It’s frustrating to find job offers looking for a UI/UX designer. While these two skillsets are closely related, their skills don’t always overlap. A quality UI designer may not understand user experience psychology. Just like a top-tier UX designer might not be a master of Photoshop or Sketch.
But there is a good amount of overlap, and to be a great UI/UX designer you’ll need to dip a toe into both worlds.
In this guide I want to comb over the fundamental skills that you should learn to promote yourself as a quality UI and/or UX designer. Job security is much easier when you can alternate between both roles. And it’ll be easier for you to see the big picture in any creative project.
If you want a quick overview of specific features I highly recommend browsing this UX checklist .
Remember that a UI/UX designer speaks for the user. But you are not the user. This is an important distinction because most people using your product will not have the same expertise.
This is whyusability testing can be so important. Ask users directly what they like and don’t like. Gather feedback. Try to find the root cause of their issues and make only the necessary changes.
Every great UX designer will be a true advocate for the user. The user experience goes beyond a glossy interface to encompass how the UI feels, behaves, and responds to user interaction. Pay careful attention to the details and be willing to scrap ideas even if you think they’re great.
In a situation where you like something that most users don’t it’s generally wise to drop the idea and rework it a little.
Listen to the user’s complaints and try to understand what they’re really saying. This is true of both UX and UI designers, although most user testing involves the UX side of things.
A pretty interface means jack if it can’t operate properly.
Advocate for the user through your words and actions. This is ultimately the #1 requirement of a UX designer. It’s a tough skill to nail down because it’s not exactly a specific skill. But I’d say having an open mind and being willing to rethink ideas will help you understand the user’s perspective much easier.
Here are some related links to read more on this.
5 Tips for Effective UX Leadership
How to Advocate and Evangelize User Experience
The UX Design Process: An Actionable Guide To Your First Job In UX
Perhaps the most valuable skill of any designer is visual communication. Most designers get ideas in their head and need to explain these ideas to project managers, developers, or other designers.
Being able to sketch is a great skill to have for this very reason. But you can also communicate ideas digitally by creating digital wireframes, mockups, or interactive prototypes.
The tool or medium you use to create visual assets really doesn’t matter. Naturally it’s great to have many tools in your toolbox. But if you don’t know Photoshop and only use wireframing tools this can work fine.
It’s very important to communicate your ideas visually to the design team & the development team. It’s possible to do this with words but you’ll have a much easier time showing rather than telling.
Be able to communicate with business and marketing guys too. This means using layman’s terms to explain more complicated features.
Explain what the UX plan is to everyone using whatever visuals or words necessary. One part of this is to master a visual medium(whether sketching or software). The other part of this is communication .
Just because an idea makes sense to you doesn’t mean it’s being explained properly to make sense to others.
Ask your team and clients if they need clarification on anything. Don’t let anyone sit there nodding too afraid to speak up and ask questions. Soft skills are vital to UX work.
Learn to love communication and your job will be that much easier!
Digital Design Software
Not all UX designers know how to use Photoshop, Sketch, or Illustrator. But every UI designer should know at least one of these programs.
The differences between these two jobs are small but noticeable. UI designers must create visuals whether icons, logos, or interface mockups. UX designers are more concerned with how these interfaces behave and how users complete their objectives.
But if you’re going the UX design route it’s still wise to study Photoshop or Sketch(or both).
Just mastering one of these programs will help you express your visual ideas much clearer. You’ll also be much more lucrative to employers.
And with so many online tools it’s important to branch out when needed.
Desktop software like the Adobe suite is crucial to the design process. But UI/UX platforms like InVision and UXPin can both prove vital to your portfolio of skills. These are tools for rapid prototyping and creating interactive demos from scratch.