What Does a UX Designer Actually Do?
Have you ever landed on a website that feels impossible to navigate?
Or tried to use an app that’s so counterintuitive that you’ve given up altogether?
If so, you’re not alone: Web and mobile application design hinge heavily on user experience, and when it’s poorly executed—known as “bad UX”—the effects can be off-putting for a customer and thus devastating for an organization.
This is where UX designers come in.
A UX designer is tasked with creating seamless, intuitive, and responsive frameworks for websites and mobile applications to help guide user journeys and improve website usability. UX designers help set the stage for UI designers, who are responsible for the graphic design elements of a website such as typography, images, and color scheme.
What’s in the job description for a UX designer?
Improving user experience design for a new digital product requires a series of steps, from research to prototyping, wireframing, and more. Let’s take a closer look at each step in the UX design process.
Product and persona research
Before diving into website navigation or detailed recommendations, a UX designer must first understand the product at hand. By learning about the product or service, users, and market, a UX designer can begin to understand user behavior and motivations.
When a UX designer gains a deeper understanding of user behavior, they can better prioritize a product to meet those needs. Developing personas—user group characteristics that reflect current customers—can help UX designers create scenarios that help better explain how users interact with a given product. One of the first steps of the Design Thinking method of user-centered design is building user personas.
Identifying users’ needs, behaviors, and pain points, through user research helps UX designers create products that fit seamlessly into their habits and expectations.
Creating information architecture
After UX designers have a foundational knowledge of both the product and user, the next step is creating the information architecture (IA) of the application or website.
IA includes the structure of the product: Navigation, information pathways, and landing page formats should all be created with user experience in mind.
Wireframing and prototyping
When research and IA are complete, UX designers move onto creating wireframes and prototypes.
Think of wireframing as a blueprint: Wireframes are mockups or visual guides that help portray the framework of a website. Wireframing allows UX designers to sketch out a page schematic and play with element arrangements before a product is built. UX designers typically create wireframes for each page of a website which will later work as a guide for later visual design work.
Prototyping is similar to wireframing, but with more detail and functionality. While wireframes help portray the basic elements and design of a product, prototypes allow for the test-drive—user testing.
UX designers will include some interactive elements to prototypes to test how it functions and flows. It acts as a rough draft of the product design before the final product is created.
What skills do you need to be a UX designer?
While UX design is often offered alongside courses for software or website development, the skills are quite different. UX designers are a different breed: Rather than focusing on coding, UX designers look at how a website will be used and make recommendations and framework for optimizing the user experience.
Strong research skills, creative problem-solving, and empathy for users and stakeholders are all important skills for UX designers.
What does a UX designer earn?
UX design is typically a lucrative career choice. UX designers in the U.S. earn an impressive $65,000 on average for entry-level positions.
After a few years of experience, the national average salary for a UX designer jumps to $85,000. At the height of their careers, UX designers can take home over six figures: $125,000 is possible for senior-level UX designers.
Even though the job titles can overlap, UX and UI designers earn different salaries. UI designers often earn less than UX designers because UX is a more complex process than UI.
Designers who are tasked with user interface design only deal with visual elements of a product, while UX designers must have a deeper knowledge of the entire product, from understanding user personas to product research and developing multiple iterations for design.
Many UX designers enjoy the flexibility their careers afford. Most can work from home, depending on the company. There’s plenty of growth in the field, as more and more startups are launching mobile apps and websites to serve their customers online.
How do you become a UX designer?
There are several paths to becoming a UX designer, but one of the fastest ways is by attending an immersive bootcamp. UX designers come from diverse backgrounds and many choose the career path after years in a different industry.
If you want to change careers fast and still maintain some flexibility in your life, consider enrolling in a UX design class online from Eleven Fifty Academy. The online class is an immersive bootcamp experience, helping students learn the essentials to land an entry-level job in UX or UI design.