infoTECH Feature

October 28, 2015

How to Hire UI Designers

Starting a business is not for the light-hearted.  When you’re not familiar with the world of digital marketing and mobile media platforms, the challenge of getting your company’s name out there becomes that much more daunting. That’s why one of your first steps should be to hire a professional UI designer.

However, even the hiring process can make you feel like you’re in over your head.

You know that the best way to make your product known is to do so online, but if you don’t know the first thing about setting up a website or mobile app, how do you know if a candidate is right for the job? To make sure you’re getting the best returns on your investment, you need to develop a working knowledge of what UI designers do. Then, you’ll know what to look for in your candidate pool and make sure you hire the right person to deliver the highest quality design.

What Is a UI Designer?

UI stands for User Interface. This means a UI designer is in charge of designing all aspects of a page with which your user interacts. This is not to be confused with UX design, which deals with overall user experience design. Toptal’s UI interviewing guide explains the relationship between UI and UX designers: “While UX Designers are in charge of the overall functionality of the product, User Interface (UI) Designers are mainly concerned about how the product is laid out, and what the product’s visual communication elements are.” The UI designer must ensure that every screen communicates the path the UX designer has created.

In today’s marketing game, your UI designer should be able to work across a variety of platforms and devices. Going online no longer means logging onto your browser from a desktop computer. One out of every five Americans uses a smartphone and can surf the web from anywhere. This means it is essential that a good UI designer be able to produce high quality design not just for websites but for mobile apps as well.

What Should You Look For In Your UI Designer?

Chances are you’re hiring a UI designer because you don’t know how to do their job. That’s okay; you’re focused on running a company, not a website. But because you don’t have the technical know-how to test them on their skills directly, you have to be exceptionally thorough about doing your homework. The candidate should be able to provide an extensive portfolio of prior clients who can attest to their performance and advertised skills. Do not hire a candidate who showcases great work but has no contact information to back it up. You should be looking to talk to as many prior clients as possible as a way to scope out the validity of their work.

Ask for details on their methodology

Ask your UI designer to explain their approach to the design process. You’re looking for a designer who can clearly articulate a variety of methods they use to tackle any project and the benefits and drawbacks of each. Even if you aren’t a designer yourself, a talented designer will be able to clearly explain their process and the important considerations.

You should also be listening for the ways they’ve interacted with developers to better understand where and how the UI design fits in with the UX design and overall marketing goals of the company.

How will you measure success?

Measuring the success of UI design is not an easy or entirely straightforward process. You’ll consider how visually appealing the website is, how many iterations of the design are offered to meet user expectations, how user-friendly or confusing the design is, and a plethora of other metrics. You need to agree on how you will assess success with your designer prior to hiring. That way, you’ll both be on the same page about your goals and how you’ll evaluate and revise the design at each step of your company’s growth.

Are they UI Designers or template masters?

You want a UI design that is unique and engaging. You don’t want someone in charge who is an expert at copying other successful designs. Your design has to be catered to your users, not just served with a modified template. Make sure you’re hiring a genuine designer and not just a template master by considering the following: 

  • Does the candidate have demonstrable proficiency in Sketch, InvisionApp, Photoshop, Illustrator or other visual design and wireframing apps? Can they make adjustments and create basic mockups on the fly?

  • Is the candidate a good problem solver? Can she take those abilities one step further and “sell” you on fresh ideas in conversation?

By asking these questions, you should be able to weed out the expert copiers from your list of candidates and find people who are not just well qualified, but also articulate and creative.

Use Common Sense

You now have the tools to discern if a UI design candidate is credible. If your candidate doesn’t have an MS in Computer Interactive Design, that’s not necessarily a deal breaker (and in many cases doesn’t matter), but if he can’t explain his methodology or provide an extensive portfolio then you should see a red flag. You have to know when to be flexible and when you’re being taken advantage of for not having the technical know-how.

On a different note, if you find that a UI designer requires all of the funding to be placed upfront, this should be cause for skepticism. It is the normal and professional standard to put a percentage of the funding down as a deposit at the outset and to set milestones for the rest of the payments, so prepare to pay some out of pocket before you see any results. But if they are asking for it all up front, you should question why and only move forward with the candidate if they have a really good reason.

The Proof in the Product

Now you know what to look for in a UI designer and how to test a candidate’s credentials. You’re ready to hire. But make sure that you haven’t just tested the candidate, but also laid out the specifics of what you’re looking for. In order to get the best returns on your investment, you need to communicate as much as possible about the job you want done. In other words, make sure you don’t have a great UI design candidate for any job; they need to be tailored to your specific job. Make sure to do the following before signing on the dotted line.

  • Discuss a detailed plan of what you are trying to accomplish.

  • Establish milestones and deliveries to help you monitor the professionalism and progress of the UI designer.

  • Stay involved. Don’t just hand off the work, stay updated to make sure the design is consistent with your overall vision for the product.

  • Plan for an Alpha and Beta testing period for the design prior to marking the job as complete.

When hiring a UI designer, ask the right questions, check references, and stay informed. If you’re vigilant in following these steps, you’ll land yourself a great designer who will help you realize your vision for the product.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

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