“People use UI and UX interchangeably, but they’re actually different. UI is what the user sees on a screen: the icons, text, colors, backgrounds, and any moving elements (such as animations). In this way, UI overlaps quite a bit with graphic design, and follows a lot of the same principles; graphic designers’ education and independent-project backgrounds can often apply well to UI work.
UX, by contrast, is the study of how the user moves through all those elements that the UI folks have designed. UX designers are concerned with flow, and how much friction users experience as they interact with the software (and the hardware).
To reduce the definitions as much as possible: UI handles the “look,” and UX handles how it all “works.”
In order to achieve their respective goals, both UI and UX designers spend a lot of time talking to users (hello, focus groups!) and watching over their shoulders as they interact with prototypes. Speaking of which, these designers create tons of prototypes in the course of a given project—everything from crude wireframes all the way up to polished versions. With the evolution of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), the complexities and pressures on UX and UI designers will only increase in coming years.
As you can imagine, good UI and UX designers have a lot of skills and experience. According to Burning Glass, some 88.9 percent of folks in these disciplines have a bachelor’s degree. But which skills do they specifically need?
Burning Glass, which analyzes millions of job postings across the county, does a great job of breaking down skills into discrete categories:
Distinguishing skills (are advanced skills that truly differentiate candidates applying for various roles. As you might expect, there’s a lot of education and training necessary to master these.
Defining skills are the skills needed for day-to-day tasks in many roles.
Necessary skills are the lowest barrier to entry; they are also skills that are often found in other professions, providing a springboard for people to launch into a career in UI/UX.
With all that in mind, here’s the skills breakdown: