UI/UX Design

How to jumpstart your career as a UI/UX designer?

Stefano Grossi
Stefano Grossi
Calender Img
UIUX designer

UI/UX design is a vast principle that is getting more attention than ever. Most brands are recognizing the appeal of user-centric designs and are focusing on creating simple, intuitive, and useful tech products. Like many other jobs, UI/UX design also comes with some terms and conditions.

For those interested in choosing UI/UX design as a career, this article will discuss everything you need to know to get started and how you can land your first job as a UIUX designer.

What is UI/UX Design?

UI Design

User interface (UI) design refers to the visual styling of an application or a website. These designers are responsible for how the graphic interface looks and feels when a user interacts with the solution.

The goal here is to make the interface visually appealing, simple, and intuitive.

For example, when you want to make a call through your smartphone, you open the calling interface, type the number in, and hit the dial button, right?

All of these are parts of the user interface. The key is to make it visually pleasant and simple for the end user.

No matter what application you use or what website you visit, you interact with it via an interface and that’s what UI designers create.

They manage components like color, typography, contrast, visual hierarchy, white space, scale, consistency, and simplicity.

UX Design

User experience (UX) design is a common name in the software development community. It refers to a designing process used to create tech products that are easy to use, pleasant to interact with, and most importantly, highly useful to the end users.

Whenever you use a tech product (an app or a website), you have a goal in mind. You need to make your way through interacting with different elements on that interface until you reach your goal.

No matter what your goal is, UX designers are responsible for crafting an effective, satisfying, and intuitive user journey for you.

A user experience designer focuses on how the users think and interact with tech solutions to craft pleasant, simple, and even addictive user experiences.

They are typically skilled in design principles, research analysis, usability testing, prototyping, human psychology, UX research, and other related topics.

What’s The Difference?

This might be true that both UX and UI design are closely related. However, there are significant differences that set them apart. You can say that UI design is a subset of the UX design process.

If you compare your online experience to a road trip, UI would be the transportation (how you reach your goal) whereas UX would be the feeling you’ll get (relaxing/satisfying) reaching there.

A UI designer focuses on visual representation and clever placements so the users can complete a task whereas a UX designer will study the users to develop an overall pleasant user journey, including strategically placed graphical elements.

How They Work Together

The real magic begins when you combine UI and UX design together to craft seamless tech solutions. Sometimes UIUX designers supervise a part of the product design process and sometimes they are in charge of the entire process.

How a UI designer will work with a UX designer will depend on the business target and company practices.

As both roles are execution-based and strategic, sometimes the roles can be combined into a single position. The key to this combination is based on a special philosophy named “Design Thinking“. It refers to the strategic approach used to develop design concepts.

UX and UI design are so related to each other that they are often used interchangeably. In many companies, a UX designer is expected to have a basic knowledge of UI design and vice versa.

As a UX designer, your job will be to combine business strategy, market research, and product design to create enjoyable user experiences. UI designers focus on strong visual design skills.

However, the best result comes when you merge these two sectors. Even if you are interested in only UI/UX design, it’s better to have a sound understanding of both as it will help you become more competent and marketable.

How to Get Into UI/UX Design?

Step 1: Find What You are Interested In

Your first and foremost duty will be to choose the sector you are interested in. “UX design” covers a number of different disciplines.

Understanding what exactly you want to do will help you locate the right skills and goals to focus on. Find out what interests you the most and head in that direction.

Here is a cheat sheet providing insights on which discipline of UX design deals with what. Ask yourself these questions to find the right field for you:

  1. Are you interested in the visual part of the designs? If so, focus on UI design
  2. Do you like to research and analyze? Try UX research
  3. Do you want to write user-centric content? Go for UX writing
  4. Are you interested in developing user-centric products? Become a Product Designer
  5. Do you want to know and manipulate how users interact with a product? Select UX design
  6. Are you interested in designing POS elements like posters and flyers? Choose Graphic Design

The key to selecting the right path for you is to find out what interests you most and you can invest a lot of your effort and time.

Step 2: Start Learning

Once you have made your choice, it’s time to start learning about that particle field. You can read books, attend online boot camps, join UX training programs, roll-in for academic studies, or teach yourself gradually.

A university degree is a plus, but not mandatory. Many of the world’s leading UI/UX experts are self-taught.

In this field, practical experience matters the most. If you have some hands-on experience whether it’s a client’s project or your personal project, that will come in handy.

Start Learning

Surround yourself with designs and dive deep. There are countless learning materials available on the internet.

You can also join designer communities or find a mentor to teach you. Keep in mind that a mentor isn’t the same as a teacher or a trainer.

Instead, they will share valuable insights on how to organize your career or simply how to solve a problem you’re facing.

