For startups, it can be difficult to know when to spend and when to save, when to outsource and when to hire and also how to hire. While trying to differentiate the essential team members from the valuable (but not necessary) extras, there seems to be no clear answer; different strategies work for different startups.

One consideration for startups is whether or not to bring a UI or UX designer on board during the early days. Here are some considerations when trying to determine whether or not your startup agency needs a UI or UX designer.

Similarities and differences in UI and UX design

When building your product, everything comes down to your user experience. From how you approach your clients initially to how their invoice is generated, presenting your startup in the best possible light is essential.

UI– or user interface
UI design plays a significant role in the user experience, through visual stimulus and interaction. It’s not only about how the visual effects, such as the typography and formatting, impact your user; it’s also about the finer details that take place as someone moves about your site. What happens visually when someone clicks a link? Is it apparent that the desired action has been successful? UI design takes the framework assembled by the UX team and shows users what to do and how to do it to achieve their desired goals.

UX– user experience
UX design is more foundational. The UX designer looks at the target demographic and determines the most effective way to have them move around your product to create conversions. Whereas UI designers address the minutiae of user interactions, UX designers take a higher level, macro approach. They determine the user flow and build a prototype based on their findings. After testing to determine the effectiveness of their design, they hand it to UI for the finer details.

To understand how UX and UI come together, consider this analogy: UX is the architect who determines how a building should be laid out to allow a visitor to effectively get from point A to point B. When the building is constructed, UI is the interior design that creates a positive experience, complete with signs to direct visitors and illuminated buttons that show when an elevator is on the way.

Do you need UX and UI designers?

If you want your startup to be competitive in the market and an app is the foundation of your offering, then yes, you will want to have UX and UI designers. Startups that are less app-centric and more focused on digital marketing and B2B work should also have UX and UI designers in their contact list.

However, with limited resources available, how do you choose between the two?

For startups that can only hire one, resources should be allocated to hiring a UX designer to be on staff while working with an independent contractor for UI design. For one, it’s better to have a continuous relationship with someone who will be building a framework for an organization. This rapport allows for a better understanding of style and expectations during a project.

From an economic standpoint, having a UX designer on staff also makes sense rather than paying per project. Some organizations estimate that UX design is responsible for 90% of the workload before UI comes in.

Outsourcing to a UI designer allows for better budget management and expert opinion on the visuals of a project. It also allows for more versatility if a client is looking for something specific– you aren’t always confined to the vision of one designer.

What to look for in a UX designer


Whether you decide to hire a UX designer for your startup or outsource until you can find someone you want to bring on full-time, there are a few key characteristics to look for. These traits include:

  • Prioritizing continuing education - the technology world is always evolving. Look for a UX designer who keeps up on the latest trends and is always willing to learn.
  • Team player - UX designers will have to face a lot of demands coming from different angles and can work well with others. Communication is also an essential skill for this to work.
  • User understanding - UX designers need to be able to identify how a user will feel while using an application. This will be the driving force of their design efforts.
  • UX writing experience - UX writing experience plays a significant role in the UX design process.
  • Analytical - a passion for collecting data and translating it into information is key.

What to look for in a UI designer

Many of the desired traits in a UI designer are similar to that of a UX designer. Here are some to consider:

  • Team player and communicator - being able to work with others, particularly your UX designer, is essential.
  • Diverse skill set - a UI designer must have skills and abilities beyond design, such as understanding research and analytics and prototyping testing metrics.
  • Comprehension - a UI designer needs to know how the framework is set up for users, the needs and wants of the team and client, and the tech savvy to bring it all together.
  • See beyond the visuals - not only must a UI designer know what to show to users, they must understand how it works in the overall UX scheme.
  • Adaptable - a UI designer can’t replicate the same processes they’ve done in the past. Each project or client will have different needs. A UI designer must be able to adapt their skills to those needs.
  • Ability to revise - UI designers will receive feedback from the overall team. They must have strong revision skills to meet changing deliverables.
  • Design skills - the ability to integrate transitions, visual effects, and strong brand-related visual elements.
  • User understanding - A UI designer is receiving something that’s already put together with the intention of adding final, complementary touches. They must be able to understand the user flow and how users function from both a UI and UX perspective.

Finding a valued UI and UX designers can be your startup’s secret weapon. As you scale up, consider making your outsourced UI designer a full-time employee.

Author Bio:
Nikita Ross is an experienced business writer and developer in the tech industry with a passion for UI and UX design. With functional knowledge in studying user psychology and identifying ideal user flows, Nikita knows that the key to a successful application is bringing together strong framework and interface for an optimal experience.