Design team

Hiring the Product Team. UI/UX Designer vs Front-end Developer


mins to read

When you start building a team for developing your first MVP, you might easily get lost in all the job titles that you need (and don’t need) in your business. We're here to help you find out who is who.

As a team of UX professionals, we work on complex projects that require different kinds of talents, from UI developers to UX writers. Let's start with UI/UX designers and front-end developers, two positions that are often confused.

Front end vs UI/UX. What is the difference?

Both UI/UX designers and front-end developers work on the app development and are essential members of the product design team. Their final objective is to make the product functional and easy to use. Now, let’s see the differences.

UI/UX designers work on the visual side and user experience, which are tightly interconnected. They start with UX research, build wireframes, UX flow, prototypes, develop visual elements, and make sure that the design is consistent with the product brand while being human-centered at the same time. (If you are not sure what wireframes and UX flow are, check out our vocabulary of UI/UX terminology).

Front-end developers work on the functionality of the app: they translate all those pretty buttons and pictures in code, make sure that interface elements bring the user to the right page, and that the data obtained from user/app interaction is saved and ready to be processed (here is where the work of back end developer starts).

Image credit: Nashville software school

Here is another way of explaining this:

Imagine building a web app as making a suit. UI/UX designer is who makes the sketch, decides on the color, fabric, collar shape. The front-end developer decides on the best stitching technique, finds a way to make the collar stiff, and ensures that the fabric won’t change after the wash. 

UI/UX designer also ensures that the suit is comfortable for the client and suits their style. At the same time, the work of a front-end developer also has a big impact on the overall client satisfaction.

Can a UI/UX designer build a website all alone?

Many people wonder if UI designers code. Well, yes and no. It depends on the technical specifications. If it's a simple portfolio website, or a restaurant page, then yes, developers' skills are not necessary. Also, make sure not to confuse UI designer with UI developer: the latter combines the skills of both UI designer and front-end developer and yes, they actually code.

With the spread of no-code web building tools like Wix and Webflow, everybody can make web pages. This very website is built with Webflow, and there was no professional developer involved. Nowadays many people without design skills, like photographers, scientists, bloggers make professional-looking websites without HTML knowledge (though of course, it would be useful for troubleshooting). 

However, if the website is more complex, the front-end developers come into play.

Our designers work with SaaS, software-as-a-service apps: CRM systems, lifestyle apps, and so on. There is some serious programming work behind these minimalist dashboards, and therefore they require professional developers.


Both UI/UX designers and front-end developers work on building the best user experience, though of course, their fields of responsibilities are different. Here are some examples taken from real job descriptions:

UI/UX designer:

  • Take broad, conceptual ideas and translate them into high-quality UX design solutions through wireframes, process flow diagrams, storyboards, visual and graphic designs, site maps, and prototypes across an array of devices and platforms
  • Develop user stories and brainstorm interface strategy to improve our platform
  • Conceptualize and conduct user research, interviews, and surveys. Gather and analyze data to understand user needs
UX designer

Front-end developer

  • Own end-to-end technical deliverables from feature creation through the CI/CD process and through production release
  • Test and troubleshoot across multiple browsers, platforms, and devices
  • Prepare front-end templates to provide progressive enhancement for modern browsers and graceful degradation for older browsers
Front-end deveoper

UI/UX designers share some responsibilities with product designers and UX researchers. If you want to learn more about that, check out our article about the difference between product designers and UX designers.

Skills, methods, and tools

UI/UX designer

The visual appearance of the user interface is created in graphic software, such as Figma, Sketch, or Adobe XD. Proficiency in one of these programs is a must for every designer. Knowledge of Adobe Creative Cloud programs, such as Illustrator and Photoshop is also useful. For creating wireframes and prototypes, designers use Axure, UXPin, Invision, and similar. Add here animation tools and we’ve got a basic skill set of a UI designer.

Visual communication skills and aesthetic vision is needed to make the user interface look attractive. Apart from that, designers have to be aware of current trends in UI/UX to make the design look modern (or timeless).

