Have U got X and I mixed up? The difference between UX and UI

31 Mar 2015

Developers and designers shouldn’t get caught up in how a job title encompasses UX or UI, says Jasaon Kelly of Hays. Rather, they should look to the job specification and match their skills to the software requirements.

Search Google for ‘UX and UI’ and the most popular search results have to do with ‘what is the difference between UX and UI’? If you read 20 different sources on the subject, you’ll still not end up with a straight answer. However, what is commonly agreed is that UI or user interface (design) is part of the UX or user experience (design).

If we look at it from the world of work, we find it less important to define UX and UI as job titles. We explained in a previous article how, dependent on the company, or even the hiring manager within a company, the job title and corresponding job specification can differ widely.

In fact, it’s not only job titles, but professions that are getting blurred. Where does the responsibility of big data sit, in marketing or IT? Similarly, the professions of IT and design are blurring when it comes to UI and UX.

Tech developments equal more UI and UX jobs

It’s more important to understand that the current and future development of technologies are creating more and more job opportunities related to UI and UX. And, in my opinion, the man to thank for this is the late, great former CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs.

UI and UX are terms that can be used in relation to any product design, long before the computer was invented. However, if we take ourselves back to the early Eighties we’ll find the best example of it in practice. And the best example is in computers (the term we’d have used in those times).

Before 1984, anyone using a computer was using a text-based interface and they probably knew basic levels of code. Then the Macintosh launched using a graphical interface, which became de facto for all computers when Microsoft launched its own version in Windows.

The development of the internet and the world wide web increased the need for UI and UX, and then along came the smartphone, led by the revolutionary iPhone and the introduction of apps.

When Jobs launched the iPad in 2010, apps really took off and people were using three online platforms, so there was a need for responsive design to make the desktop, phone and tablet all look and feel the same.

Evolving jobs in tech

This evolution of technology has seen the evolution of jobs within the tech sector. Developers started to split into focusing on back end and front end, and then the need for great user design became more and more important. Apple has demonstrated the value in being the king of UX and UI by becoming one of the biggest companies in the world.

We now have a scenario where UX and UI has a spectrum in the world of work, dependent on the size of the company and the end product/service. That spectrum can go from a developer with UX skills at one end, through to a specialised UI role, such as a motion designer who creates animation within an app at the other end.

Dependent on your skills and how you want to develop your career, you can slot into anywhere along this job skill spectrum, from HTML5, Java, CSS3, jQuery, Objective-C, C# and JavaScript through Photoshop, Sketch, Illustrator, Fireworks, InVision, After Effects, Core Composer, Flash and Origami.

Salaries for UX and UI jobs

From 2013 to 2014, we saw a 70pc increase in the number of jobs involving UX and UI and from extrapolating our first-quarter data, we expect to see a further 30-40pc increase in 2015. This means there is a supply-and-demand issue and as a result salaries and contractor daily rates have increased by 20pc since 2013.

Junior front-end developers with UX/UI can expect to earn €40,000-€50,000, experienced front-end developers with UX/UI who have three to five years of experience can expect a salary of €45,000-€60,000 and senior front-end developers with UX/UI can expect to earn €60,000-€80,000.

Daily rate contractors are experienced and their rates vary from €400-€500 per day.

As you would expect, any organisation with a web presence is looking for these skills. The companies that are most active in the market in Ireland are those businesses in app development, financial services, software, online, consulting and outsourcing.

You could argue we’re just at the beginning of the amount of jobs that will be created via UX and UI. Wearable technology, car technology and the ‘internet of things’ means we’re going to have more and more interfaces that need to be intuitive, cool looking and easy to use.

So don’t get caught up in how a job title encompasses UX or UI, look to the job specification and match your skills to the software requirements.

Jasaon Kelly

Jasaon Kelly is IT contracts senior business manager, covering requirements within project/programme management, business and data analytics, testing, development and infrastructure at Hays.

User experience image via Shutterstock

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