Although those who are active in the tech industry have an idea of what UX is, not everyone fully understands what exactly a UX designer does.
In this post, we will throw some light on the subject as we take a look at the definition of UX, what the average salary for a UX designer is, and what exactly someone who designs user experience does.
What is UX
UX stands for User Experience.
The term was coined by Don Norman, a cognitive scientist that worked at Apple, in order to: “encompass all aspects of the end-users’ interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”
A UX Designer works to optimize those interactions, designing products and services that:
“meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother.”
So, in a nutshell, UX Designers design how the user will engage with websites and apps in a way that enables the user to complete their task with as little friction as possible, while also meeting the needs of the company; for example, upselling or gathering data.
While UX is a term most commonly used in the tech world, it exists everywhere, and there are people responsible for designing it and managing it everywhere.
Take the example of your favorite store. As well as how you hear about it and navigate to it, someone has designed the store thinking about what you will do when you enter, how you are likely to approach browsing, testing items, the purchasing process, and the often difficult task of getting out of the store again.
Here is a list of UX tools that most UX developers use.
UX Design vs UI Design – What is the difference?
UX and UI design are often confused with each other.
Although they are both concerned with what users experience when using a product, they focus on different aspects of it.
User Interface Design is what the user sees, what the elements look like; while User Experience Design is aimed at what user experiences; how elements work to be specific.
In other words, UX is more technical compared to UI. Even though some UI designers also design UX, the line between the two fields in large companies is clear.
How much do UX designers get paid?
The salary of a UX designer is based largely on the country they are in.
Based on this CareerFoundry article, in the United States, the average salary of a UX designer is 85,000 USD, which is the highest in the world. Following salary average in US with a large difference are Australia(57,000 USD), Germany(56,000 USD), Canada(52,000 USD), and UK(46,000 USD).
If you are looking for a job in UX design, the United States is the best option regarding salary and career options, since the majority of large companies are US-based.
What Does a UX Designer Do?
OK, so a UX Designer designs the User Experience, but what does that mean in practice?
The overall responsibility of the UX Designer is to represent the user and advocate for the user in the development of products and services, ensuring that their needs are met in the best way possible.
How exactly they will complete that function will depend on what kind of company they are working for, the type of product, what type of team they are working on, what other skills are on the team, and so forth.
Generally speaking, a UX Designer will complete the following tasks:
- Learn more about the needs of the users with user research,
- Create journey maps and design wireframes,
- Prototype and test the product with real users,
- Act on feedback to improve the design.
Let’s look at each part of these tasks.
In order to fulfill their role, a UX designer needs to have a deep understanding of the user: who they are, what they will likely want to do with the product, and what their probable challenges will be. All this requires research.
The UX Designer will use a range of strategies to obtain this information.
They will generally start with desk research. This includes looking at general market research that is available, examining competitors, and delving into the data of how users engage with their company’s existing and related products.
The UX designer will then take their research into the wild. They will do things such as conduct surveys to validate and stress-test the assumptions of their desk research and conduct in-depth interviews with people they have selected as representing their key user groups.
More on User Research here.
Personas and Requirements
Most UX Designers will use the fruits of their research to create personas.
These are fictional individuals, that will have a name and a back story but are constructed to be archetypes of key user groups. A UX Designer will generally develop a persona for each of the key user segments that they have identified for the product from their research.
The personas will also generally include what the user is likely to want to do with the product. What the user wants to do will then allow the UX designer to come up with a list of requirements.
Take for example an app that can be used to identify songs by sound. We may have a persona Tom, who is a salesman and does a lot of driving. He wants to use the app to help him identify songs that he likes when they come on the radio. He is likely to have requirements around hands-free access since he is driving, and maybe saving a list of songs for him to revisit later when he is at home.
Looking at the requirements for each of the personas, the UX designer can then come up with a full list of requirements to inform the design stage.
Design: User Journey
The hint is in the title, UX Designers also design.
