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Should I learn UI or UX first?

What should you learn first, UI or UX design? In some ways, this is a chicken or the egg type of situation. Others might say that UX comes first from a design thinking perspective. This isn't always true. Here's what we believe to be the order of learning UI and UX design.
Should I learn UI or UX first?

There’s a lot of overlap in UI and UX design. And even though there are some differences between UX and UI as well, most designers agree that UX comes before UI in terms of the design process within a project. It would only make sense to follow that same order when learning to become a UI or UX designer.

However, that doesn’t always apply. While UX comes first, it is also a lot harder to learn. This makes the case for going for UI first and UX second.

We think that picking one over the other depends on your situation. For example, you might already have some experience in UX. In that case, building on that experience would be the smart thing to do.

We’re going to look at a few ways that you could tackle this issue.

Table of Contents

Learn UX before UI

We’ve mentioned that UX comes before UI in the design process. In that case, it is very logical that you should learn UX first and UI second.

Another reason to do this is the fact that having a basic understanding of UX helps you create a UI design that will better fit the user’s wants and needs. You could design the most beautiful interfaces anyone has ever seen, but if it doesn’t some a business or user problem it will not be a good UI design.

If you learn UX first, you will learn about setting up a customer journey by doing user research, creative workshops, and concept validation. Once that’s done, creating the UI design is a matter of drawing and filling the lines of your UX framework.

Walk first before you try and run. This old saying applies to apply learning to become a designer as well. Learn to walk (UX) first, before you go for a run (UI).

Learning one out of UI and UX

Let’s say you can only learn one out of UI and UX. In that case, should you learn UI or UX? It depends, as any good UX designer would say. It is up to your previous experience as a designer and the goals you have in mind.

First up is the experience you might already have. If you’re already a visual designer or graphic designer, it will be a lot easier for you to dive right into UI design. You could learn UI to become a specialist and expert in UI design.

With this in mind, you can have multiple combinations of previous working experience and design fields. Others include being a painter or artist for UI design and a researcher or psychologist for UX design.

Another factor in deciding if you want to learn UI or UX first is the goals you have. Even though we believe UX should be learned first, certain goals can change the advice we would give you. One reason could be that you’re aiming to become a UI or UX designer. In that case, it does not matter if you learn UI or UX first.

Further reading

Always think about the goals you have. These could be personal goals but also learning or company goals. This has a big impact on the overall view of how you should learn things.

Are you wonder if you should learn UI or UX first? We can help you make a decision that will help you grow as a designer. Join the Designer’s Toolbox today and make full use of the benefits we offer to designers.

Nick Groeneveld

About the author

Nick Groeneveld is a designer from the Netherlands with over 5 years of UX, visual design, and consultancy experience. He has worked in many different industries, including retail, finance, and sports.

Take a look at Nick’s LinkedIn and Medium for more.

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