How to Hire UI Designers to Make Your Product Visually Appealing
mins to read
Designers are an essential part of the product team. As a UI/UX design agency, our job is to match designers with clients. In this article, we have collected some of the most basic questions that product owners have when they are about to hire UI designers.
1. Should I hire a UI or a UI/UX designer?
Depending on the project, it can be more convenient to hire one UI/UX designer or a team, including UI and UX designers, as well as a researcher. UI designers have narrower expertise and typically work as a part of a design team along with UX designers.
General rule: if this is the first time you are recruiting a designer, go for UI/UX or Product designer (to understand the difference between these two, read our article UX designer vs Product designer). If you are building a visually complex UI and already have a UX professional in the team, hire a user interface designer.
2. Why are UI and UX sometimes separated in job titles and sometimes go together?
User Interface and User Experience go hand in hand. They are like chicken and egg, as we explained in the article UI vs UX. The Yin and Yang of Product Design. Some designers choose to do both, while others prefer to deepen their expertise in one part.
Roles and responsibilities of UI designers relate to visual elements: they take care of buttons, icons, typography, illustrations, animations. UX designers conduct user research and analyze what should be changed in the interface to make it enjoyable and easy to use for people.
3. What are the essential skills of a UI designer?
Here is a list of UI designer skills, starting with the most important:
- Interaction design
- Wireframing and prototyping
- Visual communication (work with color, typography, composition, and so on)
- Knowledge of graphic software (Figma or Sketch, Adobe products)
- Communication skills, teamwork
- Prototyping tools (InVision, Figma)
- Empathy (understanding users)
- Basic principles of psychology
- HTML and CSS
4. Where to look for UI designers?
- Designer platforms
Behance and Dribbble are the most popular platforms where people can upload their designs, comment, and like each other. Both websites have features for hiring, so you may contact a designer, whose portfolio you like the most.
- “Contest” websites
On such platforms, you can upload a task that you have and designers will suggest their ideas, so you can choose from many options. Platforms that focus on design specifically are DesignCrowd and 99designs.
- Freelancers platforms
Well-known platforms such as Upwork work for all sorts of freelance tasks. If you are looking for something more tailored to design needs, try Toptal with their curated pool of candidates, and Working Not Working (a platform focused on creative professionals).
- Social networks
LinkedIn would be too obvious to recommend for hiring, but social networks are worth mentioning still. Try posting a request for a UI designer and see if you get any references: it can often get you great talent with very little time spent on searching.
5. What are UI designer interview questions?
Below, we've gathered some of the questions that will help you to understand how the designers thinks and what is their approach to work:
- Tell me a situation from your experience when you had to face a real problem and how you solved it
- Which project are you most proud of and why?
- Guide me through your design process (with a case from portfolio)
- What is design?
For more tips, check out our article about designer interview.
6. What is a test task for a user interface designer?
Test task is the moment of truth in the hiring process. Good and easy test task would be something that is related to the everyday work of a designer in your team. As an option, you can ask candidates to redesign a screen that you find imperfect.
Designers at Eleken agency get to work with a wide range of products from different spheres. That’s why we chose to give candidates a test task that has no references, where you can find ready solutions: it truly gives you an insight on how designers think and how creative they can get. Here it is:
Create a UI for a mobile AI Messenger App (at least 3 screens)
Imagine you’re a very busy person, but your partner/family/friends want to get your attention and message you pretty often. You need to keep working, but still be able somehow to pay some attention to your family and folks.
You need to create a UI for a messenger with an AI + chatbot, which analyzes your previous replies and responds instead of you.
7. How do you know if a designer is good?
- See if you can find any references. If you found a designer on a freelance platform, it’s easy to do, but otherwise, it would require some effort. Search the information about designers online, see who they worked with, and contact their previous employers.
- Check the status of their portfolios on Behance and Dribbble. If you see badges from Adobe, awards, and similar, you may conclude that the designer is promising. This is not a 100% recommendation, but it is a good sign.
- Rely on your own opinion. A designer might have numerous awards, but still not be the best fit for you. Check if they have worked with projects similar to yours, and trust your personal taste. Users of Dribbble might be more artistic and professional, but the designs that are popular there may not be the most usable.
