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What is UX and UI Design?

How is each different from the other? How can you make the jump from Graphic Designer to one of these specialized positions?

UX & UI Design is often spoken of as a pair; They’re the twins that are always associated with each other. While User Experience and User Interface Design both work towards the same end goal: creating a clean, unobtrusive, responsive site, they each have their nuances. 

While it is not unheard of for companies to lump the workload of the two jobs into one, it is important that you understand the abilities one may need to possess in order to successfully procure a career in either. 

Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll have gained a sense of which is more suited to your goals and skill set. 

User Interface Design (UI)

User Interface Designers are the guys who consider the top-level information and organization of headers, footers, buttons, and other important content of the website. If we are comparing the UI Designer to a baker, then they are the cake decorator. While others contemplate the consistency and texture of the cake within, the UI designer arranges fondant roses and pipes the lettering. 

UI Designers are concerned with maintaining, and expanding upon, an on-brand visual language that incorporates and accommodates the practical, user-friendly decisions of the UX Designer. Many UI Designer's roles may extend into the job of a Visual Designer or Graphic Designer, as they may be expected to design the look of buttons, graphics, and other elements present. 

Because a UI designers work is in front-end development, it is not uncommon for many to be versed in HTML, CSS, & Javascript. These skills better equip them to communicate with front-end developers and center their designs on the functionality of their coding language of choice. 

User Experience Design (UX)

Re-using the baker analogy, the UX designer focuses their efforts on the texture, taste, and enjoyment of the cake within. UX designers are most concerned with ensuring elements are functional, as intuitive as possible, and unobtrusive. The job of the UX Designer is to anticipate and fix difficulties user may have when using their products and to continue developing functional design around advancing technology.

Many UX Designers conduct Product Research to look into the problems, and use mock-up programs to create layouts, conduct prototype testing, and create a more integrated, user friendly product. 

It is also often recommended that UX Designers learn HTML & CSS to strengthen the communication between designer and developer

Where the Venn Diagram Overlaps and Where It Doesn't

Both UX and UI Design make decisions based on Human Behavior, making decisions catered to User-Centered Design. While the concept of making products more user-friendly to make them more successful is as old as the wheel itself, the application of this concept has developed as technology has advanced and the limitations for developers, programmers, and designers have decreased. 

How Can I Make the Jump?

Many public and private institutions offer courses to train students to better grasp the elements of user-friendly design. Growing up in Silicon Valley, I had the opportunity in high school to study photoshop and illustrator as tools to create digital art and design websites. Many prestigious colleges offer majors such as Interaction Design and other up-and-coming fields. There has never been a more opportune time to try a class centered around web-development and product design. 

If you're attempting to hone your skills on your own, or even start from scratch: fear not! Many people, Graphic Designers and non-Designers alike, build upon their skill to enter the field of UX or UI Design. It's important to note the different programs and coding languages that each field employs. Below are some great resources for learning code and referencing work.  

Codecademy

Codecademy is a great resource to learn basic coding for free. Complete with in browser exercises and examples, you can get feedback right away on your exercises. 

W3Schools

W3 can offer a lot more in terms of nuances to coding languages. You can start with either and see what works for you, but I mostly use W3 as reference for code. 

Behance

Behance is an Adobe website specifically created for artists and designers to showcase their work. Doubling as a portfolio, Behance functions as a great place to draw inspiration, awe, and motivation to pursue your own betterment. Uploading your work here is a great way to show future employers your development and your work. 

Bringing It All Together

Studying the work that others create, emulating and expanding on these ideas, and creating scenarios to build your portfolio are all great ways to better prepare yourself for a career in UX or UI Design (and design in general). The beauty of the internet is that it has enabled the modern designer to better inform their decisions, and to more effectively connect trends, education, and job opportunities. 

Bring it all together and make it work for you.