What is a UX Designer?
The UX (user experience) industry is expanding at a rapid pace right now and essential to product development. However, its function still remains a mystery to many (even CEOs and managers) because of its relative newness.
UX design takes on the task of improving user satisfaction with a product by making its usability, accessibility, and interaction better. It brings together traditional human–computer interaction design, and looks at improving all areas of user experience with a product or service.
What does a UX Designer do?
Whether you land a job at a startup or a larger corporation, your role as a UX designer will be directly involved in the process of making a product useful, usable and enjoyable for that company’s target market.
Don Norman, inventor of the term “User Experience“ sums it up:
"No product is an island. A product is more than the product. It is a cohesive, integrated set of experiences. Think through all of the stages of a product or service – from initial intentions through final reflections, from first usage to help, service, and maintenance. Make them all work together seamlessly.”
UX designers take the lead role in improving the end user's main needs and try to produce a product that makes its audience happy. This in turn leads to a healthy return on investment and helps to support a growing business or organization.
Whether managing a large team or working solo, the user experience process itself remains the same and generally works in this order:
User research is every UX designer’s starting point for a UX design project. It involves speaking to real users within the target market about the product, therefore avoiding assumptions and instead making information-driven decisions. UX designers will ask questions about how people feel when they are navigating a current design, and whether the user interface components are easy or difficult to interact with. Certain methods can be used for this part of the process, such as: questionnaires, focus group discussions, online surveys, and task analysis. This collected data is deeply analyzed and eventually converted into quantitative and qualitative information which will be used for decision making.
Note: If there is no product yet, a UX designer will speak to people using a similar product in order to determine what is missing in the product they are currently using.
Design involves thinking about how the product/service can adapt to how the customer already behaves (this is discerned by user research). The design of the product is centred around functionality and usability, and not about how it looks. During this phase the following techniques to design the user’s journey are used: information architecture, wire-framing, and prototyping.
Testing involves checking that the changes made during the design phase stand up to scrutiny. This is a great way to get rid of issues or user difficulties that weren't visible in the design phase before getting started on the implementation phase. There are various testing methods, such as: a/b testing, usability testing, and remote user testing.
Implementation involves working intimately with web developers to reach the end goal. Web developers work to transform design ideas into a real, working website. It is important to keep the developers in the loop throughout the process so as to make this final phase easier for everyone involved.
A UX designer is responsible for this entire process and its execution. However, larger companies typically break this role down into a few, smaller roles that focus entirely on one specific section.
There are also more generic skills that are required to be a effective UX designer such as: leadership, communication, project management, and being able to demonstrate data to team members.
What is the workplace of a UX Designer like?
The number of businesses taking on UX designers is looking to significantly increase over the next decade, as more and more companies realize the value they bring to both the customer and the business.
An individual's strengths should determine what the best place of employment will be. For example:
- If you enjoy being involved in every detail of the user experience process, then a startup may be the right fit for you. This, of course, would entail more responsibility and learning everything from scratch.
- If you enjoy one particular part of user experience design, for example testing, then working with a team at a larger corporation could be a good match.
- If you like looking at the bigger picture and overseeing a project, then working at a larger corporation managing a user experience team could be the place you feel most comfortable.
Frequently Asked Questions
What's the difference between a UX designer and a UI designer?
As Rahul Varshney, co-creator of Foster.fm puts it:
"User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) are some of the most confused and misused terms in our field. A UI without UX is like a painter slapping paint onto canvas without thought; while UX without UI is like the frame of a sculpture with no paper mache on it. A great product experience starts with UX followed by UI. Both are essential for the product’s success."
UX design stands for 'user experience design', while UI design stands for 'user interface design'. Both elements are crucial to a product and both types of designers work closely together. But despite their professional relationship, the roles themselves are quite different, referring to very different parts of the process and the design discipline.
A user experience (UX) designer focuses their attention on the user's interactions and the overall flow of a product, whereas a user interface (UI) designer focuses on the layout and the actual design of each element that the user interacts with. Think of a UX designer as an architect that makes interfaces useful, and a UI designer as the person who looks after all the details and makes interfaces beautiful. Where UX design is a more analytical and technical field, UI design is closer to what we refer to as graphic design, though the responsibilities are somewhat more complex.
Both UX and UI design teams tend to work closely together, constantly communicating and collaborating in order to make sure that the final user interface looks as good as it can, while also operating efficiently. For example, if the UX design team is working out the flow of the product (like how the buttons will navigate the user through the tasks), the UI design team is concurrently working on how the buttons will appear on the screen, and will adapt their design to fit the layout.