8. How to hire the best UI designer?
To get the best talent, you should invest some time in research. Waiting for CVs to fall in your mailbox is easier, but in the end, it takes as much time and is less efficient.
Once you’ve done good research and have a list of candidates, find them on different platforms: LinkedIn, Behance, freelance websites, and so on. You need to choose the ones that have the best reviews. Don’t hesitate to invite for an interview some of the candidates that seem top-notch, even if your budget is limited.
Starting from the first interview, ask some questions that can give you hints on how to negotiate with the candidate later, such as:
- What do you value most in your work?
- What motivates you?
- What is your dream job?
Based on the answers, you can think of some bonuses to offer when negotiating the job offer. Good user interface designers are valued, and often you have to convince them to take your offer.
Extra tip: check your inbox for UI designer offers. Sometimes, you can find emails from people who want to work in your company — this is an easy way to find motivated candidates and hire dedicated UI designers.
9. Is it possible for a UI designer to work remotely?
Shortly, yes. The work of a UI designer can be done 100% online. Designers at Eleken work with clients remotely, most of them are located in different time zones. With all the cloud features of Figma, team collaboration goes smoothly.
10. How much does a UI designer cost?
The average salary of a UI designer in the US varies from $ 65,554 (according to Payscale) to $ 77,773 (Indeed), and $ 93,440 (Glassdoor). Entry-level salaries start from $ 50,000. Salaries of senior UI designers in LinkedIn and Apple go up to $ 150,000, and up to $ 400,000 in Netflix (according to reports on Glassdoor).
If you want to hire a freelance UI designer, expect to pay $50-150 per hour. On average, the salaries of UI designers tend to be lower than the salaries of UI/UX designers or product designers.
If you have a restricted budget, try hiring user interface designer remotely. When you are hiring a designer from another country, the prices can get 5-10 times lower. Here are some approximate rates from different countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas.
11. How can I hire a UI designer on budget?
- First of all, define the scope of work that you need to do. Talk to your teammates and refer to the product development plan. When the number of tasks is inconstant, having a freelance designer could save you money in those periods when there is not too much work to keep them full-time.
- Hire a junior specialist. As mentioned above, typically a UI designer is hired when there is also a UX professional in the team. So, when you already have one seasoned UX professional, they can mentor a fresh designer and prevent them from making typical beginner mistakes.
- Find a remote employee. As you can see from the table above, hiring a designer abroad can cost up to 10 times cheaper than in the US. Nowadays, when people are used to remote work, many companies go for this option. Even finding a designer from Omaha to work for California can save you 10-15% in salary.
If you have very little idea of the number of hours needed and how many designers you need, try talking to an agency and start over with someone who is already experienced. After all, saving on design is risky: try it only when you know how things really work.
12. Why should we hire you?
This is a popular interview question that some employers like and most employees hate. For us, the answer is easy: we are a team of professionals in user interface and user experience design, and we know how to make your SaaS product as easy to use as possible. We are that remote team that can help you save some budget and we even offer a free 7-day trial. Contact us to try!
How to Hire UX Designers: What Works and What Doesn’t (A Designer’s Perspective)
One day each product company comes to a point where they need to hire a designer. But then comes a question: how to hire a UX designer? The user experience has become a priority for a wider range of companies, so the demand for UX designers is rising. And apart from the competition being much more fierce, the expectations of the professionals are not the same as they were 5 years ago.
As a product design agency, we have been observing these changes closely. We are always on the lookout for new UX talent. For this article, we've talked with our lead designers who participate in the hiring process and asked them to share some green and red flags to look out for when you're interviewing potential candidates.
How do you know when your team needs a UX designer?
Remember the question we asked in the intro. Let us rephrase it a bit. The first question to ask yourself before moving any further is: should you hire a UX designer or someone else?
Here's a thing: there are so many design-related jobs that it is easy for employers to confuse one for another. To make sure we’re on the same page, UX designers work with the product to make it easy and enjoyable to use. They work closely with the rest of the product team at all the stages of product design: from research to developing user flows, building structure, wireframes, prototypes, and testing them. You can read our other article to learn more about what UX designers actually do.
A UI designer works with the visual side of the interface. If you want someone to change illustrations, typography, and animations on your website or user interface to make it trendier, you might be looking for a UI designer. And when you're for a so-called "universal soldier" who can help you with both UI and UX, look for a UI/UX designer.
