Whenever you interact with a company in today’s digital world, you’re engaged in a “user experience”. Whether navigating through a mobile application, browsing a website, or even exploring the features of a new product, you’re part of a UX interaction.
To ensure consumers develop a positive perception of their brand, today’s businesses work with UX designers to enhance and optimize each interaction.
In this post, we’ll explore exactly what UX designers do, how to become a UX designer, and what salary you can expect to earn.
What is a UX Designer?
A UX designer, or “User Experience” designer, is a professional who works with a product, service, or solution to make it as enjoyable and accessible as much as possible.
“User Experience” is the term used to refer to the overall experience customers encounter when they interact with products and services.
UX designers leverage a variety of tools and methodologies to map the journey of each user interacting with a product. Using in-depth research and insights, these professionals consider every element that shapes a user experience.
While the exact UX design process varies from one company and solution to the next, the focus of these professionals is the same. Every UX designer is committed to enhancing and improving the user experience.
UX designers work with physical product design teams, as well as web design professionals, to create seamless, friction-free solutions for customers.
Through UX design, companies eliminate common problems which can hamper user interactions, such as slow loading times for web pages, complex navigational tools, and complicated tasks.
UX design is becoming increasingly important in today’s competitive business world. To both capture and retain customers, companies need to ensure they’re delivering fantastic experiences across the board. In fact, some studies suggest every $1 invested in UX design generates a return of $100.
Read our comprehensive review of the Google UX Design Certificate to find out if this is the right career path and certification for you.
What Does a UX Designer Do?
The tasks carried out by a UX designer on a day-to-day basis can vary depending on the company they’re working with. In general, UX Designers will often combine product development knowledge with market research and technology to create seamless user interactions.
Most UX roles combine a significant amount of research and testing with numerous design strategies focused on the end-user and their perception of a product.
Some of the most common responsibilities of a UX designer include the following:
User research: Most UX designers spend a significant portion of their time focused on researching and understanding their target audience.
They’ll assess customers’ pain points, behaviors, and motivations to identify opportunities for improved experiences. User research might include the use of surveys, data collection, interviews, and focus groups, to build a comprehensive customer journey map.
Persona development: Following the user research stage, most UX designers will consolidate and analyze their findings to create personas for users.
These personas can convey information about a user group’s motivations, needs, and demographic information, allowing professionals to step into the shoes of their target audience when designing.
Information architecting: Otherwise known as “IA”, information architecting involves mapping information and experiences based on the needs of the target audience.
UX designers will create structures for websites, apps, and other products, based on their knowledge of what customers need. This blueprint aims to enhance how users encounter and interact with each solution.
Wireframing: Wireframes are low-fidelity design sketches representing the various stages of the customer journey.
They can include simple representations of various “UI” (User Interaction) design elements, which help to guide product design and development. Wireframes help to guide the design process before prototyping.
Prototyping: Following the development of approved wireframes, UX designers create prototypes of the solution or product, which can be used for testing and ideation.
UX designers create prototypes to ensure the end product created will match the needs of the intended user. Prototypes are also frequently shared with other professionals in the team.
User testing: Following creating prototypes and MVPs (Minimum Viable Products), UX designers then allow others to test and interact with their solution to gather feedback and insights.
User testing helps to pinpoint any potential issues with the user experience which need to be addressed before a final solution is revealed.
UX Designer Skills and Education
UX designers don’t always need a specific degree to start their new careers, although having a bachelor’s degree in a related field is considered an additional advantage. Related fields are considered the following: computer science, web design, industrial design, information technology, and psychology.
However, most employers will prioritize candidates who complete programs and certifications to demonstrate their skills. As UX designers focus heavily on both technology and people, they need a variety of soft and technical skills to thrive in their role.
Hard skills usually involve:
- Prototyping and wireframing: UX designers should be comfortable using tools like Adobe XD, InVision, Figma, and Sketch to create prototypes and wireframes.
- Research skills: To collect information to guide a design, UX designers need to use research methodologies like interviews, surveys, and studies to build user personas.
- User testing: A UX designer often needs experience using product analysis technology, A/B testing, and benchmarking.
- User interface design: UX designers should have a basic knowledge of UI design components, such as color theory, branding, and the use of typography.
- Graphic design skills: Graphic design skills are often critical, allowing UX designers to communicate with end users through visual components and tools.
- Writing: Most UX designers have basic writing skills to help create guides, UI copy, and other written resources for navigating a product.
Soft skills for a UX designer are also critical, as they’re responsible for designing highly intuitive solutions for end users.
Designers should have a high degree of emotional intelligence and empathy so that they can understand the needs of their target audience.
They must also be able to communicate with stakeholders and collaborate with other members of staff to create solutions. One core soft skill UX designers need to demonstrate is critical thinking. UX design is heavily focused on solving problems that could harm user interactions.
How Much Do UX Designers Make?
The average salary of experienced UX designers in the US is between $99,000 and $121,000 per year.
The earning potential of a UX designer can depend on several factors, including where the job is located and how much experience the designer has.
It’s worth examining the salary ranges in your area to determine how much you can reasonably expect to earn.
According to Glassdoor, the national average salary for a UX designer in the United States is approximately $121,373 per year.
Indeed suggests the salary available to UX designers may be a little lower, around $99,770 per year in the US.
Interns and professionals taking entry-level jobs should usually expect to earn a little less than experienced professionals and UX leaders.
