For someone new to the world of product development, UX and UI may seem like two versions of the same thing. Given that many job descriptions and courses are labeled both UX/UI, it’s not surprising that the two are often used interchangeably in the design process. Despite this, UX and UI describe two very different parts of product development.
UX is user experience design, dealing primarily with the functionality and usability of a product. If a website is confusing to navigate or feels disjointed, it’s considered “bad UX”. UI, or user interface design, is about creating visual elements of a product including color schemes, navigation icons, and any imagery involved.
UX and UI designers do collaborate but at different stages of product design. UX designers are involved in the beginning stages of product creation. Their job involves user and product research, information architecture, wireframing, and prototyping. UX designers lay the groundwork for UI designers to create graphic design elements.
UI designers take over when it’s time to bring a product to life. Using the prototypes and wireframes created by the UX designer, the UI designer will start injecting colors, icons, typography, and imagery to the various screens outlined in the UX design stage. UI designers draw upon their own product research to help develop intuitive and aesthetically pleasing layouts.
Both UX and UI are considered front-end development. The back-end work, such as coding, falls under the tasks of web and software developers. Keep in mind that both are highly collaborative roles. As a designer, you can expect to work with team members in multiple stages of product development, requiring strong communication and teamwork skills.
Which is a better job, UX or UI?
Now that you know the difference between UX and UI, it’s important to consider which is more suitable for you.
For those who are motivated by earning potential, UX might seem like a better option. UX designers earn a higher salary than UI designers. The national average salary for a mid-level UX designer is $85,000, while UI designers earn slightly less at just over $83,000.
Another consideration is your skillset: Are you more inspired by conceptual design and user-driven design thinking? UX design is great for individuals who enjoy user research and creating information architecture. Designers who are highly empathic often enjoy this work the most. Being able to picture yourself as the end-user will allow you to create a product that’s intuitive and responsive.
Meanwhile, those who are more motivated by visual design would be better suited for UI. If you enjoy seeing ideas come to life in tangible forms such as color and images, UI design might be better for you. UI designers thrive on the artistry involved in their step of the design process, taking conceptual mockups and making them real.
If you want to learn it all, you can work as both a UX and UI designer. While this requires a comprehensive knowledge of all aspects of product design, it does afford more control for the designer over both the conceptual work and graphic design.
Keep in mind that larger companies will likely have the two roles separated, but for smaller projects or startups, having one person do it all could be a great selling point.
Both UX and UI design are growing career fields, as digital product creation increases each year. With competitive salaries and the opportunity to work in diverse industries, UX and UI are a great choice for those interested in product development. From designing websites to creating video games or mobile apps, UX and UI designers have a number of career paths available to them.
How do you get started in a career in UI/UX design?
Learning UX and UI can be straightforward and fairly quick. You don’t have to attend a university for multiple years to gain the skills necessary to become a designer, but some education is helpful for creating your portfolio and learning from mentors.
Eleven Fifty Academy offers an 8-week UX/UI design class online, which can be great for students who need some flexibility to maintain work or family responsibilities. The flex course covers the fundamentals of design thinking and will help you create a portfolio, which you’ll need when you start looking for jobs.
If you’re curious but don’t want to commit quite yet, you can learn more about the program and talk to educators in one of Eleven Fifty’s free UX/UI design courses online. For further reading, check out The Ultimate Guide to UX/UI Design and reviews of Eleven Fifty Academy.