Product designers follow the product at all stages of design and development. They typically have more responsibilities. Product designers follow the product at every stage and their work does not stop at the launch.
Interaction designers are close to UX designers, but have narrower responsibilities: they focus only on the moments of interaction between the user and the product.
Now that you are sure that you need to hire a user experience designer, let's move to the list of skills one should have.
What skills to look for?
Here is an essential but not exhaustive list of both hard and soft skills needed for UX designer:
- Familiarity with UX design tools such as user flows, user journey maps, wireframes, and so on;
- Mastery of software: graphic editors (Figma, Sketch, Adobe products), prototyping tools (Invision, Framer), animation software (optionally);
- Knowledge of UX research methods and tools, such as usability testing and Google Analytics;
- Understanding of design thinking methodology;
- Knowledge of basic principles of psychology and their application in UX design;
- Understanding the importance of design metrics.
So as we’ve discussed what skills are needed for a UX designer, let’s move on where to look for designers.
How to find UX designers?
If it's your first time looking for a designer, you might not know where to start at all. Fortunately, we have a couple of tips for that.
Platforms with references
In a perfect world, when you start looking for an answer on how to hire a UI/UX designer, a friend or a colleague will immediately recommend you one. That is how it works with many other specialists at least, like hairdressers, dentists, and so on. But if you don’t happen to know the right person, consider visiting reference platforms. For example, some of our favorite clients came from Clutch, a B2B reference website. If you are looking for freelance UX designers with reviews, check platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, 99designs.
Although LinkedIn does not work for all professions, with UX designers you can give it a try. To get an idea of what a perfect candidate would look like, find accounts of experienced designers who work for companies that are a point of reference for you. On LinkedIn, you can see work paths and references, while most designer profiles would have a link to portfolios.
Behance is the ultimate designer pool. This website focuses on the most important thing, the designer's portfolio, and there are tons of great design cases.
The format of Behance cases encourages people to share all the working process, behind-the-scenes, when designers showcase their works and explain their choices, and how they influenced the final result, and so on. Be sure to read this part carefully. The things that you should be paying attention to are: how the user research was done, how the user flow was improved, and how much design relates to the business goals.
While Behance is a place for all kinds of designers, photographers, and creative professionals, Dribbble is a platform mostly for UI/UX and web designers. Compared to other design platforms, it has a higher number of UX designers, but the downside is that the images there only give information about the visual aspects, leaving aside all the essential information about the project.
Also, if you lack time for a long-lasting hiring campaign, a good practice can be to post a message on your company’s social media asking for recommendations and see what happens. That way, you are likely to get candidates who are already interested in joining your project.
Okay, we seem to be done with a theoretical part on how to find a good UX designer, so let's dive into more practical stuff and talk numbers for a bit..
How much does it cost to hire a UX designer?
A middle-level UX designer in the US will cost you around $115K per year. But both an hourly rate and salary expectations will vary depending on many factors, such as experience level, location, a form of collaboration, and so on. If you want to get a full picture – as well as some tips on how to get a designer without breaking the bank – our dedicated article is waiting for you.
And now, we’re finally ready to discuss all the nitty-gritty details of the hiring process and how you can evaluate the UX designer's skills, so let’s do it.
Hiring a UX designer: a step-by-step guide with do's and don'ts
So, let's say, a couple of Behance portfolios or Upwork profiles caught your eye. How do you determine who will be the best fit for your company?
Evaluate the UX designer’s portfolio
A portfolio will be the first and arguably the most important thing to take into account while looking for a designer.
A strong portfolio showcases the experienced UX designers' skills and experience, as well as their approach to problem-solving. Look for a variety of projects that demonstrate the designer's ability to work on different types of products and with different industries. Pay attention to the usability, functionality, and visual design of the projects in the portfolio.
- Pay attention to the structure and presentation
Design is all about structure and visuals. If a designer sends you a couple of screenshots thrown together on Google Disk instead of sharing their portfolio, they are unlikely to be a good fit for you.
A hosting platform can make a difference as well. For a UX designer, Behance or Dribble are the go-to platforms. However, hosting one's portfolio at Notion might be a good idea as well, because, just like Behance, it allows one to demonstrate their thinking process and not only the end visuals.