What Does UX Design Include?
Since UX stands for “user experience”, the main focus of UX design is the end user's experience of the product. A user's experience is determined by whether their interaction seems logical, smooth and easy, or whether it feels confusing, random and a struggle. In a nutshell, user experience is determined by how easy or how difficult it is to interact with the user interface components.
UX designers do a variety of things, depending on the project and its state of development. Working in UX typically involves elements of research, testing, business analysis, project management, wire framing, and psychology.
In earlier stages of a project (the foundational stage of UX design), UX designers will do preliminary market and user research (for eg. focus groups, online surveys, interviews etc.) and then plan out interactions by wire framing and prototyping their projects. UX is determined by understanding a user's needs and goals, so user research helps to get into the mind of the target audience. UX designers will then test through various heuristics as well as with actual external users in order to develop fictional representations of real end users. During development they continue analyzing, testing, and iterating at various stages of development, working with both UI designers and developers to improve on the product and its interactions. After launching a product, a UX designer may analyze user metrics to track the outcomes of their work and go back and continue to iterate on any points of friction they may have noticed.
What is UX design?
User experience (UX) design is a field responsible for the overall flows and interactions of a product, attempting to minimize friction for users and make sure that the resulting product is easy to use and provides a great user experience (eg., the iPhone). While it can be applied to nearly any user-facing industry, it is most used in the tech industry with regards to work on user-facing software applications.
The terms “user interface design” and “usability” are often used interchangeably with “UX design”, however, user interface design and usability are really just subsets of UX design. UX design encompasses the entire journey and process of obtaining, owning, troubleshooting, and putting together a product (even before it's in the user's hands), which includes design, branding, function, and usability. UX design also focuses on creating a product that is not only efficient and seamless, but fun to use.
When looking to create a product with great user experience, UX designers need to remember the what, why, and how of a product's use. There is never just one concrete definition of what a great user experience is, or does. Therefore, being flexible and focusing on 'what' the user's needs are, 'why' they would want to use the product, and 'how' they need the product to perform, is key to creating something both useful and meaningful.
Because UX design is 100% user-centred, it is multidisciplinary. It has to bring together a variety of components in order to be successful at championing for the user. Some of these components include user accessibility, great interaction design, an understanding of human psychology, and an empathy towards physical limitations that users may have. Keeping the user's needs at the centre of all design and development efforts helps to address all relevant user needs and issues in the best way possible.
What is the difference between UX design and web design?
Generally, people associate the word design (when it comes to tech) only with visual design or web design. However, UX design, which stands for 'user experience design' focuses on the user or customer experience, and is the 'behind the scenes' or invisible side of design.
The following is a comparison between UX design and web design:
- is user-focused vs technology-focused; platform independent
- handles the technologies, constraints and conventions of multiple platforms
- aims to deeply understand how a user thinks and feels about a product; its focus is on the user's habits, needs, emotions, goals, and expectations
- principles and processes can be applied outside of web browsers: on mobile apps, desktop software, hardware products, retail spaces etc.
- focuses on creation, implementation or construction according to a plan
- involves user research and usability testing, interaction design, content strategy
- involves brainstorming ideas, sketching and refining
- involves conducting surveys and A/B split tests, creating user profiles, wireframes, and prototypes
- develops personas, user scenarios, navigational elements, sitemaps and site audits
- frames information architecture, designs visuals in Photoshop
- frames a solution or strategy to deliver the best experience to the user
- handles visual design, prototyping, usability testing, front-end development and data analysis
- handles post-launch maintenance and continuous integration of improvements
- is technology-focused vs user-focused
- does not take the human-centred approach of UX design
- limited in that the domain of web design is strictly tied to a web platform
- has extensive knowledge of graphic design and website design principles
- involves being visual, inspired and creative and having foresight and creativity
- always aware of any changes within the web landscape
- focuses on design and on the visual elements of a website or application
- involves excellent understanding of graphic design, colour schemes, button design, interface design, Photoshop/Illustrator, navigational design, page architecture and file preparation
- knows the latest techniques of cross-browser compatibility and innovations in markup, style and behaviour
- aligns the interface with a brand's colours, fonts and identity
- makes sure that the visuals are compelling for the user
- places the content in the interface so that it is aesthetically pleasing and is easy for the user to understand
UX Designers are also known as:
Information Architect Usability Specialist User Experience Designer UX Consultant UX Expert