You Are Not A “UI/UX Designer”

Janet Taylor
3 min readJun 30, 2017

Back in the early 2000s, I had the title “Web Developer/Designer.”

I hated that term then, and I still do.

I used to strongly suggest to clients that they hire three separate people with specific skillsets instead of one person who was expected to do concept, fit and finish, copywriting and content strategy, and production-ready implementation.

I wasn’t alone, of course. Lots of us had to build a career from bits and pieces of different skills, but we frequently didn’t have the language to describe what we did. We had no word for the unicorn-like set of skills so many of us were expected to have. And it’s true even now; these days, I’d be called “a designer who can code,” or maybe “a front-end developer with design chops.” Or maybe just a Product Designer. Or sometimes, “unicorn.”

Ultimately, these terminology problems aren’t our clients’ problems, they’re ours. We can’t figure out what to call ourselves.

I’ve seen a new, strange hybrid crop up recently: “UI/UX Designer.” It’s most common in job descriptions, though I’ve also seen individuals using this title in their portfolios.

The people hiring for a “UI/UX Designer” typically don’t know what they want. They’re usually people who know they need a good interface, who believe design can be a differentiator, but have been told that they also need “good UX.”

The problem is, these folks don’t understand how “good UX” is different from deciding what color blue to make the Submit button.

These folks don’t understand that “good UX” extends to things like the wording used on the Submit button. Or what happens when you click the Submit button. Or how to make the Submit button best serve the business strategy, and how to measure its success. Or whether there’s a Submit button at all.

They probably want someone who’s primarily a visual designer who can “sprinkle some UX on it,” so the hiring manager can check a “good UX” box.

I understand this for job descriptions. But for people?

If you are a UI Designer, I want to see amazing, pixel-perfect designs. Show me your deep attention to your craft with every painstaking detail. Tell me why you chose this style of drop-shadow over that one, or why you chose not to have a drop-shadow at all. Make me weep with joy at the balance of light and dark, white space and content.

If you are a UX Designer, I want to see something different. I want to see how you understand the mental models of your end user. I want detailed workflows, user research, prototypes, mockups, process. Show me your deep attention to seeing the world through your user’s eyes, and how you intend to influence behavior.

These are very different skillsets. Just like twenty years ago, it’s possible for these skillsets to exist in the same person, but exceedingly rare.

Whoever you are, have a little more faith in your abilities. Don’t shortchange the skillset you do have by trying to do everything.

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Janet Taylor

Design leader. Recovering software engineer. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of my employer. She/her pronouns.