User Experience (UX) design has been around for about three decades , but in recent years it has taken off as a growth field for creatives. Why? As technologies advance and the digital economy expands, managers and HR professionals have begun to better understand how crucial UX design is in making their digital products shine. Studies suggest that UX designers were the most in-demand of any creative talent in 2018, and that trend only seems to be accelerating.
Wondering if a career in UX design is right for you? We’ve pulled together a quick overview of the field to help you better understand what you’ll be signing up for -- and what a job transition might mean for you.
What is UX Design?
UX designers focus their attention on the interfaces found in apps, websites, and other digital products — specifically, how well an interface fulfills users’ needs and desires. Though products and priorities vary from company to company, it’s the responsibility of the UX designer to make sure a product is useful, usable, and enjoyable for its intended audience. To make that happen, UX designers have to be familiar with a range of fields, including branding, human psychology, user testing, and industrial and graphic design. UX design tends to attract those adept at listening, communicating, and problem-solving, and who have a high aptitude for learning.
UX Design Process
The UX design process is all about research. First, designers conduct personal interviews, focus groups, and online surveys to understand their product in the context of an industry and marketplace. In the next phase, UX designers develop personas (fictional identities for prospective users) and scenarios (descriptions of typical days in personas’ lives, and how the product fits into them) based on their new understanding of key user groups.
Once designers understand the kind of interface they are building (and whom they are building it for), they begin to develop the product’s information architecture — the structure for navigation, categorization, visual design, and other elements that is central to usability. In this phase, UX designers will create a wireframe, or simple graphic layout, to better understand the ‘flow’ of content and functionality. Prototypes and product testing follow, and user-testing continues even after release as the product is refined and updated.
Careers in UX Design
UX design jobs and careers vary widely according to the size and type of company. Startups often have a single UX designer handling the entire process summarized above; larger companies with multiple products often hire specialists for each stage of the process, with titles like Usability Analyst, User Researcher, UX Writer, Interaction Designer, and Visual Designer. Because they are larger and more resources, these companies tend to have more opportunities for UX career advancement, too. Those looking to transition from graphic designer to UX designer may be pleased to hear that based on U.S. averages, the switch may result in a 100% salary increase (from around $45K to around $90K).
Finding Your Way to UX Design
While there are a limited number of UX degree and academic certification programs available, many UX designers find their way into their careers from other fields. Graphic designers, web developers, cognitive scientists, and industrial designers have all reported finding success after transitioning to UX design, and for good reason: in a recent Adobe survey, 500 managers and department leaders working in UX, 87% of respondents said that hiring more UX designers was a top priority for their organization.
Want to learn more about becoming a UX designer? Here are three things you need to know.