Career Insight

What Does a UX Designer Actually Do?

What Does a UX Designer Actually Do?

User Experience (UX) Design is a new and exciting field, but, because the field is so new, many people still don’t know what UX Designers actually do. If you’re curious about how UX Designers help with product development and their other day-to-day tasks, read on to learn more. We’ll discuss the role of UX Designers in the workplace and break down the everyday work of these creative and empathetic tech professionals. 

Here are the questions we’ll answer: 

  • What is UX Design? 
  • What is a UX Designer?
  • What does a UX Designer actually do? 
  • What is the role of a UX Designer in a company? 
  • What are some additional resources I can check out to get into UX Design? 

Class is officially in session. 

What is UX Design? 

In order to discuss what a UX Designer does, we need to understand what UX Design is. What does UX stand for? UX is an abbreviation for user experience. Every product, website, or application has a “user experience” that comes with it. User experience is the overall experience a person (referred to as a “user” in this field) has when using a product, website, or application. Their user experience directly relates to how easy or pleasing to use something is. 

Good user experience consists of a perfect mix of usability, desirability, and usefulness. A UX Designer’s job is to design that user experience. And because nearly everything we interact with has a user experience, the field is incredibly nuanced and incorporates elements of tech, business, psychology, design, and market research. Cool, right? Due to this, UX Designers can come from varied professional backgrounds. 

While UX Design is technically a new field, its principles have been around for centuries. The earliest uses of UX Design can be traced back to the Chinese practice of feng shui in 4000 B.C. According to The Spruce, feng shui invites us to look at our living and working spaces and balance them with the natural world in order to create optimized user-friendly spaces. But, the term “UX” was first used in the early 1990s by cognitive psychologist and designer Don Norman who was working at Apple at the time. 

According to Don, user experience is not just about how we experience products but how we experience life, services, and almost everything we come into contact with as humans. User experience is in everything, which makes the work of UX Designers pretty exciting. 

Check out this short clip of Don explaining the term in further detail in this video from Nielsen Norman Group

The average base pay for UX Designers in the U.S. is currently sitting pretty at $85,277 according to Glassdoor. And, LinkedIn lists over 4,000 open UX Design positions in the United States, so it’s safe to say this career path offers a lot of potential for growth. 

Now, let’s get into what UX Designers actually do. 

What does a UX Designer actually do? 

UX Designers are tasked with making a product enjoyable, desirable, and useful to users. They bring a mix of creativity, empathy, and technical expertise to their jobs. A UX Designer’s day-to-day tasks will vary by company but they will generally work on user and product research, information architecture, wireframing, prototyping, and product testing. Let’s take a more granular look at these daily UX Design tasks. 

User & Product Research 

UX Designers aren’t just designing from a business perspective. They’re designing products from a user’s point of view. So, their design process must begin with product and user research. They need to get to know and understand the types of people who will be buying and using their products. What are their wants and needs? What would make the product attractive to those people? These are some of the questions a UX Designer will need to answer. It also helps designers identify any areas where the industry can better serve its users as well as current market trends that would affect the product’s development. 

User research is typically done through online surveys, interviews with both users and stakeholders, focus groups, and competitive analysis. Once the research is completed, UX Designers analyze the data and refer to it when making decisions about the product. 

They’ll also use this user research to create user profiles or personas and build scenarios of what this user’s day-to-day life might look like and how their product fits in. These personas represent the user group the product is made for. Personas and scenarios can get very granular because designers want to ensure they really understand what design elements will make the product desirable and useful to the user. 

Information Architecture

After researching and building a better understanding of their user, the next step a UX Designer will take is to decide on the information architecture (IA). The practice of information architecture focuses on organizing and efficiently structuring content. For example, when creating a website, you’d want to make sure your user knew where they were on the site and how they could navigate to another page. So, you’d create navigation, page hierarchies, and categorizations, meaning you’d layout the menu so the content is organized and appears at appropriate times and in an appropriate order. Essentially, this helps the user find what they’re looking for, keeps frustration at bay, and ensures a positive experience on the site. 

User Flows & Wireframing 

Now that the designer has worked out the information architecture, it’s time to create a user flow. The user flow is a flowchart which serves as a visual representation of the user’s journey with the product. Once a user flow is created, the designer will begin wireframing. Wireframes are perhaps what UX Designers are most well-known for, to those outside of the profession. Wireframing is the art of laying out a bare-bones version of the interface. It’s like a black-and-white, rough draft of the app or website. 

Prototyping

While wireframes are low fidelity mockups of a product, a prototype is a medium to high fidelity version of it. Prototypes can range from straightforward paper mockups to more developed and interactive ones. Interactive prototypes tend to be better as they can be key components of effective usability testing. 

User testing 

Following the creation of the product, UX Designers need to test it out to make sure the product has good user experience and to validate design decisions. They can do this through usability testing, of which there are several methods. We’ll go over some of them below. 

  • Guerilla testing: setting up shop in a public place such a mall and asking participants their emotional responses and opinions about your prototype. 
  • Lab usability testing: users test a product in a lab while a moderator collects and responds to feedback in real-time. 
  • Phone interview: a moderator gives users instructions to complete tasks on their device over the phone and feedback is automatically recorded. 

