You may have heard the term “UX design” but not really known what it means. What is UX design?
“UX” refers to “user experience,” and the role of the UX designer is to consider the user when creating websites, apps and other products and technology. What will the user intuitively do on the site, app or product? What will they appreciate and what might frustrate them?
UX designers incorporate their concern for how the user will interact with the software or product into what they are designing.
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While there is much overlap, UX design is not quite the same as UI (user interface) design. According to UsabilityGeek, UX design is about “the entire experience that the user has with the product, the company and the services,” while Usability.gov defines UI design as “anticipating what users might need to do and ensuring that the interface has elements that are easy to access, understand and use to facilitate those actions.”
This guide focuses on UX design in 2021.
What Does a UX Designer Do?
Now that we have established a sense of what UX design is, let’s address another common question: What does a UX designer do? What are their key job responsibilities?
To determine what a human’s interaction with a form of technology might be, the UX designer conducts various forms of research. This may include user testing and evaluation as well as testing various possible versions of the same larger product, which is known as A/B testing.
During this process, a UX designer may also draft product workflows and wireframes that show the intended design of a mobile and/or desktop screen. The UX designer also takes into account potential users who may have special considerations, such as people with disabilities who may require additional accessibility considerations.
Generally, a UX designer ensures that the product or experience being designed helps provide a positive experience for many different types of users, not just for the majority user type.
What Are the Day-to-Day Tasks and Processes of a UX Designer?
Typical daily tasks and processes for a UX designer include:
- Conduct user research to understand the audience’s needs and pain points.
- Create a “user journey” – the path typical users take when interacting with the software or product.
- Create wireframes and prototypes to present their findings and ideas to others.
- Collaborate with other team members, including developers and UI designers.
- Analyze outcomes and track goals and metrics.
Let’s dive into a specific example:
A bank has hired a UX designer to help develop a new ATM experience because there are often long lines at their ATMs, upsetting customers. Generally, the UX designer will:
- Research the programming interface of the current machines and what the experience of waiting in line is like for customers.
- Research and compare average wait times at other banks.
- Look at the program the ATM is running, evaluating if there is a way to speed up its processing time and/or eliminate any steps ATM customers must take to complete their transactions. If they can reduce total transaction time, they may reduce overall wait times per customer.
What Skills Does a UX Designer Need?
Recommended UX designer skills include:
- Keen observation skills. UX designers observe how people interact with technologies and suggest how to improve those human-computer (or human-product) interactions.
- Design ability. UX designers should be able to sketch out the ways they want programs to be coded, creating clear visualizations that can later be codified.
- A clear understanding of research protocols. This understanding enables them to scientifically test their theories and assumptions while using best practices to guide their conclusions.
- A basic knowledge of coding languages. This is needed to communicate with programmers, who will ultimately realize their designs.
- The ability to craft microcopy. “Microcopy” refers to the morsels of copy found on websites, apps and products. Examples include the text found on welcome screens, sign-up buttons and forms and error messages. This copy is vital to providing a seamless experience across a site or product.
- Collaboration skills. UX designers work as part of a team, so it’s important to be open-minded, good communicators and adaptable while also being able to tactfully and productively debate ideas with their teammates.
How to Become a UX Designer?
Everyone’s path to becoming a UX designer is different, and some jobs may involve specific educational background or relevant work experience.
According to Uxpa Intrnational’s 2018 UX Salary Survey, most UX designers hold at least a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
Some universities offer degrees in UX design, but many students of psychology, design, web development and human computer interaction studies also specialize in UX design. Students coming from those backgrounds may wish to enroll in online bootcamps for UX training or take online UX courses. Many of these programs are project based and enable participants to find UX design solutions to real-life problems. Many bootcamps and online courses require a capstone project, which demonstrates the skills you’ve learned and could be beneficial when applying for jobs.
You may be able to teach yourself UX design by researching the topic and/or learning on the job. If you have enough relevant experience, it may not matter if you have a degree or bootcamp under your belt.
UX Designer Job Outlook
UX designers are in high demand.
LinkedIn listed UX design as one of the top skills to learn in 2020, and InVision’s Product Design Hiring Report came to the same conclusion. InVision found:
- 70% of human resource managers hired more designers in 2019.
- Hiring managers expected to grow their design teams by an average of 21% in 2020.
- UX/UI designers were the most in-demand product design position in 2019; 81% of survey respondents said they were contacted by headhunters at least once a month, and 34% said they were contacted weekly.
From the perspective of gender balance, over 50% of UX designers are women, according to Uxpa Intrnational’s 2018 UX Salary Survey.
UX designers can expect to earn about $60,000 to $140,000, with a median salary of $95,000 as of August 2018. Those on the lower end of the pay range are often newer to the field, while the highest paid tended to have over 20 years of experience as UX designers.
Last updated: November 2020