Image credit: Scalable Path

Apart from working with graphic software, prototypes, and developers, UI/UX designers have to spend a bunch of their time communicating with users, learning their behavior, empathizing, and analyzing how they interact with the product and how this interaction can be improved. User research is one of the most crucial parts of their work. To have an idea of how complex it can be, see our lists of UX research methods and tools.

Some knowledge of psychology would be very helpful to work with users, however, it is not listed as a necessary requirement in most job descriptions.

Front-end developer

For front-end developers, it is more important to possess technical skills rather than understanding the psychology of users (though it can be a great plus for a front-end developer).

Front-end developers have to be proficient in CSS, HTML, and JavaScript/jQuery, have experience in using different JavaScript frameworks (each company would require specific ones), and also know how to make responsive design, for example, the one that adjusts to the screens of different sizes.

Soft skills that are crucial for front-end developers are foremost related to communication. It might seem very vague and obvious, but front-end developers have to communicate with other team members more than their other colleagues: they need to talk to back-end devs, product managers, testers, UI/UX designers, and even to users, in some cases. A stereotypical antisocial programmer wouldn’t be good at the front-end.

Front-end developer

Apart from communication and teamwork skills, front-end developers need to be good at problem-solving: sometimes fixing the bugs might take more of their time than coding.

Background and education

Front-end developers need a solid education in programming. If they aim to be front-end developers from the beginning, they can focus on the main skills and tools needed for this profession. Still, knowing the specifics of back-end work would make the team communication much smoother. 

Many UI/UX designers come into the profession from graphic design, though often there are people with very different backgrounds who learn UI/UX design as a postgraduate or at online courses.

There are lots of graduate courses in universities for both UI/UX design and front-end development. However, as for many IT jobs, the degree is not the most important thing that you have to look at during the hiring process. 

There are many good UI/UX designers and front-end developers coming from a range of different and sometimes unexpected educational backgrounds, both tech and humanities. Also, a degree in Human-Computer Interaction is a good start for both front-end developers and UI/UX designers.

In-team communication

UI/UX designers and front-end developers work closely in product teams. Efficient communication between them is crucial for the success of the final product. That is why “teamwork and communication skills” are present in most soft skills requirements of job openings.

Apart from just being a good listener and knowing how to communicate with humans, team members need to understand what each of them is doing. The skills, methods, and tools used by front-end developers and UI/UX designers are quite different. However, for successful collaboration, UI/UX designers need to have a foundational understanding of HTML, CSS, JS, and front-end devs have to understand the importance of UX research and how user testing is different from the testing that they do on their own.

At Eleken design agency, we have a team of UI/UX designers who work closely with developers from the clients’ team. In our hiring and training process, we pay close attention to the communication with developers and other team members, as well as understanding their work and finding the best ways of collaboration. Believe it: some of the worst mistakes happen when design and development teams are disconnected and only present the results of their work without exchanging information in the process.

To sum up. Whom do you need to hire?

To build a successful product, you definitely need both a front-end developer and a UI/UX designer. In most cases, it is rather UI/UX + front end than UI/UX vs front end.

If your budget allows only for a small team, consider hiring a full-stack developer who would perform both front-end and back-end tasks. However, full-stack devs cost more than front-end.

You can live without a front-end developer if you use white-label software, the pre-made solution available for branding. White-label software is one of the current trends in the SaaS industry (and not only there).

You can live without a UI/UX designer if you outsource that part of the work to a third-party agency. In this case, you’ll save time on the hiring process while getting the best talent to work on your product. If that is what you want — contact us and get a free trial of working with experienced UI/UX professionals and product designers.

Masha Panchenko


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Design team
min read

Managing a Design Team: Interview With Seasoned Design Leaders

The design team is an essential part of any organization's workforce, whether they are in-house employees or an external team. Mainly because their responsibility is to create new concepts or empower existing ones in order to accurately portray a certain product or the company's brand to the general audience.

But having been providing UI/UX design services, for more than seven years without any project manager on board gave us an understanding that admitting the importance of design and managing a design team is not the same and may cause many difficulties and insecurities (and yes, at Eleken we don’t have project managers on our side as we believe our clients and designers should talk to each other directly).

