In the dynamic realm of digital innovation, where user experience reigns supreme, the unsung heroes behind the curtain are the UX/UI designers. As we navigate the intricate web of websites and apps, seamlessly transitioning from one digital landscape to
another, it's easy to overlook the meticulous work that goes into creating intuitive and visually appealing interfaces.
User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) designers play a pivotal role in shaping the way we interact with technology. They are the architects of our digital journeys, carefully orchestrating every click, swipe, and tap to ensure a harmonious and delightful experience for users.
Today we are meeting Polya Vasileva – Creative director at Telerik Academy who will share with us more about the roles and the impact of UX/UI Designers.
Poli, please, introduce yourself.
I am the Creative Director at Telerik Academy, where I am responsible for the user experience and interface of the website and all internal and external-facing digital products and systems. In addition, I am the lead trainer in our Upskill UX/UI Design Program. I graduated in Graphic Design, Advertising and Illustration in the USA. Before that I had studied psychology and visual arts for a year, but I quickly realized that the design profession would perfectly combine these two passions of mine.
Tell us more about the UX/UI designer profession. What is it, which roles and functions does it combine? Where does it actually come from and when did it start to develop as a separate profession?
This profession combines at least two positions - User Experience (UX) Designer and User Interface (UI) Designer.
There are specialties within the UX Designer role, which can be handled by one person or could be separate job titles. These can include UX Researcher, focused on user research, Information Architect, specializing in information architecture (IA), and Content Strategist. Another role, the UX Writer, focuses on writing clear and user-centric texts for digital products, ensuring they meet user needs and expectations.
The domain of UI designers, on the other hand, is the visual design of the products and ensuring they are consistent with the brand. At the same time, by following design principles, they enhance the work of the UX designer by making the final products easy and pleasant to perceive, learn, remember and use, and accessible to users with the widest possible range of cognitive and other abilities.
Many companies, especially on the Bulgarian market, are looking for the so-called UX generalists, i.e. professionals who are not closely specialized in one of these domains, but rather have experience and skillset from all or most of the fields listed above. This allows them to participate in every step of the process of creating good user experiences in software products - from strategy, research, analysis, design, user testing, communication with developers and usability testing of the product.
Donald Norman, also known as the father of UX, first coined the term User Experience in 1999 while working for Apple as a User Experience Architect. But we can say that UX has been around and practiced since long before that, starting with the ancient Chinese who invented the Feng Shui philosophy 5000 BC, through the ancient Greeks with the term ergonomics 500 BC. AD, and into more recent times (the 1970s) with the first personal computers with a graphical user interface and a little later Apple releasing their version of the Macintosh computer and continuing to be innovators in the field of consumer experience to this day.
What are the daily tasks and responsibilities of the UX/UI Designer?
UX/UI designers engage in or often lead the initial market research and user interactions during the discovery phase. Their goal is to identify the target audience—the individuals who will use the product. Conducting research, they create user personas, analyze the competition, prioritize product functionalities, and contribute to the overarching business strategy for the product. They may conduct interviews or surveys with both key businesspeople (customers or other stakeholders) and potential or existing users. It is the UX/UI designers who build information architecture, diagrams of user flows and even maps of the complete journey of users in a digital product. Based on all this, they create a skeleton frame of the product or website itself (wireframe) and subsequently - a prototype of the final design, which the developers can use to implement in the real product and is often used for usability testing in the early phases.
What are the challenges in the daily work of the UX/UI designers?
UX/UI designers navigate a constant balance between business goals and user needs. They advocate for the users while contributing to the business's growth. This dual role poses a challenge, but successfully navigating it is both interesting and satisfying. Designers are problem solvers, they develop expertise through experience, but if they can master the mindset, techniques, and methods for problem-solving from the outset, the rest will come.
What skills are essential for the role?
A UX/UI designer collaborates with diverse teams rather than working in isolation. Proposed solutions are discussed and validated, involving colleagues, stakeholders, and users throughout the whole process, so communication and collaboration skills are essential.
A large part of this process also involves receiving feedback, so designers must be able to take constructive criticism and have a good dose of emotional intelligence. Last but not least, good organizational skills as well as skills in facilitating different types of meetings, workshops and brainstorming activities are key in the whole process.
Regarding technical skills, working with design and prototyping software tools such as Figma, currently the most popular on the market, is of course key. But in our field, everything is developing at a rapid pace, which requires designers to be up to date with new technologies at all times. The tools themselves are evolving rapidly, new and better ones are coming out, and with the development of AI, the changes are even more dynamic. We all need to make sure we keep up with technology otherwise we can quickly fall behind. A basic knowledge of HTML and CSS also helps to better communicate with software engineers and to have a clearer idea what is possible and defend our design solutions accordingly.
What are the opportunities for career development?
Here, I would say that the ceiling is very high. There are designers who develop vertically in the same specialty until they reach the most senior level - Senior UX designer or architect. There are also those who at some point go in the direction of management of teams of designers and why not Vice President of Design, etc. Many designers start out as generalists and then specialize in a niche area - research, information architecture, testing, or UI design. In most product companies, there are many opportunities for horizontal development as well, from design to product management or other roles more concerned with the organization's strategy. In general, everything is possible and there are really no limits, if you always aim to be better and grow, if you have a curiosity and a desire to learn and help people and society, which should be at the core of our profession.
Does this sound appealing? If yes, do have in mind that the admission for the Upskill UX/UI Design
program is still open. So, if you want to break into the world of UX/UI Design, hurry up and apply by March 10.