Here are some useful resources to familiarize yourself with the UI/UX design concepts and workflows:

UI is CommunicationEbookUI patterns
RedPenSoftwareCollaboration tool
General AssemblyOnline CourseComplete UX/UI design program
AxureSoftwareWireframing and prototyping
Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User ExperienceEbookUX/UI design methods & process
JustinmindSoftwareWireframing and prototyping
FigmaSoftwareInterface and prototype design
Don’t Make Me ThinkEbookUsability design
Adobe XDSoftwareInterface design
UsabilityHubSoftwareUser research and usability testing
Sketching User ExperiencesEbookUX sketching and prototyping
Designing Interfaces: Patterns for Effective Interaction DesignEbookUI design patterns
UdemyOnline CourseComplete UX/UI design program
The User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival GuideEbookUX research
DesignLabOnline CourseFundamentals of UI/UX design
The Non-Designer’s Design BookEbookUX basics
Lookback.ioSoftwareCollaboration and user research
About Face: The Essentials of Interaction DesignEbookInteraction design
LyndaOnline CourseComplete UX/UI design program
ReframerSoftwareUser research
100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About PeopleEbookUX psychology
InVisionSoftwareWireframing and prototyping tool
Emotional Design: Why We Love (Or Hate) Everyday ThingsEbookEmotional design
IntuitionSoftwareA/B Testing Tool
Google AnalyticsSoftwareWeb analysis
BehanceCommunity websitePortfolio platform
101 Design MethodsEbookDesign methods

Step 3: Develop a Design Sense

Aside from learning about basic design principles, it’s also important to develop a sense of design. You’ll also need to train your eyes to be able to differentiate between good and bad designs.

That way, identifying the weaknesses and strengths of a design will become easier for you over time.

The best way to unlock your creativity is through research and finding inspiration. You can browse portfolio websites, check random designs, and follow industry-leading designers.

I’ve mentioned some of the resources above where you can develop your design sense and find inspiration.

Pay attention to what other designers are doing, save the designs you like, and note down your remarks.

This is how you’ll build a collection of design inspirations over time. Read blogs, articles, and books that help you develop your design sense.

Next time you come across an interface, note down what works for you and what doesn’t. Inspect the design thoroughly and keep remarks.

Pay attention to the typography, white spaces, interaction design, visual hierarchy, image, and icons. This is the best way to develop a design sense fast.

Step 4: Familiarize With The tools

The next step is to familiarize yourself with the right toolset. This is crucial because according to research from Adobe, 42% of recruiters look for the knowledge of UX/UI tools in a designer or engineer.

However, UX/UI design is a broad discipline and it’s easy to get confused about what to learn. If you want to design cool user interfaces, designing tools will do better for you.

If you want to create a seamless user journey, wireframing tools like Figma will be better equipped for you.

Don’t forget to save your work when you play with different tools. This will help enhance your portfolio and showcase your improvement over time.

Platforms like Behance and Dribble can help you become part of the design community and platforms like LinkedIn and Fiverr will provide you the opportunity to land your first job.

Step 5: Start and Keep At It

Now that you are familiar with all the basics of UI/UX design, it’s time to put all that knowledge into action.

Reading and evaluating will only get you so far. You’ll need to design a lot of solutions and over time, build an authority.

You can start by using some free UI kits available online to create visual interfaces. For those who aren’t aware, UI kits are a collection of pre-built design components (fonts, icons, buttons, etc.).

Use UI kits to build sample designs. Pick some of your favorite tech products and make them even better.

Once you are comfortable with the designing process, dive deep into creating low or high-fidelity mockups.

At this stage, you can even post your work online to receive feedback. A mentor is really helpful in this stage. Focus on the negative and constructive criticism, and improve your designs.

Remember, you won’t become a good designer overnight. Just try to become a little bit better than yesterday and you’ll have steady and sustainable growth.

Step 6: Create a Portfolio

This will take the most of your effort. As a UI/UX designer, you probably would want to add all your projects to your portfolio. However, organizing your portfolio will take a lot of effort and evaluation from your end.

Future recruiters will evaluate your design process and problem-solving skills through your portfolio. That’s why it’s imperative to provide a clear sketch of your designing, organizing, and researching capabilities through your portfolio.

Here are some tips you can follow to help your portfolio stand out:

  • Transfer your every project into a storytelling-style case study. Start with the problem, explain the design process, and present the solution
  • Provide enough context and scope for your case studies
  • Mention the impact of your solution in a clear way
  • Utilize the power of visual presentation to highlight your work
  • Communicate your skills clearly
  • Only your best projects should go on your portfolio
  • Before publishing your portfolio, seek feedback from an experienced UI/UX designer
  • Invest your time and effort to update your portfolio regularly

Step 7: Start Writing (optional)

If you are determined about making a place in the UI/UX design industry, blogging can be a great help. Not only will it help you improve your writing skills but will also help you gain authority over time.