To help those who are about to lead a team of designers for the first time, we talked with experts in the design field who had solid experience in team management, and asked them the following four questions:

  • What do you think is the main responsibility of a design lead?
  • What do you find the most challenging about managing designers?
  • What can you advise those who’ve just started their way as design managers?
  • How does managing a design team compare to being a designer?

Further on, you’ll find tips and insights that will help you discover how to manage a fantastic design team and produce your finest work together.

Marian Fusek, Career & Leadership Coach, Leadership & Design Consultant

After working over 10 years in the design field, Marian took over leadership of the Design Team at STRV. Within two years, he got further promoted to lead the whole Design & Engineering department of 130 people and 13 team managers. Today, he’s a certified Life, Career & Leadership Coach, Leadership & Design Consultant and Design Mentor.

What do you think is the main responsibility of a design lead?

Leaders need to serve the people they lead. It all starts there. Just by mentioning design as a discipline, there may already be a sorting mechanism within ourselves, defining what that specific demographic is and what its needs are. But serving designers is not much different than serving any other profession. So, if the first thing you think about is pushing through that polished design process of yours - well, okay, but no!

For me, the main responsibility of a design lead is a simple understanding that there's a unique individual in every single designer, with their passion for the craft, their ways of learning, getting feedback, working in a team, with a client, and so on. Then it comes down to working, managing and leading them in sync with their ways.

Ask a lot of questions, be curious, create an environment full of energy, potential and mutual respect - the results will be there. Make sure the team is working together. You just have to give them freedom to try.

What do you find the most challenging about managing designers?

While this process can be a truly challenging matter by itself, the other thing that pops in my head is providing the type of design opportunities that make your team fulfilled as the days, months, years go by. The preferences of each individual differ, designers profile their services into specific niches. Saying that, can your company ensure a great project for every designer all the time to really keep them fully engaged?

There are many challenges the leader has to face just because we all constantly change and evolve. As long as you work with the resources you have, provide the best setup for your team, you are set for success. But don't be disappointed with a designer leaving your team every now and then because, simply put, you cannot satisfy everyone at every stage of their lives and careers.

What can you advise those who’ve just started their way as design managers?

Sit, lie down, or go for a walk and think of yourself when you were a regular designer. Ask yourself: if your leader really (and I mean really-really) knew you, how you work, what you love, what gets you going, what brings you energy, what really helps you at times of struggle - how would you work, how would you grow as a designer, how likely would you do something extra, make less mistakes, be excited about every Monday?

You now have people in your team that are just like you from the past. They represent your team every day, they represent you. Do you know them? And I mean, really really know them?

Get to know your team members, get to know yourself and find where the two parties vibe. Teams that vibe will have it easy when getting a product to the next level, staying sane through post-launch madness and covering your back in tough times (you should see my confidence writing this, hehe).

How does managing a design team compare to being a designer?

It goes back to categorizing designers and thinking we are all the same. But Tom is passionate about interactions, Maya about design systems, others about visuals, UX, typography...

I always knew I am a people person. Working with humans is easy for me, I vibe with it (wink). I've been asked many times whether I miss designing more, if I now keep losing track of the newest trends, and the like. Luckily for me, leadership is still design - the design of my team members’ best experience in my team. Designing the right education plan made just for Tom and designing the perfect project setup for Maya… the list goes on.

The purpose of design is to give answers. Make “it” easier for humans to engage with things and each other. So while Tom played with interaction design, I played with team design. Also, stay obsessed with providing the best conditions for your designers and they will share so much with you that you’ll never lose track of the craft or any trends, even if you wanted to.

Richard Strother, Technology and Clarity Coach

​​Richard is about three things: psychology, technology, and human connection. With extensive experience in design, production and technical side in the graphics and print industries, Richard has managed full projects and small teams for other companies as well as for his own agency. His focus has always centered on making information more clear and relatable.

What do you think is the main responsibility of a design lead?

Make sure that everybody is playing the same game. 