How to Become a UX Designer
Some of the key steps involved in becoming a UX designer include the following:
- Learn the fundamentals of UX Design
- Experiment with UX Design Tools
- Develop a Portfolio
- Build Your Experience
- Work on your Network and Professional Brand
- Apply to Relevant Roles
- Keep Updating your Education
1. Learn the fundamentals of UX Design
First, you’ll need to develop several technical skills in the UX landscape, which will be crucial to your role.
Various UX design courses and programs are available to introduce you to core tasks like user research and UX design strategy. You’ll also need to learn all about wireframing, prototyping, user interface design, and even responsive web design.
UX design courses and boot camps provide professionals with step-by-step instructions on thriving in this landscape. In many cases, you’ll be able to take advantage of hands-on projects and immersive learning experiences to develop your skills. Many UX design courses will also provide case studies, insights, and other resources to help you succeed in your industry.
2. Experiment with UX Design Tools
While building your foundational knowledge of UX design, you must also learn how to use common tools and programs used in the industry. While the exact resources you’re expected to use in your role may vary, you can expect most jobs to require a basic knowledge of wireframing and prototyping tools like Sketch, Figma, and Adobe XD.
You may also need a basic knowledge of Photoshop for interface design. The more you know about these popular products, the more comfortable you’ll be in your role.
3. Develop a Portfolio
In the design landscape, portfolios are one of the most powerful resources candidates have. They allow you to demonstrate your skills and education in a visual, engaging format.
Your portfolio should highlight your core abilities as a UX designer, showcasing your knowledge of various types of user experiences. It’s worth experimenting with a wide range of design tasks, so you can improve your chances of applying successfully for different jobs.
You may also find it beneficial to research the companies you’re applying to work with, so your portfolio can match their specific requirements.
4. Build Your Experience
Since many UX employers don’t focus too heavily on degrees when choosing a UX designer, they’ll search for other evidence of your experience in the field. Gaining experience as a designer will improve your chances of receiving high-paid job offers.
Initially, you can begin working on your experience by experimenting with your own projects, which you can then add to your portfolio. It’s also worth taking advantage of courses in the UX industry that give you experience working with various types of UX design.
If you’re new to the industry, you might benefit from considering UX Design internships with companies, so you can discover what it’s like to work in a UX role. Experiment with a wide range of project types, and use entry-level roles to develop your soft skills in communication, problem-solving, and empathy.
5. Work on your Network and Professional Brand
Networking can be an extremely useful strategy for UX designers. It helps you not only find new job opportunities but also interact with other professionals who can offer guidance and mentorship. It’s worth connecting with people in your field on channels like LinkedIn and visiting industry events where possible so you can collect new contacts.
There are also various design communities available online, such as Design Buddies, and channels on Reddit where you can interact with like-minded professionals.
While working on your network, remember to highlight the key elements of your professional brand. Look for ways to demonstrate your hard and soft skills as often as possible. This could involve enhancing your social media presence, building a website to showcase your portfolio, and creating thought leadership content.
6. Apply to Relevant Roles
Once you have a strong network and a good portfolio showcasing your UX experience, you can start applying for UX design roles.
Notably, there are various different kinds of jobs you can explore, ranging from careers that focus heavily on user research to those which concentrate primarily on user testing.
Some of the roles you can apply for include:
- Junior UX Designer
- UX or User researcher
- Information Architect
- Experience/Interaction designer
- UX Strategist
- UX Product engineer/ developer
- Product designer
The roles you apply for will depend heavily on your interests in the UX space. The more experience you gain, the more you’ll be able to apply for different roles.
7. Keep Updating your Education
As the digital world continues to evolve and interactions between brands and consumers change, it’s important to ensure you stay on the cutting edge of UX design. Over time, the tools and resources you use to create UX solutions may be updated.
Keeping your education up to date with different courses, programs, and certifications will help to differentiate you from other candidates in your space. It will also ensure you can take advantage of the latest technologies and resources available to UX experts.
You can even consider searching for courses and programs which focus on specific areas of UX design you feel less comfortable with, such as journey mapping or user testing.
Is a UX Designer a Good Career?
If you’re a creative, empathetic individual with a love of technology and innovation, you’re likely to thrive as a UX designer.
User Experience experts are in high demand in today’s landscape as companies look for ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Today’s companies know they need to ensure they’re delivering excellent experiences to capture and retain customers. As such, you could have a lot of job opportunities to explore.
UX design will likely appeal to anyone seeking an excellent salary, good job security, and flexibility. After all, you can experiment with various types of roles, depending on the experience you gain over the years.
A career as a UX designer will be ideal for anyone who:
- Has a creative and analytical mindset
- Knows how to solve problems using empathy and emotional intelligence
- Feels comfortable using technology and software for design
- Wants to earn a good salary in the tech landscape
- Hopes to branch out into different areas of design
- Needs long-term job security and plenty of role opportunities
- Wants to make a genuine difference in user experiences
User Experience designers, or UX designers, are responsible for cultivating and modeling the interactions we have with products and services daily.
As a UX designer, you’ll be able to help businesses grow and explore a range of exceptional opportunities in your industry.
The most important thing to remember about this role is you’ll need to be comfortable not just with technology but also with using soft skills like empathy and emotional intelligence to create unique experiences.
If you’re committed to staying on the cutting edge of the industry, you can earn a great salary and enjoy a highly satisfying career as a UX designer.