- Be very attentive to details
Sometimes, at first glance, a project might look good, but after taking a closer look, it turns out that there are plenty of flaws. Here’s what Dasha, Eleken's designer who participates in the hiring process for the new designers, says:
"Every great UX designer must be a bit of a neurotic. They should make sure everything's perfect. Each line and image should be aligned according to the grid, every letter should be just the right size."
Perfectionism, attention to detail and diligence are especially vital for UX designers who must produce a crispy pixel-perfect result.
- Pay attention to the designer’s thinking process and problem-solving skills
Maksym, Eleken's head designer, says:
"There are many designers who do cases just for the visual appeal. They see a nice reference and copy it. What you should be paying attention to is whether the designer knows why they are doing what they are doing; what problem are they solving with their design. The designer should understand how the UI supports UX."
Dasha adds to that:
"Mind the storytelling. A good designer should be able to show how they arrived at their results, and what stages they went through. Designers should be able to demonstrate the competitors' analysis, the informational architecture, wireframes, their design thinking in general, and what problems they solved with their design."
- Ask yourself whether the candidate knows the technical limitations of UI/UX design
Are their cases realistic? If you're hiring someone for a junior position, that's obviously something that can be taught. For a more senior position, however, a good UX designer should have a solid grasp on whether their design will work at all.
Prioritize aesthetic appeal over functionality
For a UX designer, problem-solving, logical and analytical thinking are more important than trendy visuals. According to Maksym, doing "design for the sake of design" without understanding the why's is one of the most common mistakes.
"I can teach a designer how to work with visuals, but if they lack systematic knowledge and analytical thinking, I cannot teach that."
Once you've reviewed a candidate's portfolio and are interested in moving forward, the next step is to conduct an interview.
Conduct the intervie
In some way, the UX designer interview process looks pretty similar to interviewing any other professional. During the interview, you want to get a sense of the candidate's communication skills, their approach to problem-solving, and their ability to work in a team.
- Pay attention to soft skills.
According to Krystyna, Eleken's talent acquisition specialist, during the interview, her task is to check a prospective candidate's soft skills, which will vary according to their seniority level. For a junior designer, these skills are:
- Attention to detail
- Proactive attitude to work (ownership)
To define whether the candidate has such skills, consider using a STAR model:
- Situation: Describe the situation and when it took place.
- Task: Explain the task and what was the goal.
- Action: Provide details about the action you took to attain this.
- Result: Conclude with the result of your action.
To check accountability, you might ask:
- S: Can you tell us about a situation when you missed a deadline?
- T: What task was that?
- A: What was your role? Have you worked alone or in a team?
- R: How do you assess the results? What would you do differently?
Another example is:
- S: Have you encountered an irresponsible colleague?
- T: What situation was that?
- A: What did you do?
- R: What conclusion did you make?
- Evaluate the candidate's thinking process:
Some of the more profession-specific UX designer interview questions include:
- Can you walk us through your design process?
- How do you approach user research?
- How do you handle conflicting design feedback from stakeholders?
- Can you share an example of a difficult design problem you solved?
- Make sure the candidate handles feedback adequately
You can ask them about their experience with criticism, but there’s another way to prove it.
"Sometimes I create, well, a bit of an uncomfortable situation during an interview. I ask the candidate to justify some of their decisions. I take note of how they react to the questions or criticism in general. If they don't know an answer, I check whether they are able to come up with something on the spot based on common knowledge and logic."
- Make sure the candidate is actually excited about working as a designer
This is an important thing that can become a deal-breaker – especially for the entry-level candidates. According to Dasha,
"If you see the potential is there and they are eager to learn, it can compensate for the lack of specific skills and knowledge."
- Vibe check
Sometimes a gut feeling tells you immediately whether the person will be a good fit for the company or not. Of course, do give the person a chance. But, if you feel they won't be a good team player, or they won't fit into the company's culture, you should listen to your inner voice. A candidate in the wrong place will not only underperform, but might also disrupt the work process and drag down their colleagues and the workflow.
Maksym points out:
"Designers should be result- and client-oriented, responsible, and autonomous, but also strong team players and know their limitations. If they have an issue, they come to their colleagues and ask for help, they double check."
