What Is a User Interface (UI) Designer?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn what a UI designer does and how it intersects with UX design. Find out the skills needed for the role and how to get started as a user interface designer.

[Featured image] A UI designer with glasses on sits in front of a computer while sketching on a piece of paper.

A UI designer designs the graphical user interface of an app, website, or device that a human interacts with. For example, when you access a website or an app on your phone, there's usually a graphical interface that allows you to navigate and achieve your goal. UI designers create and optimise the interactive elements that facilitate your actions, such as buttons, menus, breadcrumbs, progress bars, and accordions.

Creating visually pleasing interfaces is important, but UI extends beyond the aesthetic. When you’re using an app, it should be intuitive, meaning that  you should have a good idea of what will happen if you push a button or flip a toggle switch. UI designers use visual cues to help guide a user through the interface.

A site or app should also be accessible and inclusive. Users should be able to operate and understand the interface regardless of their ability, age, race, gender identity, or background. This might mean choosing a font that’s easy to read and translatable into different languages or selecting colours that colourblind users can differentiate.

The vocabulary of UI design

Spend some time reading about UI design, and you’ll likely come across some terms you may not be familiar with. The world of user experience (UX) and UI design has its own vocabulary. Here are a few UI/UX terms to familiarise yourself with.


What does a UI designer do?

As a UI designer, you’ll be tasked with designing what digital products look like and how users will interact with them. This encompasses a range of tasks and decisions that might include:

  • Testing new designs on mobile and desktop

  • Managing prototype content in wireframes

  • Instructing teams on low-fidelity and high-fidelity prototyping

  • Making style guides for design consistency across screens

  • Translating business requirements to functional UI design

  • Collaborating with UX designers, development teams, and product teams

  • Designing layouts for e-commerce websites and interactive websites

Additional duties might include:

  • Ensuring designs can adapt to multiple device types (responsive design)

  • Improving and modernising existing design environments

  • Visualising interactive elements, like buttons, sliders, toggles, icons, drop-down menus, and text fields

  • Choosing colour palettes, fonts, and typesetting

  • Communication with developers to make sure features are implemented as intended

  • Analysing the impact of design and usability changes

  • Creating wireframes or high-fidelity layouts to show what an interface looks like with visual elements and branding included

Essential skills for UI design

As a UI designer, you’ll take your creativity into a digital environment and use technical skills to translate your ideas onto the screen. Effective UI designers rely on a broad skill set. Chances are you already possess some of these key skills. 

  • Empathy: Creating an easy and intuitive product often means seeing things from a user’s perspective. If you can empathise with the people who’ll eventually use your designs, you can begin to tailor your design decisions to their needs.

  • Collaboration: Product development is a team effort. You’ll likely work closely with UX designers and user researchers to transform their basic wireframes and information architectures into fully-designed prototypes. 

  • Design and prototyping tools: The exact tools you use may vary depending on your company, the product you’re designing, or your personal preference. Some popular UI design tools you may want to familiarise yourself with include Sketch, Firma, InVision, Balsamiq, Axure, and Adobe XD. 

  • Colour theory: Some of the most important choices you’ll make as a UI designer regard colours and colour palettes. This isn’t just about what looks good. Colours can also hint at function and support brand identity.

  • Typography: More than 90 per cent of information on the internet comes in the form of text [1]. Since it plays such a key role, typography can make the difference between good UI and bad UI.

  • Design patterns: UI design patterns offer general solutions to common design problems. Familiarity with these common patterns and components will save time and allow you to focus on more specific user problems.

UI vs. UX design

User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design often go hand in hand, but the two fields have some important differences. Whilst UX encompasses the overall user experience with a product or service, UI focuses on graphic design and interface.


Why pursue a career in UI design

If you’re passionate about design and interested in product development and web design work, then a career in UI could be a good fit. Working in this field gives you the opportunity to work in a collaborative environment to create solutions to real-world problems.

User interface designer salary and job outlook

According to Glassdoor, the national average salary for a UI Designer in India is ₹5,04,622 [2]. The average salary for a senior UI designer is ₹8,51,418 [3]. Companies must create websites and mobile apps to represent their businesses, and internet penetration in India is still under 50 per cent [4]. This means UI designers should have plenty of opportunities for work.

How to become a UI designer

There are many paths toward working as a UI designer. The process may vary based on your experience, education, transferable skills, and the type of company you’re hoping to work for. Let’s look at a few steps to set yourself up for success.

1. Learn UI design skills.

A career in UI/UX design starts with having the right skills. Although not always required to get a job, earning a degree is one way to start building your skill set. If you cannot find a degree in UI/UX design, you may choose to pursue a B.Des. in Graphic Design from the National Institute of Design. Alternatively,  you may look for a degree programme overseas, such as a BA (Hons) in User-Experience and User-Interface Design offered by Ravensbourne University in London.

Another option is to take courses or attend bootcamps that specialise in UI design. Look for programmes that give you hands-on experience with common UI tools so you can put what you’re learning into practice.

2. Gain experience.

To gain experience on your own, start by working on the design of your own website or see if any family or friends have sites or apps that could use a redesign. Pay attention to the design of pages or apps you use regularly, and think about how to improve the user interface.

If you’re currently working towards a degree, check with your school’s career services office for any internship opportunities. Alternatively, you could volunteer your design services for local schools or non-profit organisations.

Use these experiences as opportunities to learn the software common to UI jobs.

3. Build your portfolio.

Your portfolio is perhaps the most important factor when applying for UI jobs. More than anything else, your body of work demonstrates to potential employers what you can do. You don’t necessarily need your own website to have a portfolio. Online portfolio platforms like Dribbble, Behance, or Coroflot offer a free and convenient place to showcase your designs. 

As you gain experience, remember to update your portfolio with your newest and best work.

4. Expand your network.

Whilst many designers find out about open positions through public job boards, it’s also possible to find work directly from your network. Start building relationships with other project development professionals (including UX designers and web developers) by attending industry events or interacting online. You never know who you might meet or what opportunities those relationships might bring.

Learn the art of UI with Google

Get started on your path toward a career in UI design with the Google UX Design Professional Certificate on Coursera. Build in-demand skills with hands-on activities, videos, and assessments, and create a portfolio to showcase your skills to prospective employers. Upon completion, you’ll have access to exclusive career resources like resume review, interview prep, and more. 

Article sources


Adobe. "Typography in UI Design, https://xd.adobe.com/ideas/process/ui-design/typography-in-ui-design/." Accessed June 7, 2023.

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