What Is a UI Designer? (With Roles and Responsibilities)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published 12 October 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
User interface (UI) designers create the look and feel of digital products, such as websites, applications or other software. They design systems that connect suppliers and consumers by meeting the expectations of users and aligning the product with company aims. Knowing a digital designer's roles and responsibilities can help you decide if this is a career path for you. In this article, we discuss what a UI designer is and describe some of their typical tasks and duties.
What is a UI designer?
A UI designer is a creative individual who designs digital interfaces that are easy for users to navigate. They work to create natural flows, anticipating what a user may expect at each stage of swiping through an app or browsing a website. With an understanding of how to blend graphics, colour and typography, they create designs that capture the essence of a brand or company while providing a seamless user experience. These designers typically work closely with user-experience (UX) designers and developers to create what the client wants.
What does a user interface designer do?
These are some duties, roles and responsibilities of a user interface designer:
Conducts user research
A user interface designer's key function is to create a better experience for the end user. Research helps them achieve this by giving them insight into how a user thinks, feels and interacts with the product. The data they gather enables them to identify design problems and develop solutions. Here are four types of research a designer can apply:
Primary research: Designers gather fresh data through user interviews, surveys, usability testing or focus groups.
Secondary research: Designers use existing research material to support and validate design ideas and primary research results.
Exploratory research: Designers create a design hypothesis and validate it by running experiments.
Evaluative research: Designers analyse a prototype to identify improvements.
Performs competitor analysis
Competitor analysis involves evaluating a competing company's application or website to gain strategic insight. The designer assesses what the user experiences and gathers an understanding of the features, flows, functions and feelings evoked by their competitor's product. This helps them gain useful insight that can shape and influence their own design process.
A prototype is a simple model of an idea, product or service. Part of the UI design process includes making prototypes to show design ideas to stakeholders. Prototyping allows a designer to test multiple design configurations without investing too much time. It allows the client to give feedback and adjust the look and feel of the designer's work before they move on to the development phase.
Executes design work
A fundamental part of the design process includes selecting colours, imagery and typography that promote brand recognition and suit the product under development. Strong graphic design ability goes into the visual design phase to ensure the spacing and layout are cohesive throughout the product. In addition, the designer incorporates interactive touchpoints to allow a user to navigate the space easily.
Plans visual patterns
When creating pages, a designer incorporates certain principles to create a positive reading experience for the user. This includes taking advantage of typical reading patterns, such as the F-pattern. In articles or blog posts where the left side of the screen is usually text-heavy, designers can align headings or other important information to the left using bold headlines. The other pattern is a Z-pattern that applies to pages not presented in block paragraphs. Here, a user's eyes scan the top of the page, then drop to the bottom left corner to scan from left to right.
Builds hierarchies into designs
Designers achieve visual hierarchies by using different font sizes or spaces and textures to attract attention to the most important information first. Colour can be effective in guiding a user's eye to information in the right order. For example, brighter colours draw the eye, so it is higher on the hierarchy, while lighter tints appear distant and less important. User interface designers have a thorough understanding of these concepts and apply them to the products they produce to guide users.
Includes interactive design elements
A designer in the UI field approaches design projects while considering functionality. They focus on making pages look attractive and ensuring each page works intuitively and seamlessly. Part of their role is to create interactive design elements that enable the product to function.
This covers elements such as menus, buttons that a user clicks to select an action, text or form fields that allow a user to enter information, or drop-down lists that limit the options a user can choose between. Other interactive elements include scroll bars for navigating pages, tick boxes for selecting options or agreeing with statements, or icons that guide a user to another page or site.
Creates responsive designs
A designer in this field typically understands and uses the elements of responsive design. This allows an application to adapt to various devices, screen sizes and orientations without losing visual appeal or functionality. A user interface designer typically works on a flexible grid that manages consistency across multiple layouts. This means choosing scalable vector graphics that can shrink or stretch infinitely and including breakpoints to guide the flow of the content on different devices.
To accommodate this size variation, designers often prioritise and hide content to ensure that essential content appears first. Non-essential items are optional and only visible and available when the display size allows for them.
Hands designs off to developers
Handing off to developers is one of the final tasks of a UI designer's work on a project. Proper preparation ensures that the developers get all the information and digital assets they require to fulfil their roles. For an efficient hand-off, the designer can leave comments on each design detailing how they intend the product to work. They aim to present neat designs, free from clutter, with everything organised and labelled. This may include elements such as:
Design hand-off checklist
Develops and maintains style guides
Consistency of design elements is a key aspect of branding. A user interface designer creates a style guide to maintain a cohesive look and feel throughout the project that aligns with the brand. A style guide contains details such as the grid system, colour palette, fonts, icons, buttons and company logo. Using a style guide defines standards and usage that create a quality end product that looks professional and improves user experience. A style guide ensures future changes maintain the same look and feel of the rest of the application.
Collaborates with a design team
To produce a final product takes a team of individuals who each fulfil a different function. For someone working in UI design, this may mean meeting with a client or manager to discuss their requirements. They may interact with focus groups as part of their research. Once in the production phase, they usually collaborate with the development team to ensure designs are practical, functional and compatible with web standards. Working with developers also gives designers insight into what design elements are likely to work in code.
Creates customer engagement
A designer can create a pleasant online environment that encourages users to interact with the product. For example, a retail website displaying beautifully photographed products in multiple views that zoom on hover makes online shopping enjoyable. If a user experiences the same effortlessness when purchasing the products, they're highly likely to buy from the website again. A user interface designer plays a key role in creating that experience.
Incorporates calls to action
Designers use their skills and experience to incorporate calls to action that appeal to users. They may create attractive landing pages, pop-up subscription boxes or strategically placed buttons to encourage users to take action. These actions may be to sign up on a mailing list, take advantage of a special offer, book for an event or browse a particular group of products.
Aligns with company objectives and ethos
When designing for different organisations, designers seek to understand the goals and ethos of the company and create designs to match them. For example, when working on a website for a company that champions eco-friendly practices, the designer may aim to incorporate an earth-friendly feel into the images used. A legal firm's designs may reflect the professional nature of the business in subdued, austere images, while a playschool design might be colourful and fun.
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