often determined by various factors, including their geographic location, expertise level, industry, and the specific company they work for. As an example, let’s use the United States and Europe’s largest economy, Germany, as reference points.
According to the latest data available on Glassdoor (October 2, 2023), the average salary for a UX Designer in the United States ranges from $92.000 to $150.000 per year. This average is determined by the submission of 9.529 salaries to Glassdoor by industry professionals.
In the United States, as of October 2023, the total number of job openings for UX Designers falls just short of 2,050. While this is a substantial number, it might not be as high as one would anticipate in a robust economy like that of the United States.
In Germany, the median annual salary for a UX Designer as of October 3, 2023, stood at €53,000. It’s worth noting that this average is based on salary data from only 490 professionals who chose to share their earnings anonymously.
Regarding the demand for UX Designers, there are currently 746 UX Designer job listings available on Glassdoor in Germany.
These figures offer a glimpse into the UX Design industry, its typical salaries, and the job demand in two significant economies. Now, let’s turn our attention to the same metrics for UI Designers.
In the United States, as of September 10, 2023, UI Designers typically earn annual salaries ranging from $79,000 to $123,000. This average falls slightly below the earnings of UX Designers.
However, in terms of professional opportunities, the number of currently available job listings in the United States for UI Designers surpasses that of UX Designers, with a total of 2,457 open positions.
In Germany, as of October 2023, UI Designers typically earn an average annual salary ranging from €43,000 to €55,000. When comparing this to the earnings of UX Designers in Germany, the difference is relatively marginal.
Similarly to the United States, the number of job opportunities for UI Designers in Germany surpasses that of UX Designers. At present, there are 610 open positions for UI Designers in Germany.
While these figures represent averages and are specific to a particular point in time, they provide insight into the differences between the two industries. This information should provide you with a clearer understanding of both fields and help you in making an informed decision if you are considering a UX or UI Designer career.
BONUS – What is UX Research and How Does it Interact with UI and UX Design?
In this bonus chapter, we’ll take a closer look at UX Research and explore how it interacts with UI and UX Design. We will also address the common misconception that sometimes blurs the lines between UX Design and UX Research.
UX Research plays a crucial role in shaping the user-centered design process. While we primarily focused on UX and UI Design, it’s essential to recognize that UX Research is often mistaken for UX Design.
A UX Designer is a creative problem solver who creates intuitive user interfaces from a functional point of view. This output is based on the work and results provided by the UX Researcher in the first place, who specializes in discovering user pain points, expectations, personas, and more. This distinction is critical to understanding the dynamics between these fields and how they collaborate.
Let’s circle back to our house-building analogy. Imagine UX Research as the thorough check-up of the building site before the construction team swings into action. UX Researchers meticulously examine the terrain, understand the homeowner’s needs, and pinpoint potential challenges.
This research process provides essential information to both UX and UI Designers, who, like architects and interior designers, craft the plans and aesthetics for the house.
UX Researchers ensure the design aligns with users’ desires, while UI and UX Designers bring those blueprints to life, creating a functional and visually appealing home (or digital product). It’s a collaborative process where UX Research informs the design choices, making sure the final product is not just beautiful but also perfectly tailored to its occupants.
Day in the Life of a UX Researcher
A typical day in the life of a UX Researcher involves conducting user interviews, usability testing, data analysis, and interpreting research results.
This research-driven approach is an entirely different area of expertise. Most UX Researchers are initially trained as psychologists and have an academic background.
Userlytics, the leading remote user testing platform
To carry out their tasks, UX Researchers employ a variety of research methodologies. In the past, this research process often involved physical, location-bound testing with carefully selected participant groups, making for a time-consuming and slow research endeavor.
However, Userlytics has made it easier than ever to recruit testers and carry out research remotely. With its global panel of over 2 million participants, Userlytics streamlines and simplifies the recruitment of user personas.
Companies and UX Researchers turn to Userlytics to identify their ideal user profiles from this vast panel and then conduct moderated or unmoderated studies to test websites, apps, or prototypes. The insights derived from these studies play a pivotal role in shaping the decisions made by UX and UI Designers further down the line.