Any sport has positions. But why do we need them? Because everybody has got their strengths, and all of us are good at something. As a leader, you’re allowed to switch your team members around, and let them try other things, make mistakes, and develop new skills. This way leaders make sure everybody’s playing the right sport in the right position. And that’s the greatest purpose of a manager/leader: you have to be the one to bring everybody together on that one vision.

You should be like “I trust you guys to do the job, but if you need anything - let me know, and don’t be afraid to come to me. I don’t care if it’s just a joke you want to tell, or there’s some difficulty you face - I’m here for you!”

You know, there are people who are given the leadership title, but they are terrible at managing. On the contrary, there are people in teams (I call them sparks), who have no authority but everybody goes to them. Why? Because they are the leaders. They are the ones who have their fingers on the pulse and know everybody in a team. These people keep the right spirit, the team’s morale. If you happen to have both the title and the spark - oh, wow, your team is going to do some incredible things.

So, make sure everybody in the team is on the same page, working together rather than in silos. You, as a manager, don’t have to just split tasks. Your team members are all experts in what they do, and what you as a manager want to see at the outcome requires the skills they all have. The more they learn from each other, the more you get new ideas and innovations. And you don’t have to pay more for that, you just have to give them the freedom to try. 

What do you find the most challenging about managing designers?

Scheduling is tricky. 

Designers tend to be artistic folk, and designers tend to be big personalities, especially when we’re talking about timetables and scheduling. And that can get very tricky because, as a design manager, I need to know at what point in their work my team members are and I need my designers to keep me in the loop. I’m like “I have no problem if you are a day behind schedule, just tell me where you’re at, so I can move to the next stage”. And some of the designers are terrible at it. Absolutely terrible. They are just like students that wait until it’s the last minute before an exam. 

You need to make sure the designer you’re accountable for is good at communicating. You don’t want to chase your designer, right? You have to build this relationship on trust. You need your team to understand you’re not just a guy who gives them a contract, you’re in this together. It’s really about keeping in touch: “I’m not going to tell you how to do your job or check your every step, but don’t leave me in silence.”

Money can be tricky too. That’s why I need to be very clear about my expectations. I don’t pay for designers’ hours, I’m paying for a result, so I need it good and I need it on time. Am I willing to flex a little? Am I willing to adapt to the designer’s style? Yes. So, to resolve the money issue, you have to have a really good work agreement, with clear expectations. In that case, designers will understand what needs to be done, and you’ll understand what you’re paying for.

What can you advise those who’ve just started their way as design managers?

  1. Make sure that you’re organized, well-centered and know your role. You should know what your designers have to do and should be always focused on the outcome. Our entrepreneurs have a terrible habit of “I have to do everything myself”, while the best skill the design lead has to get good at to survive and thrive is delegating. They have to learn to say “I can do that, but out of the six tasks I have here, there are two that only I can do, because it requires the information that only I know, and so on.”

Imagine an office where one person tries to be a receptionist, a boss, and a worker. It doesn’t work. You hire the receptionist because they can take the phone calls, and filter them down to the messages the worker has to deal with. The worker, from their side, goes to the boss for the one or two things on that list that only the boss can cope with. That way everybody has a respective amount of work and you’re not trying to do everything yourself.

  1. Learn to communicate what result you expect to see and stay objective-focused. You should have impeccable communication skills because you need to be able to tell your designers what it is that they’re going to do, and what you expect from them in return. And you really have to be focused on what the outcome is. You shouldn’t care how your designers got to that outcome, with Photoshop or whatever. You just need to be specific about what you need as a final result and bring that one vision to the whole team.
  2. Say “thank you” to your designers. Simple phrases like “thank you for your work”, “I love how you handle this”, or “have a good evening”- such little interactions can go a long, long way. The team will be ready to make that extra step for you when they know they are appreciated. Let your people know they matter and that will make a huge difference.
  3. Don’t become best friends with designers. Don’t get me wrong. Have good relationships, but the problem with friendship is that it may become a manipulation point. I don’t want to make people feel bad, but if you screw the contract, I’ll have to tell you about it: business is business, and friendship is friendship. So if you are about to work with a friend, make sure to sign a contract which says what you expect, what is to be delivered, when, how much (full stop). No exceptions.
  4. Treat your designers well. Working with designers, you’re not curing cancer or solving world hunger, like, you’re not solving the great problems of our time. That doesn’t mean your work isn’t relevant, to you and your client - it is, but if a designer turns to you and says “look man, something happened in my family, I’m going to be a few days late with my tasks” or “I need help”  - that’s not a problem. I have no problem calling a client and saying that due to certain circumstances we ran into some delays, and this is how I foresee the timeline changing. Remember that a missed deadline isn’t the end of the world, so stay human to your teammates.

