How to Become a User Interface Designer

How to Become a User Interface Designer: Career Path Guide

If you want to become a user interface designer, you first need to determine if this career path is well suited to your skills and interests. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a user interface designer:


• Do you enjoy creating visual concepts for computer applications, programs and websites?

• Are you interested in simplifying the interaction between users and technology?

• Are you interested in a career that involves creativity, research and working with others?


Those who become successful user interface designers are user experience oriented individuals who are able to combine a thorough understanding of the function of a product with a thorough understanding of the needs of the user.


They are individuals who are able to use that knowledge in combination with their natural ability to create visual representations of ideas and their skills with graphic design software, to create a user interface design that efficiently organizes icons and other commands in a visually appealing manner.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a user interface designer. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a User Interface Designer

Although educational requirements for becoming a user interface designer vary by employer, many prefer hiring candidates with a bachelor's degree or greater in digital or graphic design, human-computer interaction, interactive media or a related field.


These programs will provide students with the skills and knowledge needed to become competent in a career as a user-interface designer, such as skills in CSS, Javascript and HTML, as well as proficiency with design programs, such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.


These programs may also teach you about human cognitive processes, which is an important area to have knowledge in if you want to understand where on a page a user is likely to look, how much time they will spend looking at an area, and what will make users frustrated and displeased. 


Some employers may hire user-interface designers who don’t have a degree, they may accept an impressive portfolio and work experience in the field in place of an education. 




User Interface Designer Job Description

User interface designers are responsible for creating functional and visually appealing user interfaces for websites, databases, computer programs and applications. They must ensure that icons and features displayed on the interface of a computer program can be easily interpreted by users without excessive explanation, thus making areas where users directly interact with technology easy and intuitive to use.


In order to effectively design an interface that gets users to go from point A to point B in an elegant and simple manner, the user interface designer must have a thorough understanding of the user’s needs, as well as a thorough understanding of the capabilities and functions of the program, website or application for which they are designing the interface. This involves a combination of research and creation. User interface designers must figure out how a user would want to use the product, and then determine how those preferences fit within the product’s function. 



User Interface Designer Job Duties

• Organize information to be contained on the interface

• Liaise with user experience researchers

• Incorporate user preferences into basic models of designs

• Test design models by watching users try to use them

• May design interfaces for computer programs, websites or databases

• May be responsible for coding using Javascript, HTML and other coding languages

• Maintain and update program, website or database as deemed necessary by the client

• Identify and repair any imperfections

• Train client in the use of the program, website or database



Who Creates Jobs for User Interface Designers?

User interface designers are hired on a part-time, full-time and contractual basis by a wide variety of small, medium and large organizations. They may be employed by one organization, multiple organizations or work as a freelancer.


Types of organizations that hire User Interface Designers include:


• Graphic design studios

• Online advertising agencies

• Multimedia companies

• Web service companies

• Websites and web-based businesses

• Software development companies

• Self-employment (as freelancers)


Experience Needed to Become a User Interface Designer

Candidates for user interface design jobs should be able demonstrate their creativity and skills with a professional online portfolio that features their best designs.


A portfolio demonstrates a user interface designer’s ability to understand their client’s needs and objectives by displaying their work, as well as outlining what the needs and objectives were for each project. Portfolios also demonstrate a user interface designer’s mastery with common tools of the trade, such as Photoshop and Illustrator.





Work Environment for User Interface Designers

Working Hours: Many user interface designers work standard weekday business hours. Some user interface designers also choose to work as freelancers, an employment option that allows them to work on their own time and in their own space. This is especially appealing to single parents hoping to work from home.


Working Conditions: The work of user interface designers can be rewarding at times, as it can be highly satisfying to ‘wow’ clients with the product or visual concept you’ve created. It can also be highly stressful however, such as when facing dissatisfied or difficult clients, or when facing tight deadlines. User interface designers that work as freelancers may also find it exciting to watch their client base and business grow, although it can be quite stressful during times when paid projects are few and far between.


Work Setting: Many user interface designers work in an office setting, although some work from home. User interface designers may be required to do some traveling from time to time, in order to meet with clients, software distributors and other stakeholders.



Skills and Traits Needed to Become a User Interface Designer

In order to become effective in a career as a user interface designer, you need to posses a certain set of skills and personality traits. The skills listed below will help you perform your job duties with competence, and the personality traits will help you maintain a positive attitude towards your work. These skills and traits, or variations of them, are also likely to be listed on user interface designer job postings.


Personal Characteristics

• Enjoy designing clean and user-friendly web and mobile application interfaces

• Interested in learning about the organization, company, or department you are designing for

• A keen interest in keeping up to date with interface design trends and developments

• Enjoy being innovative and using creativity


Hard and Soft Skills

• Exceptional communication skills, used for interacting directly with clients

• Ability to plan projects with clients and create wireframes and mockups

• Clean and intuitive form design, as demonstrated within portfolio

• Ability to organize lots of complex information in a way that is simple, user-friendly, logical, clear and elegant

• Deep understanding of user experience and ability to analyze and test usability

• Skills with HTML, CSS, jQuery and Photoshop/Fireworks



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User Interface Designer Salary

The salary level of user interface designers can vary depending on their personal qualifications, the size and type of their employer, the specific responsibilities of their job, and many other factors.


User Interface Designer Salary Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working as part of the Web Designers and Developers occupational group earn an average of between $26.47 and $37.50 per hour.


User Interface designer Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, the average salary level of Canadian workers in the Web Designers and Developers occupational group is $41,562 per year.


User Interface Designer United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of American workers in the Web Designers occupational group is $62,500 per year. 



Careers Similar to User Interface Designer

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to User Interface Designer, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Computer Programmer

Graphic Designer

Layout Designer

Software Designer

Web Designer



References: How to Become a User Interface Designer

Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a User Interface Designer.



Wages & Salaries in Alberta: Web Designers.” (March 31, 2018). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 15, 2020.

Computer and Information Technology:Web Developers.” (September 4, 2019). Bureau of Labor Statistics - United States Government website. Retrieved January 15, 2020.

Job Profiles:User Interface Designer.” (n.d.). Focus on Information Technology website. Retrieved January 15, 2020.

UI, UX: "Who Does What? A Designer’s Guide To The Tech Industry.” Lo Min Ming (July 7, 2014) Fast Company website. Retrieved January 15, 2020.



Scholarships for Becoming a User Interface Designer

Scholarships in Canada and the United States listed for majors that apply to becoming a User Interface Designer can be found on the following pages:


Computer Engineering Scholarships

Computer Science Scholarships

Graphic Design Scholarships

Software Engineering Scholarships


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Becoming a User Interface Designer: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a User Interface Designer. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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