Exclusively prioritize technical skills over soft skills
For best or for worse, the times when a person working in the IT industry was stereotyped as a socially stunted loner who only cares about coding and hardware are long gone.
Both our hiring designers agree: for a successful designer, soft skills are a must. A UX designer working on a project must be able to communicate with colleagues and clients. Otherwise, the designer:
- Will require a middle person between them and the clients, which will influence both accuracy, speed, and budget;
- Won't be able to ask for help from the colleague and participate in meetings and/or calls;
- Won't be able to work on a project requiring two or more designers.
All of it will inevitably influence the quality of their work.
According to Dasha,
"If a person lacks technical skills but their soft skills are really good, you can work with that. Not the other way around."
"A good designer should be able to communicate with the team, the developers, and the clients. They should be willing to learn and react adequately to the feedback."
Finally, if you feel the candidate is a good fit so far, you can ask them to do a test task.
A test task is a great way to evaluate a candidate's skills using a real-life scenario. The task should be tailored to your product or service and designed to test the candidate's problem-solving abilities. Here are some things to keep in mind when creating a test task:
- Keep the task realistic and relevant to the role.
- Provide clear instructions and a timeline for completion.
- Provide feedback on the candidate's work, and give them an opportunity to discuss their approach to the task.
- Make sure the candidate did what they were asked to do
It might be an obvious one, but still necessary to mention. According to Dasha, a lot of people just get carried away when inspiration strikes (or when they find a nice reference) and create an image or a prototype that has nothing to do with what was asked of them.
"We ask some of our candidates to design a page consistent with the style of Eleken's website, and they do something that isn't even close. They just design a nice picture. But it isn't functional, it isn't practical. To create a good UX design, a person should be able to answer the question "why" are they doing these visuals, not just create a dribbble-worthy aesthetic picture."
The accuracy of a designer's test task indicates their attention to detail, diligence, and analytical thinking. You don't want to work with someone who will be unable to process the brief correctly.
- Check the portfolio against the test task
"A designer can spend a year on their portfolio, making sure everything is perfect. Or, in the worst-case scenario, they can even copy someone else's work. Make sure the portfolio and the test task are at least on the generally same level of skills. It happens quite often that they are really, really not."
While some mistakes can be pinned down on nerves and tight deadlines, if the test task is of significantly lower quality than the portfolio, the candidate is unlikely to deliver a consistently good performance.
Underestimate the form of delivery
Did a candidate send you a link to a Figma file or a pdf on Google Disk? If it's the latter, ask yourself why they did it.
According to Dasha, test tasks as a pdf are somewhat a red flag. Figma files allow interacting with the content, as well as checking the editing history. If a candidate goes for a pdf, there's a chance they did not deliver a high-quality work or even plagiarized it.
Depending on the size of the company, their industry and project complexity, the demands for UX designers and responsibilities associated with the position might vary. To avoid miscommunication, be sure to define clearly and explicitly what is expected of the candidate and what their job description will be.
If you're not sure you want to go through hiring and onboarding an in-house designer, consider hiring an agency.
Eleken is a pragmatic design agency whose priorities are goal-oriented functional design, not just flashy visuals. We have a team of experienced UX designers who can jump on your project as fast as a week after you contact us.
When Your SaaS Design Team Falls Short: Addressing Common Frustrations and Finding Solutions
In comparison to traditional businesses, SaaS companies are easy to scale because the barriers of physical infrastructure are non-existent. However, to maximize this potential, a SaaS startup owner must be prepared. A well-defined product roadmap is a must. Technology architecture should be flexible enough to accommodate scaling. UX must always be a priority. When these criteria are met, the company is ready to scale. However, with scaling come specific issues one must be prepared for. Let's take a closer look at potential troubles your SaaS team might face and, most importantly, their possible solutions.
Scaling always involves more work for you and your team. And when you start noticing that the quality of work is dropping, you’re missing deadlines, and the work environment is overall stressful, those are clear signs your team is overwhelmed and can’t keep up.
The solution here is quite simple: consider team extension. This way, you can ease the burden on your existing team without sacrificing quality. This approach ensures timely project delivery and lets your team not get burned out. What’s more, team extension allows you to get the required talent fast without wasting resources on hiring and onboarding.
