Although UX design and UI design tasks are different fields, more and more often, companies demand that the same person performs both tasks or at least has knowledge of both. Consequently, learning how to become a UI/UX designer is becoming more and more relevant, even if later, if you work in a large team, you end up performing only UX or UI tasks.
Let’s start with a brief description of the differences between user experience design (UX Design) and user interface design (UI Design), and then I will continue with the educational requirements and skills needed to become a UI/UX designer.
Differences between UX design and UI design
Although closely related, UX (user experience) design and UI (user interface) design have different approaches. UX design focuses on designing the overall user experience when interacting with a product or service, taking into account ease of use, accessibility, satisfaction and usability.
UX design focuses a lot on the study of the user’s profile and motivations and their interaction with the product or service, so wireframes and diagrams are usually designed to show the elements that the user will find and their possible interactions.
On the other hand, UI design focuses on the visual appearance of the interface with which the user will interact. To create a coherent and user-friendly interface, it is important to take into account the layout of elements, navigation and readability, among other aspects.
In short, UX design is a broader field, which focuses on the overall user experience, while UI design focuses on the appearance and direct interaction with the interface. It is important to keep in mind that both aspects are important and complementary to create a satisfactory and effective user experience.
Skills needed to become a UI/UX designer
In addition to education and experience, there are some key skills that are necessary to be a successful UI/UX designer and that it is highly recommended that you develop or improve in parallel:
As a UI/UX designer, you’ll need to be able to find solutions to design problems that come your way, and to do that, sometimes you need to innovate and think outside the box. Don’t worry if you don’t consider yourself a creative person, it is possible to learn to think creatively, and in fact there are very good books and courses to unwrap and improve your creativity.
Understanding the user experience
UI/UX designers must have a solid understanding of user experience. There are a lot of courses and books about it, but there is a lot of chaff and little grain, that’s why I compiled a selection of the best UX design books.
To work in UI/UX you need to be able to listen carefully to others, as well as be able to coherently explain your designs to the rest of the team, as you will be constantly collaborating with other designers, developers and project leaders.
How to become a UI/UX designer in 6 steps
UX/UI design is constantly evolving and requires a combination of creative and technical skills, as well as a deep understanding of user experience that you must constantly improve. However, if I had to put a series of steps to become a UI designer in the shortest possible time, they would be as follows:
Step 1: Acquire a formal education.
Getting a degree in graphic design, web design or a related field can help you increase your chances of landing a job as a UX/UI designer. A formal education is an assurance to whoever hires you that you possess fundamental UX knowledge and some practice in user interface design.
Here are some of the educational options you can consider:
- Bachelor’s degree in UI/UX design: some universities offer degree programs in UI/UX design. These programs can provide you with a solid foundation in the theory and practice of user interface and user experience design.
- Master’s or graduate degree in UI/UX design: many graduate or master’s degree programs offer specific programs in user interface design. These programs can offer a deeper specialization in user interface and user experience design and can last 1-2 years.
- UI/UX design bootcamps: bootcamps are intensive programs that teach you specific skills in a short period of time. There are many UI/UX design bootcamps available online and in-person. These programs can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months and often offer hands-on training in UI/UX design.
- Specialized courses: there are many schools and organizations that offer specialized courses in UI/UX design. These courses may be shorter and more specific than a bachelor’s degree, but still give you a solid education in the field.
- Certification programs: there are many certification programs available online that can help you develop your UI/UX and user experience design skills. These programs usually don’t have strict schedules, so they can be followed more flexibly than degree programs. They are also an excellent option to enhance or complement the formal education you have already acquired.
Only when you have a portfolio of UI/UX work that itself demonstrates your UX knowledge and UI design experience will your formal education take a back seat.
Step 2: Get hands-on experience
In addition to academic education, many employers are looking for UI/UX designers with hands-on experience, so internship programs and internships can help you build a portfolio that helps you demonstrate your expertise.
A period of 6 months to a year is usually sufficient to acquire the necessary experience and build a solid portfolio, although some people may need more time.
Step 3: Build your portfolio
Developing a strong portfolio is essential to getting hired as a UI/UX designer. Employers want to see examples of UI designs you’ve created and how you’ve applied your skills to solve the problems presented. Therefore, your designs are just as important as being able to explain the cases and problems you’ve solved.
Consequently, I recommend that you include projects that showcase your range of UI/UX design skills, but also include a brief description of each project, explaining the challenges you faced and how you overcame them.
You can have your own website, but, above all, I recommend that you use an online portfolio platform, such as Behance or Dribbble, to showcase your work. These platforms allow you to create a professional portfolio for free, which you can easily share with potential employers and clients. But also, many of them are looking for new hires there, so it will be easier for them to find you.
Remember that your portfolio is a representation of your work and your personal brand as a UI/UX designer, so make sure to showcase your best designs and skills. Leave out the bad or just acceptable work, keep only the best and repeat this filtering process every year, so that your portfolio is always updated with the work that best represents your skills and capabilities.
Step 4: Learn how to use the necessary design tools
To design and present your UI/UX designs you will need to master some specialized prototyping tools, such as Figma, Sketch and Adobe XD, and graphic design tools such as Illustrator or Affinity Designer. Although you don’t need to be a specialist, sometimes you will also need to use image editors such as Photoshop or Affinity Photo.
Step 5: Acquire basic coding skills
There are several things you can do to acquire basic programming skills:
- Learn with online courses: there are many online courses that can help you learn the basics of coding. Some of the most popular courses are Codecademy, FreeCodeCamp and Udemy.
- Practice your coding skills with personal projects: developing personal projects is a great way to apply your coding skills in a hands-on environment. You can create your own website or application and experiment with different programming languages and techniques.
- Collaborate with developers: Working hand-in-hand with developers on projects can help you learn more about how user interfaces are built and how they are implemented in the real world. Collaborating with developers can also help you improve your communication and teamwork skills.
Developing your coding skills can help you improve and make your UI/UX designs stand out. However, it’s important to remember that you don’t need to be a coding expert to be a good UI/UX designer.
Step 6: Stay up to date
The design world is constantly evolving, so it’s critical for UI/UX designers to stay current with the latest trends and technologies. Attending industry conferences and events, reading blogs and following thought leaders on social media can help UI/UX designers stay informed and up-to-date.
- Attend UI/UX design conferences and events: attending design conferences and events is a great way to meet other designers and learn about the latest trends and technologies. Some of the most popular design events include the Awwwards Conference, UX London and the now defunct An Event Apart.
- Follow UI/UX design experts: follow influential UI/UX designers on social media and read their blogs and articles. Some of the best known are Jared Spool (see on twitter), Luke Wroblewski (see on twitter), and Don Norman (see on twitter).
- Take courses and certifications: Taking online courses or specialized certifications is a great way to develop specific skills in user interface design. Keeping up to date with the latest trends and technologies in user experience and user interface design can help you stand out as a designer and keep you at the forefront of the industry.