Web Designer vs. UI Designer: Which One Should I Hire?


To make the most of the userbase that visit or engage with your site, ensuring you have unique, fresh and engaging web design is paramount to ensure the user journey is one that entices conversions. Web design isn’t something which is there to look fancy for the sake of it, it has to be driven by the purpose of drawing in users to navigate your site through a clear cut UI system in order to convert. Other aspects and data of the marketing funnel like SEO also have to be considered as part of any web design and subsequent UI design project.

Alongside all this, there is the inevitable branding aspect of any web or UI design campaign that has to be considered in equal measure to reasons to impact the bottom line. Remember design is the first thing many new users see when they land on your site and they will immediately associate this with how they interpret your brand, for better or for worse.

The purpose of this piece isn’t necessarily to delve into why web design and UI design are important (we hope this has been outlined above). Instead, we will look at the distinct differences of the two disciplines and what a web designer does vs UI designer, and what you’ll need to consider for what stage of the web building process.

web design vs ui design

Difference between a Web Designer and a UI Designer

So what the two practices entail and how are they different? You may be already relatively familiar with what a web designer does, so we’ll go over that first. Straight off the bat, web designers typically may have cut their teeth in graphic design and are schooled in the more “human” aspect of the web development process. This covers making a visually appealing, easy to use user journey that is responsive and ready for all platforms including desktop, mobile and tablet. You can expect their graphic design knowledge to be backed up by areas of web development and understanding of languages like HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

UI design, meaning User Experience, are focused on a more analytics and data-led discipline to ensure that the interfaces crafted by the web designers result in seamless interactions between the customer and the product. This is with the ultimate goal in mind to marry together the goals of savvy web design and branding with consumer conversions in mind. UI designers will focus on areas like points of interaction such as header and footer links and navigational areas to ensure that the user journey is clear cut and seamless. This incorporates some of the key skills of web design such as colouring and typography and is all with a view to honing in users to explore through the site in more detail and eventually buy in.

To summarise the two together, it could be said that web designers serve as the overarching “umbrella” to all design elements on the site, while UI designers sit underneath this and hone in and fine-tune elements of web design and layout on a potentially more commercial-driven basis. UI designers also take into account elements that exist outside of the site, such as external traffic and user interaction from other traffic sources.

When Should I Hire One vs the Other?

Hiring either a web designer or UI designer really depends on the stage of your project and what it is you’re looking for in terms of overhauls and optimisations. For the purpose of this exercise, let’s take the assumption that you’re looking at a complete rebrand which includes an extensive site redesign in terms of graphics and site navigation. This process obviously starts with a web designer putting together an initial portfolio of wireframes to present to difference team members for alignment and moving forward with a particular style.

The put it bluntly, it’s advised to bring in a UI designer, be it (budget depending) on a full-time or freelance basis, as early in the process as possible. Bringing them into the fold to incorporate their expertise on user behaviour on the site based on existing data analysis you may have from old site designs will be vital in ensuring that the design team aren’t missing any key wins in site aspects such as menu navigation systems and CTAs. You should also have an existing canon of analytics and user behaviour data in your arsenal that any UI designer should be able to interpret and make design decisions on.

It’s important to get this kind of decision making in early so you’re not having to retrospectively change any new site designs too late in the day and you’re not missing crucial UI design decisions that could lead to heightened conversions upon launch. While most businesses may find that web designers are easier to come by and they may already form part of your team, getting in additional support in the form of a UI designer early on in the process is key.

What Should I Look for When Hiring a Web Designer or UI Designer?

As we’ve outlined, there are subtle differences in skillsets between a web designer and UI designer. You should be relatively familiar with these now and it’s more a case of sounding out the right hire from whatever talent pool you have available. Whether you’re looking at bringing in someone on a freelance or full time basis, be sure to have a good look at their existing portfolios to see whether they’ve worked with brands or clients relevant to what you’re after. Be sure to question them on what they’d recommend in terms of improvements for your current site designs, and ask them to provide potential mock-ups or recommendations.

Key discipline skills such as the ability to work with various design software and knowledge of various coding languages is a bit of a no-brainer when looking for a good web or UI designer, though you’ll be able to sound out these relatively early in your search.

Hopefully by now you’ll have a better understanding of what it is a web designer and UI does and what the key differences are between how they work. Clearly, both play equally vital roles in not only the branding of your company but also through accommodating users through every stage of the journey to ensure they become new customers.

Continue Reading