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What is a UX Designer? Everything You Need to Know
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You’ve probably heard terms like UX and UX design in professional or everyday conversation. But what exactly do they mean? 

User experience (UX) design is a growing field with great potential for women. Women in tech are often highly sought after by employers, and UX design is ideal for people who possess creativity, tech backgrounds, and other skills. 

So what is UX design all about? Here is what you should know.

How do you define UX design?

Sitting at the intersection of a broad range of fields, including market research, product management, design, marketing, and others, UX design describes the creation of products that are useful and meaningful for users. The UX designer works with the product from initial research on what needs the company should meet to developing the product to testing, implementing, and designing it.

UX vs. UI

What are UX and UI design?

UX is sometimes confused with UI, or User Interface Design. While both areas concern the customer experience, UX encompasses market research, product development, execution, and analysis. UI works with the interface of the product and brand, translating them visually for the user. Some professionals may work with both concepts, while others may be strictly one or the other.

It is important to note that UI designers are not the same as graphic designers. Often based on the research, testing, and analysis of the UX designer, the UI designer creates the look and feel of the brand that will best enhance the user experience. Ultimately, the purpose is to design an interface with the user in mind.

What skills do you need to be a UX designer?

As with many professions, UX design requires both soft skills and technical skills. These include:

Technical skills

• Research

UX designers must conduct research on user needs through a broad range of methods such as user surveys and interviews, usability tests, analysis, and others.

• Wireframing

Wireframing is the process of designing the structure of the website based on the user needs and experience. It is essentially a blueprint for the elements that need to be included on each page, accounting for all components of an interface.

Prototyping

UX designers use prototyping to test functionality before developing the final product. During prototyping, they will identify and resolve any issues that might interfere with the user’s experience.

Coding

With so much overlap in tech positions, having coding skills can set you apart for other UX designers. Many designers may be asked to perform development functions, and coding will help you complete these tasks, as well as work with software developers and understanding the capabilities and limitations.

• Writing

Writing is an essential element of the user experience. Your ability to tell a story can greatly influence how the user interacts with your product, from creative sentences to microcopy.

• Information architecture

UX designers must be able to organize the information involved in a product in an understandable and useful way.

• Visual communication and design

Having an understanding and knowledge of design principles form layout to images to icons and colors will enable you to enhance the user experience.

• Analytics

Analytics are an important part of assessing the performance of a product. UX designers often use them in the testing stages of a product’s development.

Soft skills

• Collaboration

Collaboration is a good skill for any profession, but for UX design, it is a must. You will constantly be working with colleagues—developers, designers, and other team members—to execute a product, as well as discussing each stage of a project with the client to ensure that you are meeting her needs.

Communication

In order to successfully design an effective user experience, you will need to explain your thinking, express your ideas, and listen to what your client wants. 

• Creativity

UX designers work on developing new ways of delivering experiences to their clients. In order to do this effectively, you must be able to think and engage creatively.

• Empathy

The ability to put yourself in the user’s shoes and understand what she wants will get you far in the world of UX design—in fact, it’s the whole point!

How much do UX designers make?

According to data from PayScale, UX designers make $72,871 annually on average. Of course, salaries vary widely due to experience level, location, company, and many other factors. At the upper end, some UX designers can expect to earn salaries upwards of $100,000 annually.

How do you become a UX designer?

1. Familiarize yourself with the principles and processes involved.

There are many great books about UX design available, and you should read up on the overall profession as well as key skills and tools like wireframing. You can also take courses in areas such as coding.

2. Read about design and look for inspiration.

Take notes about cool features you see in products and on websites. It is also a good idea to read up on trends and topics in design.

3. Practice.

Create practice projects on platforms such as Dribble. Not only will you gain experience, but you’ll be able to show potential employers or clients a dummy portfolio to help you land your first role.

4. Talk to people in the field.

Network with professional UX designers to understand what the career is really like. If you’re lucky, they may even know of job prospects. Use LinkedIn, your alma mater’s alumni network, friends of friends, and others to help you get connected to professionals in the industry.

Note that a master’s or even a bachelor’s degree in UX may be helpful for landing your first job, but it is not essential. As with most professionals in the tech field, UX design is rapidly changing, and you will constantly need to learn new concepts and skills.

What does a day in the life of a UX designer look like? 

As with every profession, UX design encompasses many different tasks and responsibilities, so no day is exactly the same. Responsibilities and events in a given day may include:

• Stakeholder and client meetings

Ultimately, it is the goal of the UX designer to make sure the client is happy and satisfying the needs of her customers. This involves discussing expectations and ideas before and during product development and apprising them of your progress and execution.

• User testing

Conducting testing through a combination of resouces—surveys, observation groups, market research data, and others—is essential for fine-tuning the user experience of a product.

• Meetings with developers

UX designers and developers work together to deliver a quality user experience. Essentially, the UX designer informs the developer about the user needs, and the developer executes the product.

• Design or working with UI designers

The look of the product is essential for ensuring that the user is able to visually interact with it. Some UX designers have visual design responsibilities, while others work with UI designers to implement the ideas.

• Wireframing and storyboarding

Mapping out the structure of the product stage-by-stage informs both the team and the stakeholder about the product development. It usually occurs early on in the design process.
Matthew Magain’s comic is a great visual for understanding a day in the life of a UX designer.

Should you become a UX designer?

If you’re looking for a creative profession that combines marketing acumen, design, tech skills, principles of product management, and other knowledge, UX design might be for you. To get started, learn as much as you can about the profession and skills you will need. (Review the steps in How do you become a UX designer? as well.) It is also a good idea to explore related professions to find your niche.

If you are hoping to find a job in UX design, virtual career fairs are a great place to look. Not only will you learn more about the profession, but you could even discover your next role!

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