These are just a few of several user testing methods. You can learn more about different types of user testing in Adobe’s piece on Top 7 Usability Testing Methods. 

What is the role of a UX Designer within a company?

Now that you know what a UX Designer’s daily responsibilities look like, you’re probably wondering how they fit into a team. The role of UX Designer can vary greatly depending on the size and needs of a company. That’s why you may notice job descriptions for UX Designers list different tasks. According to Adobe, there are typically multiple job titles UX Designers can choose from, depending on their interests. 

At a startup, a UX Designer will likely be tasked with the entire design process that we explained above. At a larger company, the tasks are broken down and distributed to different team members based on their specialties. Also, in a larger company, you might find a UX team comprised of different positions like an Information Architect, Product Designer, or Researcher, to name a few. 

Learn more about UX Design 

UX Designers are helping make our tech and, as a result, our world more accessible, empathetic, and human-centered. If you’re interested in joining this growing profession, you can see if UX is a good fit for you with a free online program. Then, you can consider a bootcamp or master’s alternative to get trained and certified for a career in UX Design. 

Free programs to Test Out UX 

LinkedIn Learning’s Become a User Experience Designer 

LinkedIn’s 12-hour UX course can teach you the basic principles of user-centered design. During the course, you’ll create wireframes with tools like Illustrator and Sketch. You’ll also build a UX portfolio featuring interactive prototypes and user personas. Sign up for the course and kick off your UX journey here

Georgia Tech’s Introduction to User Experience Design 

The Georgia Institute of Technology has partnered with Coursera to offer a free introductory UX course. The 5-week course takes you through the design cycle. You’ll learn the basics and hopefully find out if UX could be a viable career option for you. Students can also earn a certificate for completing the course. Sign up here

 InVision’s DesignTalk

InVision’s DesignTalks can give you an inside look at UX from industry practitioners. It’s an ongoing web series featuring professionals from companies like Airbnb and Buffer. You’ll gain valuable insight into subjects like the business impact of design and learn about the development and design process at specific companies. There are over 80 DesignTalks to learn from. You can watch them here to see if a career in UX is right for you and learn from the industry’s best and brightest. 

Future Learn’s Digital Skills: User Experience

This course is designed to teach you what UX is, why it’s important, and the foundational skills and tasks that make up UX Design. You’ll also get examples of good and bad UX so you can begin to spot the difference both as a designer and user. And finally, you’ll learn different usability test techniques. You can complete this action-packed course in about 3 weeks and it should give you a pretty good understanding of the basics of UX. Learn more and sign up here

Ultimate Start Guide for Beginner UX/UI Designers in 2019

This one isn’t a course per se but it’s still loaded with tons of useful information for new designers. Johnny Vino is a UX Designer at Apple who has been in the industry for the past 5 years. He’s compiled a pretty extensive list of the best UX resources that have helped him over the course of his journey. Check out the list on Medium here

AJ&Smart YouTube Channel 

Looking for a quick and easy way to learn more about UX? This YouTube channel is a one-stop-shop for info on the profession. The channel hosts get into the nitty-gritty and share their favorite industry books, advice on preparing for design sprints, and so much more. They also share insight into the UX interviewing process and advice for the job hunt as a UXer. Check out this video for more information on tangible steps you can take to get into UX: 

 

Once you’ve learned a bit more about the field of UX Design through a free course like the ones we’ve mentioned above, you could consider taking on a certification program. 

Here at Kenzie Academy, we offer a 6-month UX Design program for professionals interested in upskilling and for those wanting to change industries and work in tech. Our program is part-time so you can learn UX Design without leaving your day job. 

At Kenzie, you’ll research and create websites and apps under the guidance of industry practitioners. With hands-on and group work experiences, you’ll graduate with the certification and job experience to land a new role as a UX Designer. Our students also work with a Student Success and Placement Team. These teams work to keep you accountable in addition to assisting you with soft skill development. They’ll review your resume, conduct mock interviews, and help you out with job placement. Learn more here

In conclusion 

UX Design is a broad and appealing field. It’s the perfect career option for those who enjoy being creative, working with technology, and understanding and empathizing with the way the human brain works. If you’re interested in learning more about the amazing field of UX, you can do some additional reading on our website. Check out these blogs for even more information: 

This blog covers the many benefits of a career in UX and goes over the reasons one might consider pursuing a UX certification. 

For those who want an in-depth understanding of UX, this blog will break down the basics and give you insight into UX Designer salaries and the qualities needed to be a UX Designer. 

Still have questions about what UX Design is and if it could be the right career for you? Contact us! We’d love to chat all things UX with you. 


Ready to jumpstart your career as a UX Designer or Coder? Learn more about our 12-month Software Engineering and 6-month UX Design programs, or check out our free beginner’s coding program Kenzie Free.

Alexa Goins

Alexa Goins

Alexa Goins is the Content Marketer at Kenzie Academy. Before she joined the field of higher education marketing, she worked as a journalist and taught English in the South of France. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading non-fiction works, doing embodiment yoga, or planning her next trip to Paris. You can find more of her work at www.alexagoins.com.

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  • Date
    August 10, 2020
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    Career Insight
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