A well-researched and well-crafted article/blog site will help you showcase your interest and skill level in this field. Even if you are short on projects in your portfolio, a well-maintained blog can compensate by portraying you as a knowledgeable candidate to your recruiters.

Every time you come across something new in UI/UX design, create an informative article or blog post about it. The more you help people with the right information, the more your credibility rises. Even if you just want to land a job, this can help you become better at it.

Step 8: Build Networks

Many UI/UX jobs come through referrals. That’s why it’s important to build up a network, especially for newcomers. If you just show up at job circulars, you may be able to land a job. However, building a relationship before you get hired will help you improve a lot, quickly.

It might seem daunting to engage and communicate with industry experts. However, it can provide you with many opportunities to learn, teach, collaborate, or simply just have fun. If you’re not ready to start networking in person, you can try forums and communities.

Keep in mind that networking isn’t just collecting contact information or exchanging business cards. If you focus on creating meaningful connections through engagement and communication, you’ll be able to build up a solid rapport and a strong community.

Step 9: Prepare For Interviews

You are ready to snag your first UI/UX job by now. You have a strong skill set, a solid portfolio, and a powerful network of like-minded people. However, as you are still a beginner in this field, be prepared for a series of tests recruiters will evaluate you with.

If you can manage to create an attention-grabbing portfolio, you’ll have no issues getting called for interviews. If you get called for an interview, It’s imperative to do a little “homework” on the company, its vision, and work principles. This shows your attention and seriousness to the job.

You’ll also need to show them what you are capable of. Here’s a list of probable questions recruiters might ask you to evaluate your skills and experience:

  • What do you think UI/UX design is?
  • What’s your reason for choosing UI/UX design?
  • Do you prefer working alone?
  • What are the best UI/UX designs for you and why?
  • How do you process negative evaluations?

Don’t try to sound overconfident. If you don’t know something, bluffing won’t take you very far. Instead, be upfront and ask for feedback. Remember, nobody likes a know-it-all person in the team.

Is UIUX Designer a Good Career?

Yes. As more and more businesses are taking a user-centered approach, the demand for UIUX designers is growing fast. In fact, it is one of the fastest-growing fields in the tech industry.

UIUX designer

According to a study, the demand for UIUX designers is to be expected to grow by 14.9% in the upcoming 10 years.

Job Opportunities

UX design is a broad umbrella that covers a number of job sectors in the tech industry. Here are some of the job roles you can apply for if you have UX/UI design expertise:

  • UX Strategist
  • UX Researcher
  • UX Product Manager
  • User Researcher
  • Information Architect
  • Interaction Designer
  • UX Designer
  • UX Developer
  • UX Analyst
  • Usability Tester
  • Product Designer
  • Interface Designer
  • UX Writer
  • UX Architect
  • UX Engineer

Expected Salary

In 2018, Glassdoor posted 24,000+ open positions for UI/UX design. As a newcomer, it is expected to get an average yearly salary of $70,000 – $85,000 if you have 0-2 years of experience.

Seasoned UIUX designers can earn up to $128,000 a year.

The range depends on location, experience, and specialized skills.

Skills Needed

The skills expected from UIUX designers are listed below:

  • User research strategy
  • Design research strategy
  • Responsive design
  • Design thinking
  • Basic front-end coding
  • Wireframing
  • Familiarity with design principles
  • Problem-solving
  • Communication
  • Collaboration

Qualities a UI/UX Designer Should Have

Skills will make your job easier whereas qualities will help you get better at it. Just like the skills you’ve learned so far, developing these qualities will also help you become more efficient, resourceful, and impactful:

Compassion and Empathy

As a UIUX designer, you’ll need to understand user problems from their perspectives. Empathy toward the end users creates useful products and compassion provokes the end users to take action. Mix them the right way and you’ll have products that help both you and your users.

listening Capability

The largest part of your job will be to listen, read, and digest information. The more you research the users, the more refined your products will be. You’ll need to be nimble.

Patient enough to listen to user stories and capable enough to learn a new tool fast.

Thinking Outside the Box

When you design, you’ll have to prioritize the users over your own biases and preconceptions. You’ll need to become a “blank slate” in order to learn from people and absorb information.

Flexibility is another important part of this. You’ll need to prepare for what’s next and be able to improvise if the situation is against you.

Stefano Grossi
VIP Contributor
Stefano Grossi
Senior UX/UI Designer

I’m a versatile UI/UX designer with a keen eye for style, fonts, colors, spacing, and the overall presentation. With 12+ years of deep industry expertise, I have a deep understanding of the design process; from conceptualization to wireframing & prototyping to interface design to testing and implementation.

I help startups and SMEs to solve user problems with minimalistic clean design and user-friendly layouts. I always strive hard to find the best way to strategically meet the design goals of my clients.

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