But they do not design what something is going to look like, they design the entire User Experience of engaging with the service or product. This involves the entire lifecycle of that engagement from how the person will hear about the product, how they will get their hands on it, what they will do with it, and what happens when they finish using it.
Of course, they do not do this in isolation but will coordinate with a variety of other team members.
Take as an example a museum audio-guide. The UX Designer will be asking themselves and considering:
● How will the potential user become aware that the audio-guide is available?
● Where and how they will purchase or borrow the audio-guide?
● How will they use the guide while in the museum? This includes the interface of the guide itself, but also how they will know where they are in the museum and therefore how to find the right content.
● What will they do with the guide when they have finished with it?
● Will they be able to gain access to any of the content that they used in the guide when they don’t have it anymore?
● How can the museum gather feedback on what the user did with the guide and whether it improved their experience?
The UX Designer needs to be considering this full user journey, and not just what the user will do while they are using the product itself.
More on user journey maps here.
Design – Information Architecture & Wireframes
That said, the UX Designer will, of course, give a lot of attention to the product itself.
They will be primarily responsible for the Information Architecture of the product, which means how the content is structured. This needs to be logical so that the user can intuitively find what they are looking for without too much signposting.
For a digital product, the UX Designer will generally present their Information Architecture using wireframes, which basically show the individual “pages” of the product and where the content will appear.
These wireframes will generally not include visual design, in terms of colors, images, fonts, etc. This is normally the task of another team member who specializes in visual design.
However, the UX Designer will work closely with the visual designer, ensuring the fidelity of the Information Architecture within the visual design, and perhaps making suggestions around things such as menus, navigation, color contrasts to highlight important information and so forth.
The UX Designer may also contribute a significant amount of copy to the design, or at least review copy written by others. They will scrutinize copy to ensure that it strikes the right tone of voice for both the user and the company and that instructions are as quick and easy to digest as possible.
The idea is to minimize the amount of time that the user spends learning how to use the product and maximize the amount of time that they spend enjoying it.
Here’s all you need to know on wireframe design.
Prototyping and User Testing
Basically, UX Designers are responsible for testing the product with users to ensure that it will work in the way that they anticipate.
This part of a UX Designer’s work does not happen after the design phase, but rather iteratively during the design and development phase, and beyond.
Testing requires a prototype to show to users and ask them to use to complete tasks. Prototypes can be paper mockups, or they can be higher fidelity minimum viable products that more closely approximate the final product. The UX Designer will determine what is needed for testing and work with the team to make it.
The UX Designer will then test the prototype with people who represent their users, usually in person so that they can observe them and ask them to talk through their thinking.
The number of tests that need to be conducted depends on a lot of things, but in general, you discover 90 percent of your usability issues within the first five tests.
The UX Designer will use what they learn from the testing to refine the design in an iterative way.
Click here for tips for user testing.
Once the product is launched and people are actually using it, the work of the UX Designer is not over.
They should continue to test the product and specific features, gather feedback and look at analytics. They can then use this information to make iterative refinements to the design, identify new opportunities to expand the product, and so forth.
Hiring a UX Designer
In recent years, UX Design has been recognized as a valuable, skilled professional, and a wide variety of courses are now available to train UX Designers.
But do you really need a UX Designer? Often, many of their functions are already fulfilled by other members of the team, even if their activity is not referred to in those terms.
While it is valuable to embed UX practice across your team and not hang it all on one person, it can nevertheless be beneficial to have someone on your team designated as responsible for UX Design and for ensuring that all the best principles of UX Design are met.
Today, the most successful products have the best UX design, so it is worth having someone whose sole responsibility is keeping an eye on it. If it is distributed throughout the team, while you might have everyone thinking about it, you might also have no one thinking about it when another challenge hits the fan.
This is why it is valuable to have someone on the team whose primary focus is always UX.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is UX design?
It refers to improving a product’s accessibility, usability, and desirability by shaping the user journey and the product.
What does a UX designer do?
They improve product adoption by creating UX patterns for products that offer customers the best experience possible.
How can I become a UX designer?
To become a UX designer, you must possess general design experience and must be aware of what satisfies a customer.