By Ashley Cullins
UX Design is still a fairly new field, which makes it cool and exciting. But it’s shiny newness—combined with the fact that UX Designers wear MANY hats—also results in questions and confusion.
So, if you’ve ever wondered, “What does a UX Designer actually do?” or you’re reading this wondering “What is UX Design in the first place?” then you’ve come to the right place. Let’s get started on your UX Design crash course!
UX Design Basics
User experience (UX) Design is all about the way people interact with websites, apps, and other products and services. It’s important for customers to have an easy, positive user experience, otherwise, they’ll simply take their business elsewhere.
Let’s say you want to buy a new pair of running shoes. You head to a website offering over 500 pairs—nice! But as you begin browsing the shoes, you run into some problems: namely there’s no way to filter your results, so you’re stuck scrolling…and scrolling…and scrolling.
But in the end, it’s… fine. On the ninth page of results, you find the perfect pair of shoes for you. You’re ready to buy! Well, almost. First, you have to create an account. And in order to create an account, you have to enter about 15 pieces of information.
At this point, you’ve had enough. You’re ready to buy your shoes somewhere else. Somewhere that makes it far less of a hassle to hand over your cash.
This is where UX Design makes a difference. Websites (and other products and services) should be logical and efficient, easy to use, and give customers a positive experience to keep them coming back for more.
So, what exactly does a UX Designer do?
UX Designers make technology, products, and services accessible, enjoyable, and usable for the people who use them. Although it’s important to ensure your work meets the goals and needs of the business, your primary focus is on the users. What problems might users encounter? What do your users need and want? How can you create the best possible experience for them?
As a UX Designer, you may conduct market and user research to create a “user persona.” A persona represents patterns you’ve found in your users or prospective users. It helps you humanize the design process and really home in on creating the ideal experience for your users.
UX Designers also define information architecture. “Information architecture” is a fancy term for the structure that helps people understand websites: where they are and how to get where they want to go.
Additionally, UX Designers map out the user’s journey and wireframes (outlining the flow of pages and screen layouts), create prototypes, and run tests. Based on the information you gain from these tests, they adapt the website, app, or product accordingly. As a UX Designer, your job isn’t just to create a great experience but to keep making it better and better.
If that sounds like a lot, you’re right! “UX Design” is a broad term that spans many different tasks. If you work for a small company, you’ll probably end up wearing all these hats at once. At a larger company, you may be able to focus on a specific aspect of UX Design, like information architecture.
What kind of salary does a UX Designer earn?
Of course, you’re probably wondering how much money you can expect to bring home after all this work. According to Glassdoor, UX Designers earn an average salary of $85,277. As a newbie, you’ll expect to start out at a slightly lower salary but, as you gain experience and expertise, you can potentially earn even more than this average.
Plus, UX Designers are in great demand. Most companies recognize the importance of user experience. A poor user experience means losing customers, and that means losing money! If you’re looking for a field with solid earning potential and high demand, UX Design might be an excellent field for you.
What qualities does a UX Designer need?
UX Design combines elements of technology, business, and psychology. So in addition to wearing many hats, you need to have a diverse range of skills including:
Prototyping and wireframing
As you can see, you’ll need a combo of soft and hard skills to excel as a UX Designer. Sure, you need to know how to research, analyze that research, code, design, and create prototypes and wireframes, but that’s not all.
Your job is all about people. So, you need to have empathy, which is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and really understand their perspective. After all, if you can’t understand your audience, how can you create their ideal user experience?
Plus, you’ll need to communicate and collaborate. As a UX Designer, you’ll likely work with other designers, developers, a marketing team, strategists, writers, and your boss(es). You’ll also need the ability to communicate visually with users.
If you’re into tech but also into people, UX Design might be just the job you’re looking for. Plus you’ll join the professionals who agonize over features like where the button is to slide into someone’s DMs (not that we recommend it, it’s just an enthralling process).