Main image of article How to Become a UI/UX Designer

The designers who handle UI (user interface design) and UX (user experience design) have enormous jobs within any organization. Their work ensures users can easily navigate a website or app—and helps guarantee those users will keep relying on it instead of rival products. But how do you actually become a UI/UX designer?

Fortunately, there’s no one definitive career path to becoming a UI/UX designer. You’ll definitely need a strong foundation in design principles, user research methodologies, and interaction design concepts, along with “soft skills” such as communication and empathy so you can effectively translate stakeholders’ needs into great design.

That’s a lot to learn. But if you can master both UI and UX, you’ll have a potential advantage over candidates who have just specialized in UI or UX.

What’s the difference between a UI designer, a UX designer, and a UI/UX designer?

A UI designer focuses on the icons, text, colors, backgrounds, and any moving elements (such as animations). It overlaps quite a bit with graphic design, and follows a lot of the same principles, which is why graphic designers' education and independent-project backgrounds can often apply well to UI work.

UX is the study of how the user moves through all those UI elements. UX designers are concerned with flow, and focus on reducing the friction that users experience when interacting with a website, app, or service.

Although many developers choose to specialize in UI or UX, a UI/UX designer is obviously devoted to both.

What skills does a UI/UX designer need to learn?

To become a UI/UX designer, you’ll need to know how to do the following:

  • Prototyping: Creating a mockup of a final webpage, app, or other product.
  • Wireframing: A webpage or app stripped of all its design flourishes (fonts, images) so everyone can judge and tweak the underlying framework.
  • User flow: How does a user progress through the product?
  • User research: A good designer knows how to research what the end user needs and wants.
  • User testing: A designer will also need to know how to test different iterations of their product to ensure that everything is working as it should.
  • Project management: Designers must work with other stakeholders and team members so that the overall project meets its deliverables and deadlines.
  • Information architecture: How is the information/data on a site presented? How is it structured to give the end user what they need? Answers to those (and other) questions can help determine the ultimate design of the product.
  • Agile/Scrum: Many design teams rely on this project management methodology to iterate on new and existing designs.
  • Coding: Depending on the type of product being designed, a UI/UX designer may need to have at least some familiarity with coding, at least so they can communicate more effectively with the developers and engineers on their team.

In their day-to-day work, UI/UX designers also rely on the following tools:

These are just a few of the potential tools, of course: if you pursue a UI/UX career, you’ll need to keep in mind that tools are constantly adding new features, and new tools are coming online that could quickly become popular.

In addition, a UI/UX designer must have fantastic “soft skills” such as empathy and communication, as they’ll need to work closely with other stakeholders (such as software developers/engineers) to accomplish projects.

What are the learning options for a UI/UX designer?

There are many pathways for a UI/UX designer to learn their craft. In addition to two- and four-year degrees in design, those who are inclined to self-learn can find a variety of courses (many of them free) online. For example:

Those are just a few of the available options; when judging any potential educational pathway, make sure that its cost and time commitments align with your resources and schedule.

What are the career paths for a UI/UX designer?

As we mentioned earlier, there’s no definitive career path for a UI/UX designer. That being said, many designers go the following route:

Junior UI/UX designer: As the name implies, this is an entry-level position; you’ll often end up working closely with a senior designer who will (hopefully) show you some tips and tricks.

Mid-career UI/UX designer: Those designers in mid-career have a solid grasp of the tools and techniques necessary for effective UI and UX design.

Senior UI/UX designer: Senior UI/UX designers are tasked with masterminding big projects. They have lots of experience, and can find themselves managing a whole team of junior and mid-level designers.

Design lead or design manager: Professionals in this position often oversee their organization’s design strategy, helping establish the UI and UX for a variety of properties and products.

What do I need to know about a UI/UX resume?

If you’re putting together a resume for a UI/UX designer position, keep in mind that you need to customize the document to the specific job. For example, if you’re applying to a company that builds mobile apps, you should use the skills and experience sections to highlight your ability to design mobile apps.

“When it comes to showcasing previous work experience, a UX designer should provide a description—two to three bullet points—of the achievements they have garnered through their previous jobs, along with of how they successfully collaborated with UI designers and product managers,” Josh Oakhurst, vice president of product management at Bayard Advertising, recently told Dice. In other words, showing your results is always key.

If you’re at a loss of where to start, check out Dice’s UI/UX designer resume template, which you can modify accordingly.  


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