You've probably heard "User Interface" or "User Experience" countless times. These terms are often thrown together interchangeably, but there are nuances in application between the two, particularly regarding a career path. In this article, we'll discuss what UI/UX design is, their distinctions, and how bootcamps can help you start building a career in UI/UX design today.

What Is UI/UX Design?

User interface and user experience refer to how humans perceive and interact with a product. Imagine the reading tracker app on your phone. Is it easy to record what books you've read? Is the app straightforward, or is there a learning curve, so much so that you delete the app and download a different one? UI and UX designers aim for responsive design, ensuring users are satisfied with digital products. They are concerned with product design–and the graphic and visual components of those products–to give users the most efficient experience.

Breaking Down UI Design

The user interface is where the user and product meet, the place of interaction between the two. For example, when you go through the self-checkout line at the grocery store and use the touchpad on the kiosk, you're experiencing a user interface. The three most common user interfaces are the command line interface, graphic user interface, and voice-enabled interface.  

UI designers primarily focus on the aesthetics of a product–the look and presentation. Are the icons too big? Are the buttons easy to see? Is the font distracting? UI designers prioritize graphic and visual design. Their goal is to ensure the user experience is easy, intuitive, and visually appealing.

The digital market is overrun with products that more or less perform the same tasks. As an experiment, search your phone app for a calorie tracker. You'll find dozens of varieties. The ones that will likely catch your eye first are the attractive apps, ones that look modern and sleek. Most likely, you won't be drawn to an app that looks outdated, with design trends from a decade ago. A UI designer is responsible for staying on top of popular graphic design, ensuring a user isn't immediately dissuaded from downloading a product simply because it's not visually appealing.

Once you download the app, what next? There could be a step-by-step tutorial on how to use the app. You'll know to swipe through the slides without having to be told. UI designers must predict human behavior and create products that align with user expectations. For instance, you would expect to swipe horizontally rather than diagonally. 

Other responsibilities of a UI designer include:

  • Understanding user behavior. UI designers incorporate an element of psychology into their tasks. A designer must first study behavior trends to predict how users will respond to products. Most significantly, UI designers have to have a clear understanding of their target audience. 

  • Coming up with design plans. Design strategy involves mapping out the layout of a product–how one element will lead to the next and how each part builds on itself to create the whole.

  • Creating prototypes and wireframes. To get backing and support for their products, UI designers must create prototypes or wireframes to showcase their ideas to the team.

Breaking Down UX Design

Similarly, UI designers work toward giving users an efficient experience that meets user expectations and ensures the product does what it's supposed to do.  

Continuing our experiment of searching for calorie tracker apps, imagine you downloaded the most attractive app. However, when you start trying to enter your calorie count for the day, you find that you have to manually spell out the number of each calorie rather than typing the numerals. Worse, the "done" button is hard to find, and in searching for it, you accidentally lose all the data you meticulously inserted. 

Good UX design would make sure something like that doesn't happen. It's human-centric and interested in meeting user needs.

Responsibilities of a UX designer include:

  • Analyzing the needs of their target audience. Like UI designers, UX designers research user interaction behavior to gauge what users expect out of products.

  • Product research, development, and testing. Prototyping and testing are necessary before products are market-ready.

What Software Do UX/UI Designers Use?

Good UI/UX design software will have efficient interface design, streamlined integration with the major business and design platforms, and the best monetary value. These are some of the most popular UI/UX design software tools:

  • Balsamiq 

  • Figma 

  • Webflow 

  • Sketch 

  • ProtoPie 

  • Proto.io 

  • Lucidchart 

  • Bubble 

  • InVision Studio 

  • Adobe XD  

While this list seems daunting, the good news is that bootcamps can walk you through these fundamental tools.

Choosing a Career Path: UX or UI?

Before you decide whether UX or UI suits you, you'll want to know the required skills. So let's start with UI design first. You'll need a handful of soft and hard skills.

UI Soft skills

  • Communication. You'll need to be comfortable communicating your ideas to both the developers who will be working on your project, as well as the clients and stakeholders who are interested in it. 

  • Collaborative. Working in UI design is a large operation. You'll be in constant tandem with the devs, company owners, and clients. Working well in a team is crucial to being an effective and happy UI designer.

  • Eye for aesthetics. The purpose of UI design is engaging users and giving them a satisfying experience, so you'll need to be able to know what looks appealing to users. This requires stepping out of your own shoes and approaching a product as someone else would. Remember: it's not only you who has to like the product but everyone else. 

UI Hard skills

  • Design and prototyping tools. You'll need to be proficient in the standard industry tools, such as Adobe XD, Sketch, and InVision.

  • Foundation in visual design. Honing an eye for aesthetics means learning the basics of visual design, including elements like color theory, typography, white space, and more. The Gestalt Principles of design are fundamental for anyone looking for a career in UI design.

UX design calls for soft and hard skills too. Some of them are similar to those required of UI designers.

UX Soft skills

  • Continuous learning. User experience is all about improvement and innovation. UX designers must keep afloat of user trends and wants, always ready to craft a better and sharper vision.

  • Critical thinking. UX designers have to be able to use critical judgment when it comes to predicting what users want. This means thinking outside the designer's own expectations and knowing what a user needs before even the user realizes it.

  • Team-building. Like UI designers, UX designers are in constant contact with their team members. Being a team player is a significant element of UX design. 

UX Hard skills

  • Wireframing and prototyping. These tools enable designers to test designs before the product is finalized. Every UX designer must be comfortable with the industry standard tools, such as Figma or Balsamiq.

  • User testing. Usability testing involves observing and extracting information from how users interact with your products. This is key to building better products in the future. 

  • UX writing. Knowing how to write good microcopy for your products will ensure that users never delete an app because they couldn't understand the instructions.

Bootcamps are a great way to bolster those technical skills on your own time.

What salaries do UX/UI Designers earn?

Like many jobs in the tech field, UX/UI designers are well-compensated. According to salary.com, the average salary for jobs with UI/UX skills is $135,379. This pay scale can, of course, go even higher based on experience.

How can I get the skills for UI/UX design?

Now that you understand UI/UX design start sharpening those technical skills with LSU's UI/UX Design bootcamp. With this 100% online program, benefit from industry experts with 1:1 mentor support and accountability. You'll learn the basics of prototyping, low and high-fidelity design, and UI/UX principles and can graduate with a robust portfolio that will catch the eye of a future employer. 

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