How does managing a design team compare to being a designer?

Being a good designer doesn’t make you a good manager. Management is its own skill. Well, a good designer with the right skills makes a good manager, but good designers usually want to do everything themselves. And being a design manager means that you’re no longer a designer, you trust others to do the job, and you’re in charge of making sure that they perform well and work towards the same goal.

Imagine you’ve got the best accountant, and you put them in charge of other accountants. They no longer perform the accounting job and, most probably, they’re going to fall into one of two traps:

  1. They will be like “Never mind, I’ll do it all myself because I know how to do it.”
  2. They’re just going to do the job and then get caught in the middle between whoever is about them and the team where they are not actually managing anyone.

Your job as a manager is to protect your team and make sure your designers have everything they need, I mean not only the resources, but also the healthy environment, to make their lives easier and their work pleasant.

Finally, here is also a statement about the difference between managers and leaders: managers ask you to do work, and leaders ask you to give them results.

Maksym Chervynskyi, head of design at Eleken

Maksym has more than 8 years of experience in UI/UX and graphic design. In 2018 he started his career in Eleken as a UI/UX designer and was promoted to senior user experience designer and then to lead user experience designer within 2 years. Now Maksym’s responsibilities include leading a team of user experience designers, participating in hiring and evaluation processes, supporting and mentoring junior designers, as well as sharing knowledge and expertise with the whole team.

By the way, there’s a separate article in which Maksym shares his experience of being a product design manager.

What do you think is the main responsibility of a design lead?

The main responsibility of a design lead is to do everything in your power to provide your designers with the most suitable and comfortable work conditions that would allow them to deliver high-quality results. 

I mean, you have to create a safe environment that will foster professional and self-growth. This includes giving your team access to relevant knowledge, teaching them to find actionable design solutions on their own, helping them master new skills, and giving them a sense of support, no matter what challenges they face.

What do you find the most challenging about managing designers?

The most challenging is to learn to trust your team and their ability to create cool things. It’s quite complicated to stop giving your designers ready-made answers every time they face some difficulty, but to let them search for a solution on their own. 

If you watch each of your designer’s steps and think you know better how to create a great user interface, you don’t give your team members a chance to improve and develop their own design style.

So, every time you want to “slightly” modify your designer’s idea - get over yourself, stop micromanaging, and let the team unleash their creativity and feel the responsibility for their work. Be ready that their solutions may differ from what you expected to see, but that doesn’t make them poorly made. 

What can you advise those who’ve just started their way as design managers?

Trust your team and let them know you’re available to help at any time. That means, on the one hand, the conditions you create should give your designers freedom of action, but on the other hand, your team should understand that you serve as their lifeline and that they are never left alone with their problems.

You should be the epitome of stability for your people, someone who is always on their side ready to lend a helping hand. They make independent professional decisions, but know that they can turn to their design manager, if necessary.

How does managing a design team compare to being a designer?

Being a designer means that you have your individual daily tasks to complete: you’re the one to make decisions and choose methods you like to come up with the solution. Being a design manager means that you have to delegate all the responsibilities to your team.

And again, it’s all about trust. Your role is to clearly communicate what you expect to receive, but believe that your designers’ individual decisions will result in a great outcome without your constant involvement (in fact, the result may happen to be much better than you expect). And it shouldn’t matter to you what path they chose to deliver that outcome.

