Ever wondered how companies manage to make their apps and websites so user-friendly? This is where UX designers come in and make all the difference.
A UX designer is a role that many people do not even know exists. Generally, whenever people talk about websites and apps and how they're designed, they tend to forget that a huge amount of planning, research and meetings have gone into them beforehand.
UX designers will do far more than simply design a website or an app. Though they are responsible for elements of the visual presentation of the product or service, they are mainly looking at the way people are using them and trying to make them more user-friendly and intuitive.
What is a UX Designer?
A UX designer is someone who designs applications and websites and makes them as user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing as possible. UX stands for user experience, and it is the job of a UX designer to make sure that the application or website user experience for the user is as efficient and comfortable as possible.
It is common for a user experience designer to combine their role with UI as well. UI is user interface which means you will be responsible for the design of a website or app and also for the end user's experience. Typically, these are known as a UI/UX designer or a UX/UI designer or as a UX and UI designer. The official job title will depend on where you are working.
UX designers focus on elements of design, presentation and, most importantly of all, function. UX designers will speak to focus groups, carry out market and competitor research, and work with members of the digital team and clients.
Work experience is not required for this role, but is considered vital by many as the industry is so competitive.
A UX designer will have a lot of responsibilities. Your role may have different responsibilities depending on who you are working for, where you are working and whether you are providing UX design in-house or for clients or both.
The most common responsibilities for a UX designer are:
- Create user personas.
- Improve the responsiveness of websites or applications.
- Keep up-to-date with technological advancements.
- Liaise with clients to ensure that you are working to their specifications.
- Meeting with clients.
- Propose design ideas, through sketches or software-aided designs.
- Use specialist tools to help with design, including the Adobe Creative Suite, as well as Axure, InVision, Marvel and OmniGraffle or any other products useful to the UX design process.
- Work collaboratively and independently when needed.
- Work on cross-platform applications.
- Work with the research team to conduct research into the products or services you are designing.
- Write reports.
At a more senior level and as your UX career grows, you will have more responsibilities. This will mean ensuring design standards are being met, that designs are consistent, that research is being carried out as well as managing staff members and budgets.
All salaries will depend on a variety of factors. For instance, those working in London tend to have a higher salary than those working in other areas. Equally, UX designer salaries can be higher for those who have degrees or some form of prior work experience than those without. A UI/UX designer salary will also change as you have additional responsibilities.
A junior UX designer salary can start off small but eventually can become very lucrative. To begin with, you will be earning between £19,000 and £25,000 depending on experience, training and qualifications.
After this, you will likely move into a management or more senior role. Once in this role and once you have gained enough experience, your UX designer salary will likely range between £30,000 and £50,000.
Team leaders will earn even greater salaries. Once you move into more senior management roles or at a consultant level, you will earn between £40,000 and £70,000. Your UX design salary can rise further if you work as a consultant.
A degree is not necessarily required for this role but is preferred. Generally speaking, a degree will make the application process much easier and will stand you out from the crowd. If you have studied at university, then you will also have a working knowledge of the suite of products you need.
The most common subjects to study at university are:
- Application development
- Computer science
- Digital design
- Digital marketing
- Graphic design
- Media technology
- User experience design
- Web design
Postgraduate degrees are not required but are useful to have. It is possible to become a UX designer without an IT-related degree at an undergraduate level, but you will need to have studied one of the above subjects at a postgraduate level afterwards.
A UX designer is someone who designs applications and websites and makes them as user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing as possible.
Training and development
Training and development will be funded by your company. Despite this, you may be required to source your own training courses and will be expected to find courses that are relevant to the skills you may be lacking in.
There are a number of training providers who will help those who need training. Teesside University offer a unique course for UX designers who have not yet found a job. The university runs a Skills Bootcamp in UI/UX Design for Games, although this course is only free if you are 19 or over, unemployed, self-employed or are currently working in a non-related job, so it may be best to do this course before you apply for jobs.
Some more training courses that can be completed before applying for jobs are available and advisable. Organisations such as General Assembly, Ironhack and the School of UX offer a number of courses for students who are looking to boost their skills before starting work.
Generally, most training in your career will be in related areas or will be more research-based. As this is not a regulated industry, UX designers do not need to complete a continuing professional development (CPD), however, some employers may ask you to complete one anyway.
There are a number of skills required for UX roles. These skills will be honed further by a combination of training and development and on-the-job learning.
The most common skills needed to become a UX designer are:
- A high level of concentration.
- A logical approach.
- An ability to read data and interpret it effectively.
- An ability to work collaboratively or independently when needed.
- An intermediate understanding of HTML.
- Effective communication skills.
- Empathy with customers.
- Excellent mathematics skills.
- Excellent problem-solving skills.
- Excellent written skills.
- Interest in coding and design.
As you progress in your role and in the company, you may be required to take further training courses. These courses will help to add new skills and to provide you with management skills that you maybe didn’t have before.
Work experience is not required for this role, but is considered vital by many as the industry is so competitive. You will also need a good-sized portfolio to show prospective employers.
Work experience should be fairly easy to come by at either pre or post-university and during. Most companies will allow you to shadow one of their UX designers, see how they complete their work and the general UX process. If the designer is working with particularly sensitive topics, either revolving around the NHS or sensitive information, then you may be asked to shadow another worker while they work on that project.
Experience as a UX designer is not necessarily required. Some employers prefer that you have relevant work experience in another area. Considering UX designers are mainly dealing with design and implementation, shadowing a systems analyst or a backend engineer can also be a very useful experience to have.
A degree is not necessarily required for this role but is preferred.
The career prospects for this role are potentially very good. To begin with, you will start off as a junior UX designer and will be primarily working under more senior UX designers and managers. Often, people start off in other areas, such as information analysis and then gain promotion to UX developer or UI designer.
With enough experience (typically around five years), you can become a senior UX designer or the Head of User Experience. These are significant roles within the context of any of the careers in UX and mean that you can affect change throughout the company with regard to design, implementation and, most importantly, user experience. You will be managing teams of UX developers and will need to liaise with various departments and clients.
Many UX designers look into the possibilities of self-employment or freelance work. This is generally more advisable when you have several years of experience under your belt.
While working as a freelancer, you may also look into becoming a UX consultant. Consultants are often brought into companies as an external third party to offer advice, guidance and ideas on problems the company may be facing and can be a potentially lucrative option earning-wise.