At Eleken, we often partner with companies following the team extension model. For example, one of our clients, Enroly, was looking to scale and reach 30% of UK universities using its software. But the problem was, their design team only had one UI/UX designer, who was also a Head of the Product, so the mission was close to impossible. To reduce the workload and achieve their business goals, Enroly came to us for help.
After collaborating with Enroly for seven months, we helped them design a unique SaaS solution with a killer analytics feature.
Now Enroly collaborates with one in five universities in the UK and has raised £1.5m in funding to empower their international expansion. And what's more important, their Head of the Product didn't get burned out.
The hiring games have long ago started to look like Hunger Games, and for many reasons. Recession, layoffs, the COVID aftermath, you name it. So when you're looking to hire THE designer to strengthen your team and scale, be ready to spend months looking for that unicorn and then onboarding them.
In this regard, team extension is a good solution to this problem as well, as you get an experienced designer on board and eliminate the need for an exhausting recruitment campaign. What’s more, you might be surprised by the niche expertise these hired guns can bring to the table. For example, the Astraea team made the most out of our designers' experience working with geospatial data products – not something you can easily find when searching for an independent UI/UX designer.
An agency isn't a good fit
As we're a design agency ourselves, it might seem like we're trying to praise agencies and encourage you to collaborate with one. But in reality, a traditional agency might have its own pitfalls. Poor communication, different work styles or even lack of expertise in your domain - all these factors can lead to bad experience and make you abandon the idea of collaborating with an agency.
Our piece of advice here would be to collaborate with an agency with specialized expertise. For example, Eleken works only with SaaS products, and we are probably the best in the game (sorry for bragging).
For example, we've been working with Greenventory for two years and counting. The app works with data-driven maps. Finding a designer with experience in working on geospatial products was not easy, but it paid off and our UX designer became an indispensable part of their team.
As your SaaS company shoots for the stars, the need for seamless integration among various departments becomes paramount. Designers must collaborate effortlessly with engineers, product managers, and other cross-functional teams.
You can tackle this challenge head-on by implementing a rock-solid UX design system. This blueprint ensures that design components, guidelines, and communication methods are consistent across teams. You also need your designers to develop specific soft skills necessary to communicate with developers.
Eleken's designers know very well how to work with a developer as a designer, ensuring smooth integration without headaches. Our designers are encouraged to communicate with developers directly. This way, they can explain one's decisions, learn whether they are realistic to implement and make necessary adjustments.
We worked on developer tools as well. We designed from scratch TechCore, a solution allowing developers to concentrate on their coding tasks. While the devs came to us with just a couple of clickable screens, our designers researched the competitors, and came up with a list of features. Constant communication and the deep understanding of developers' pain points allowed us to come together and bring the best in each team to create a new product.
Lack of design leadership and mentorship
Scaling up your design team means nurturing the growth of junior designers and providing effective leadership. Without proper mentorship, your design team might hit a creativity plateau.
This is another case when bringing outside help might benefit your team. Getting a senior designer to work with them will boost their long-term performance and allow you to grow a mentor within your team.
At Eleken, we value the growth of our designers. This post on our in-house mentorship approach shows how it works from the mentor's perspective. In general, our new employees are trained within the team for three months before they are allowed to work on a project independently. Even then, they always have the support of senior designers when necessary. One of our lead designers regularly conducts UI mini school in which junior designers can practice their skills and get feedback. Designers with niche expertise often hold mini-lectures in which they can share their experience with the others. All in all, we value our design talents and foster their skills and creativity.
Life can throw curveballs, and your SaaS business might experience an unexpected slowdown. It would be best if you had a plan that allows you to adapt swiftly without putting your team at risk.
In this case, the flexibility of a team extension service can also be a good solution. Whether you need to scale up rapidly during a boom or downsize efficiently during a downturn, this approach offers the agility you need without the typical risks associated with full-time hiring.
Many of our clients capitalized on Eleken's ability to expand and downsize the team as needed. For example, when we were working on Highpoint, they enlarged the team from one to three and then five designers to tackle specific tasks quickly and then downsized again when the workflow returned to a more steady pace.
When you're looking to scale your SaaS business, challenges are inevitable. Finding a reliable partner can go a long way in making sure you can tackle them.
We at Eleken know how much of a difference a qualified design team can make for a product. If you feel your team is struggling in a crucial moment of its growth, let us help. Contact us today for team extension services.