Of course, you can teach junior designers your own methods of work, but in the end, each team member will have their own unique approach. And that’s what stands behind the professional development of an individual employee, a team, and consequently, the whole company. Diversity of design talents doesn’t let your business stand still and allows you to create truly innovative products. 

To sum up

All the interviewed experts gave us a lot of food for thought (kudos to Marian Fusek, Richart Strother, and Maksym Chervynskyi). Even though all of them have their unique experience in managing design teams, we can see some common thoughts that repeat throughout the whole text no matter who comments on the topic. This way we can distinguish the three pillars of a successful design team management and they are trust, freedom of action, and taking care of each individual designer.

  • Trust your designers as the experts that know how to do the job.
  • Give them enough freedom to create, experiment, make mistakes and consequently bring more innovation to your company.
  • Remember that all your designers are individuals with their own strengths, weaknesses, problems, and desires, and treat them accordingly. Create a safe environment for each worker and watch your team grow and thrive.

And if you are looking for a trustworthy and dedicated team of designers for your SaaS product, extend your team with Eleken.

Design team
min read

How to Evaluate UI/UX Designers Before Hiring Them

The success of your business depends on the mutual efforts of each of your team members. A designer is not an exception. You need this specialist in your team as they are responsible for making products useful, simple, and enjoyable to use. They work to improve the product’s look and feel so that users can easily find its value.

But how to evaluate designers and understand you’re hiring the right person before they even start working with you?

As a UI/UX design agency for SaaS, we’ve been on both sides: those who hire, and those who are hired. Further in the text, we will share our experience on how to identify a good UI/UX designer, discuss what mistakes employers often make when evaluating designers, and more. Additionally, at the end of this article, you’ll find a free downloadable checklist that will help you assess UI/UX designers.

Common mistakes that employers make when evaluating designers

During our more than 7-year experience of providing product design services, we’ve noticed that there are some typical things new clients tend to do before signing a contract, but that are actually not effective.

So, before we think of design evaluation criteria, let’s see what mistakes recruiters tend to make when hiring UI/UX specialists.

  • Judging the designer’s style.

When you search through the Internet for some tips on evaluating potential designers, the first thing you will see on many websites is that they recommend you carefully examine the designer’s portfolio to understand if you like their style.

We completely disagree with this advice. First of all, good product design doesn’t depend on the designer’s style. Good UI/UX designers are not artists that should have their unique manner of work. They provide a service and should create designs taking into account your business logic, your users’ needs, industry trends, and more.

For example, if Meta searched for a designer, do you think they would search for a person with works that look just like a Facebook interface? Probably not, they would look for a designer who is able to understand their business and work with references, style guides, and design systems.

Each project is unique, there can’t be a universal design style that fits them all. So, there’s little use in judging a designer’s style.

How to evaluate designers before hiring them meme
  • Asking for a wrong test task.

In our opinion, a test task is the most objective way for an employer to evaluate a designer. However, to get a reliable impression of the designer’s work, you need to choose the correct test task. It shouldn’t be too long, not to spend too many resources on hiring, but big enough to see if the candidate is competent.

Commonly, employers ask to design one screen for their application as a test. However, such a task won’t give you enough information to evaluate your candidates. A separate screen design can look fantastic, but it won’t show you how a user got to this point in their user journey, and what will happen afterward when they click a certain button. That is, a screen doesn’t show if a designer understands your business context or the needs of your target audience. 

That’s why in Eleken, we offer our clients a free three days trial. During the trial, we can create a complete user flow, a customer journey map, a UX audit, or another task that proves the person you’re going to work with understands your vision, your users, and the logic of your SaaS.

  • Asking for a portfolio of a specific designer when hiring a design agency.

When hiring a design agency, it means that there’re many designers that can be assigned to your project ( you don’t always have the possibility to choose one). How to evaluate them in such a case? Usually, our clients want to see a portfolio with all case studies of the exact specialist that’s going to work on their project. But this approach is wrong, and here’s why. 

Imagine there are four designers:

  • designer A had worked on one big project for a year.
  • designer B had worked on four small projects during the last year. 
  • designer C was the only designer in the team when working on a project.
  • designer D worked as a part of a big design team.

