In the digital age, good user experience (UX) is now an expected behavior for the products we engage with—from websites and apps to virtual and augmented reality.
Google reports that users are 62% less likely to purchase from a brand in the future if they have a negative experience.
It's a sobering number for business owners who are looking for ways to increase their bottom line and set their company up for a more stable growth trajectory.
And that's where UX designers come into play.
Behind every well-crafted, user-centered experience is a UX designer, tasked with the challenge of meeting both user and business needs.
But exactly what does a UX designer do, and how do they create these meaningful digital experiences?
In this article, we'll take a look at:
- What is UX Design? An Introduction
- What does a UX Designer Do?
- How Do UX Designers Collaborate?
- What Tools Do UX Designers Use?
- The UX Designer Skill Set (Hard and Soft Skills)
- UX Design Salary & Career Outlook
- How to Become a UX Designer
What is UX Design? An Introduction
UX (User Experience) design is the process of designing and creating products (such as websites, apps, and software) that provide a seamless and enjoyable experience for the end user. It involves understanding and empathizing with the user's needs and goals, evaluating the feasibility of solutions, and continuously testing and iterating designs to ensure the best possible outcome for the user.
The goal of UX design is to create products that are not only functional, but also user-friendly, accessible, and satisfying to use. It's a data-driven design process, deeply rooted in user research, usability testing, and data analysis.
What Does a UX Designer Do?
User Experience (UX) Designers are responsible for the look and feel of a product, website, or app. They work with teams of product managers, UI designers, writers, and developers to create high-fidelity screens and prototypes that represent how the product will look and function once it's released to the public.
A few of the day to day tasks or projects you might work on as a UX designer include:
UX designers are grounded in data. This data is gathered when you conduct user research, where you collect data from your target audience and ideal product users and analyze it to empower your design decisions.
With this data, you can create user personas—or snapshots that profile user groups or types to help you quickly assess the wider needs of your users—as well as map out user journeys.
During these sessions, you can identify user needs and use it to help you create better designs.
A wireframe is a simplified version of an app or webpage, like a blueprint, that maps out where each design element will be placed on a page.
They're a quick sketch that allows you to look at structure, layout, flows, interactions, and more … easily shifting components around to arrive at a good decision before moving on.
The earliest part of any design process is to map out user flows and more.
Information Architecture (sometimes simply referred to as "IA") is the process of organizing, structuring, and labeling the content of a product to help users find information quickly and easily. In the context of product design, it involves creating a logical and meaningful structure for the content to help users navigate through the product in an intuitive and efficient manner.
UX designers incorporate the principles of information architecture early on in the UX design process to ensure that users can access the information they need, when they need it.
Learn more: UX Designer's Guide to Information Architecture
After the initial wireframes have been approved, the design then moves into a new phase: high-fidelity (or "hi-fi"). Here, the grayscale sketch comes to life with colors, typography, imagery, and interactions.
As a UX designer, it's typically assumed that you'll have the ability to create a high-fidelity design yourself, which is why UX Academy students learn how to take a concept from initial user research to final product, ready for handoff to a development team.
However, there are also specialized roles like UI Designer or Visual Designer that may take over this part of the process in companies with larger design teams.
Learn more: What Does a UI Designer Do?
Throughout the design process, a UX designer may turn the design into a prototype.
A prototype is a working model of a design that behaves similar to how it would when it's fully coded by a developer. It allows you to conduct usability testing without requiring coding skills, and is a helpful way to observe real user interactions.
Learn more: Best Prototyping Tools for UX/UI Designers
A UX designer plays a crucial role in usability testing, which is the process of evaluating how easy and efficient a product is to use. The UX designer is responsible for setting up the prototype, creating and implementing test plans, recruiting participants, moderating test sessions, and analyzing the results to identify areas for improvement.
Data Review and Analysis
We've already mentioned that product design is a data-driven process. As a UX designer, your goal is to collect meaningful data throughout the process, analyze it to extract insights, and then share these insights with your team to inform future design decisions.
How Do UX Designers Collaborate?
Fundamentally, the UX designer role is a collaborative one. You'll interact with real users to conduct product testing, as well as work closely with your design team (although in smaller companies you may be the only designer).
UX designers also collaborate with other team members, such as developers and product managers, to ensure that the product meets the needs and expectations of users.
At a mid to senior level (or again, if you're the only designer at your company), you'll also work with stakeholders to ensure that business needs are also being accounted for and tracked throughout the product design process.
To successfully collaborate, UX designers must adapt to the changing needs of their partners and actively listen in order to effectively deliver projects on time and within budget.
What Tools Do UX Designers Use?
As a UX Designer, it's important to stay up-to-date with the latest and greatest tools in order to maximize efficiency and create the best user experience possible. When it comes to UX Design, there are a wide array of software options available—from prototyping to analytics and everything in between.
Some of the industry standard tools you might use include:
Are you a Designlab student? Check out our Perks page, for discounts to industry design tools that might benefit your design process.
The UX Designer Skill Set
UX design requires a unique skill set that blends hard and soft skills.
A UX designer must be able to create intuitive product designs, while also exhibiting strong interpersonal relationships and leveraging human empathy to understand user needs.
Hard skills need to encompass each part of the UX designer job:
- Mastery of industry standard design tools like Figma
- User research
- High-fidelity designs
- Basic data analysis
- Visual design principles
Soft skills typically address how you collaborate with others and manage your own day to day work requirements:
- Collaboration & communication
- Task/project management (for your daily workload)
- Time management
- Presentation skills (important during the job search as well as when collaborating with your team)
UX Design Salary & Career Outlook
The average base salary for UX Designers varies, depending on experience, career level, geographic location and industry. In the United States, Glassdoor estimates that the national average salary is about $97,458 USD.
In addition to competitive salaries, many companies offer bonuses and other benefits such as flexible work hours that can add value to the total compensation package of a UX Designer.
Learn more: What Salary Can You Expect As a UX Designer?
How to Become a UX Designer
Switching careers can be a daunting task. But don't let the unknown scare you away from making a change.
If you're interested in UX design, here are a few ways to start:
- Check out our guide: How to Become a UX Designer. It's a great resource to help you understand more about the field of UX design, and offers some tips on finding the right online courses or bootcamp to support your journey.
- Enroll in UX Academy Foundations, a 4-week course that allows you to experience the world of design to better gauge whether this is the right career path for you. Throughout this course you'll learn the fundamentals of visual design and get to meet 1:1 with an experienced designer for feedback on your projects, and answers to more specific design questions.