Will the portfolios of these four designers and their experience differ? Yes. 

Does that mean that one is more experienced than the other? No.

And again, analyzing a portfolio of a specific designer won’t help you when hiring a design agency. Instead, take a look at the agency’s case studies to understand their general approach to design and ask to complete a small test task to see if your potential hire understands your needs and if you feel comfortable communicating with them.

Now that we know what mistakes to avoid when evaluating design specialists, let’s discuss the aspects you need to take into account to make an objective and qualified choice.

Components of successful hiring

Reviewing CVs, portfolios, and completed test tasks won’t be efficient if you analyze them alone. That’s why, the first thing we’d recommend you to do when choosing a designer, is to hold a video interview where you can ask open-ended questions that will help you understand if a candidate possesses the needed hard and soft skills.

Further on in the article, we will discuss what UI/UX designer skills you should pay attention to, and how to figure out if a designer has them. But before that, there’s one more important thing you should do before even opening designers’ CVs.

Define what you expect to receive at the outcome

Hiring designers to “make the product stand out”, or because you “want the app to look beautiful” may lead to a useless waste of resources. That’s why, as the first step, think of what exactly you want the designer to work on, and how it aligns with your business goals

  • Identify what your business needs are.
  • Define what user problems and needs the product should address, and therefore what features it should perform.
  • Learn what similar apps are on the market and how your product can stand out from the competitors. 

In other words, develop the design strategy, which is defined by research. This process doesn’t necessarily require a designer, only an in-depth understanding of your product.

With those insights in mind, come up with a list of deliverables and design requirements (they can change over time) and start looking through CVs. And remember, the more specifications you give to your potential designer, the easier it will be to choose the right candidate and the fewer challenges you'll face when you cooperate.

Now let’s move to key indicators that can help you evaluate designer qualities.

Hard skills

This and further sections contain criteria for UI/UX designers’ evaluation. You can check if your potential design partner meets these criteria during the interview by asking questions, analyzing projects in their portfolio, or discussing a test task.

Let’s start with a list of essential methods that UX designers commonly use during a product design process to deliver effective design solutions.

Product discovery

Product discovery is aimed at understanding your customers' problems and needs. Using these findings, you can build software that people want to use and pay for. It also helps a designer to correctly prioritize features and set up for product excellence.

Product discovery should be an integral part of the UI/UX design process, so when evaluating your potential hire’s skills, pay special attention to the following:

  • User research

UI/UX designers use data from studying users to approve or reject assumptions, define design opportunities, and develop an understanding of how people interact with a product. There’s a variety of user research techniques, including user interviews, surveys, focus groups, card sorting, usability testing, and more.

To evaluate the designer’s awareness of the importance of research, ask them what user research techniques they used in their projects and how they influenced their design decisions.

user personal examples
Buyer personas Eleken designers created based on user research for HandPrinter
  • Competitor analysis

By analyzing existing solutions on the market, designers can define what they are missing so that you can turn it into a competitive advantage, or vice versa, what features customers expect to find in your software because they’re common for this kind of app.

To evaluate this skill, ask a potential candidate if they use this research method in their work and how it affects the outcomes.

  • UX audit

The goal of a UX audit is to define existing usability problems of a product through research and analysis. With its help designers can identify critical gaps in the user journey that prevents customers from making the target actions they’re supposed to take. This skill is important to assess if you need help with product redesign.

The best way to evaluate this criterion is to make UX audit a test task. Ask a candidate to analyze a piece of your product, and come up with possible improvements. 

how to evaluate UX audit report
A piece of UX audit report done by Eleken designers
  • Product structure

A well-thought-out product structure makes your app intuitive and reduces the time and effort users spend to find what they need. To plan product structure, UI/UX designers create user flows by organizing and labeling each user’s step toward completing a task. Then they can start mapping user experience with the help of wireframing.

To check if your candidate can create a consistent product structure, ask them to design a certain user flow as a test task (be ready to give a designer enough time to complete a task). 

Then ask them to guide you through the flow. For more details ask the following questions:

  • What happens if the user does *certain action*?
  • Why did you choose a *certain solution*?
high-fidelity wireframes example
High-fidelity wireframe examples made by Eleken


Prototypes show you how the app will work and look, but most importantly, it allows designers to test their ideas with potential users.

To evaluate this skill, ask a designer if they create clickable prototypes, and what tools they use for this purpose.

how to evaluate design prototype
Prototype designed by Eleken


A variety of testing methods, like A/B testing, benchmarking, and others, allow designers to validate the efficiency of their design decisions, check the product’s usability, see how users interact with a product and reveal places of friction that need improvements.

Ask a candidate to tell you a case from their experience when they had to test their ideas and how they dealt with it.

Visual design

Colors, typefaces, photos, and illustrations are all parts of your product and they need to tie together in a structured and unified way. We fix inconsistencies and build a unified visual language to help you create a scalable product.

Ask designers to walk you through the breakdown of an existing user interface and explain how they may enhance it. Additionally, you can ask if a designer has experience working with design systems.

how to evaluate visual UI design
UI Kit is the main design document that contains a visualization of each UI component

Responsiveness and accessibility

UI/UX designers should be able to create a user experience beneficial for everyone who uses the software. Responsive design means that your app will look and feel the same at all device screen sizes. Accessible design means that users with disabilities or situational difficulties will find your app easy to use.

To assess these skills, ask a designer how they can make the product accessible to various user types.

accessibility in UI/UX design

To sum up, when evaluating the design approach of your potential design partner, the most important thing is to ensure that a candidate bases each of their design choice on research and users’ needs rather than on aesthetics. Ask your potential designer to guide you through their design process and pay attention to the methods we described above.

Soft skills

Here we will talk about personal qualities and interpersonal skills that are important for finding a connection with users and effectively cooperating with a team.

  • Critical thinking

UI/UX design is really about solving problems. Therefore, designers need to use critical thinking to find viable solutions for user problems.

To evaluate this quality, ask if a certain must-have feature in one of their previous projects is important and why, and see how versatile their vision is.

  • Empathy 

Being aware that you design software to solve someone's real problems, makes the designer strive to create more approachable, comprehensible, and usable products.

Good designers talk a lot about people who use their products. So, when a candidate tells you about their previous projects, pay attention if they mention what needs and problems users of that product had.

  • The ability to communicate

Designers don’t do their job alone, product design is a team sport. Thus, it’s essential to make sure your potential candidate can explain the details of how the design they create works to users, the product manager, developers, and other designers.

If a designer can clearly communicate their thoughts to you during the interview, they will also be able to communicate with other people well.

  • The ability to listen and take criticism well

In the course of your cooperation, you’ll have to share your vision and feedback regularly. So it’s very important to have a designer who’s a good listener and who’s open to criticism.

To check if your candidate has this quality, pay attention to the way they react to your feedback on a test task or to their previous works.

  • Proactivity

A designer shouldn’t be just a blind doer. Apart from being a good listener, it’s important that your future design partner could make their own decisions and justify their opinion when needed.

To assess this quality, set a test task and see how your potential designer presents you with their ideas.

That's all for the list of skills to evaluate a UI/UX designer. Study and adjust it to suit your needs, and start building the product design team of your dreams. And to ensure you don’t miss anything important, here’s a downloadable UI/UX designer evaluation checklist.

To sum up

Good UI/UX designers are those who listen to your vision but can also make their own decisions clearly explaining what lies behind them.

If we had to give several most important recommendations on a designer skills assessment they would be the following:

  1. Define why you need a UI/UX designer before starting the hiring process.
  2. Don’t sign a contract with a designer/design agency without talking to a candidate face-to-face or camera-to-camera.
  3. As a test task, ask them to create a user flow, conduct a UX audit, or do anything that can help you make sure the person you want to work with understands your product’s logic.
  4. Pay attention if you feel comfortable communicating with your potential employee.

And if you need to quickly find a devoted design partner, Eleken’s designers are all professionals with experience of working with SaaS solutions. Schedule a call with us, and let’s discuss the details of your project.

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