What Do UX Designers Do? Step Into the World of UX Designers With Tish Gance
What *exactly* do UX designers do? We’re glad you asked! UX design expert Tish Gance gives insight into the position and field.
Updated: January 11, 2023
Interested in the world of UX and design? So are we! We’re here to help you dive in and explore. But, before we break down the role and frequently asked UX design questions, here’s a window into “a day in a life” of a UX designer, as shared by Tish Gance.
Table of Contents
- In Her Own Words: UX Designer Tish Gance
- Common UX Design Questions
In Her Own Words: UX Designer Tish Gance
I’ve been a UX designer for about three years; before that, I spent 22 years in print graphic design. As I saw the print industry changing dramatically and rapidly, I needed to find a new career, and a friend suggested a career in UX design.
It was love at first sight — I found I’d already been applying a lot of the core UX design methodologies, so the switch was seamless.
UX Designers Fix Things
When someone asks me what a UX designer does, I start off by giving my short answer: “I fix things.” That opens the door for a deeper conversation about User Experience (UX) and my role as a designer.
I frame the UX design process like this: nearly everyone encounters a tech product daily, so when was your last awful app, program, or online experience? Most people have no problem thinking of a bad visual experience or venting their frustrations with navigation or content. I point out that no one wants a bad experience from the technology they use. So UX design creates the solutions that remedy, or prevent, those situations for the end-user.
UX Designers Can Freelance or Work Full-Time at Companies
UX design jobs range from full-time employment within a company to solo freelancing. I decided to build a company because self-employment fit my needs best.
As a self-employed UX designer, I work with various clients. Companies hire me to improve their website’s user experience and conversions. Clients also seek objective overviews of their online experience so that can make better marketing and business decisions.
That said, we live in a society that is often more concerned with speed than usability which leads to building ineffective products really fast. Today’s business leaders can benefit from slowing down and knowing why we build what we build, and why we deploy a certain web design.
The challenge of the UX designer is to know the why, and communicate to clients how our “why” benefits the product in the long run. Once you get the hang of articulating the “why,” everything else falls into place. Good web design, and UX in particular, allow consumers to actually find the content they want.
A Day in the Life of a UX Designer
Being a user experience designer is a dynamic job (particularly if you work for yourself, like I do) so work day routines can really vary.
Typical client days include reviewing progress on their journeymap. And I often end my day with user experience design “homework”—reading UX design-related books and articles. Of course there are often variations to this schedule, and there are days where I spend more time doing UX-related office work—like running website or app overviews (going through a site or app at a high level and looking for usability and/or experience problems), conducting heuristic evaluations (getting hands on with a product’s user interface and evaluating it against a set of UX criteria), or looking at heat maps (tracking where users’ mouse pointers spend most of their time on a site or app) to see if my clients’ goals are being met.
And that—in a nutshell—is what UX professionals do. We help businesses make sure that their products are designed with their customer’s experience in mind, and we get there through a combination of design work, problem solving skills, and interacting with our clients to understand exactly what their customers need.
Common UX Design Questions
As you can see from Tish’s story, UX design is a career with legs, enabling you to be both problem-solver and web design creator. From accelerated bootcamps to academic programs, there are many opportunities to learn the skills of UX. Let’s dive into the questions we hear most often from students in our User Experience Design Course.
1. What is UX design?
UX stands for user experience and UX is the field of tech that involves understanding user flow on websites and apps, conducting tests with users, and improving the overall user experience on websites and other digital products.
UX design deals with all aspects of a user’s experience (UX) with digital products, including the way the product makes them think and feel. If you enjoy your time with a site or app and you can easily achieve what you want with it, that’s thanks to good website design and UX.
There are many factors that influence a user’s perceptions and content interaction; UX covers a product’s visuals to the way content is organized, including how users physically interact with the product and the degree to which it is accessible to different users across different devices.
2. What do UX designers do?
User Experience (UX) designers conduct research, create prototypes, and develop designs based on the research and user data.
User Experience (UX) designers begin by researching and collecting data about user experiences and interactions; common research methods include reviewing website or app analytics and conducting user interviews. The goal of the research is to better understand user behavior, and the resulting data is quantitative (numbers from analytics) or qualitative (feedback from interviews), or both (multiple choice and open-ended answers to surveys).
After a User Experience (UX) designer has become familiar with their users, they move on to thinking about the information architecture (IA). IA is the way content is organized and placed on a website or app — the goal is a logical IA that is intuitive for users.
Once the designer has figured out a structure, they create a simple, static sketch called a wireframe, which shows the site or app’s basic layout and features. After the wireframe is developed, the next step is building an example (aka prototype) of the site or app design.
After prototype completion, a UX designer begins user testing. The designer might run an A/B split test, which uses two different versions of the prototype with two sets of users to compare user experiences. Or the designer may conduct usability testing, observing users using the prototype to determine issues. The User Experience (UX) designer then refines the prototype and creates a final product design.
3. Why is UX design important?
Good UX design makes users happy.
You know that wonderful feeling when you’re hungry as heck and your dinner delivery comes right on time—and is hot and delicious? That joy and satisfaction inspire you to place your next order with the same restaurant! That’s an example of fantastic web design and UX. In the same way, if someone’s user experience with your website or app is good, they’re likely to use it again and again! Good design is what creates that pleasant user experience, and it’s often the reason customers continue to use a site or app.
4. What’s the difference between UX design and UI design?
UI design is a specific discipline that’s part of the broader UX field.
UI, or user interaction design, focuses particularly on the aspects of a website or application that users see and interact with (menus and buttons), color and typography, page or screen layout, animations, and physical actions (clicks and swipes). UI designers focus on visual design and are graphic designers. As visual design impacts the way a user experiences a product, UI is a subset of UX which covers all aspects of a user’s experience.
5. What skills do I need to become a UX designer?
To be a UX designer, you need an understanding of people and how they think; enjoy problem solving, think critically and possess strong attention to details. It is far more than having visual instincts, a good designer is concerned with usability, user flow, and is consistent with guidelines. If you have those attributes and UX design skills, you are good to go!
As far as technical skills for UX design, you’ll need to have a foundation in UX design process and principles, and be comfortable with tools like Figma or InVision. You should also know the fundamentals of UX research, information architecture and prototyping, and user testing and analysis.
On the soft skills side, natural curiosity about people and their needs will help you with user research. A problem-solving mentality will result in creative solutions for your user experience design and content interaction. And, if you enjoy digging into data to find insights and user pain points, you’ll feel at home in the UX design field.
6. Do I have to know how to code to be a UX designer?
Not necessarily, but it can be a real bonus!
Coding skills aren’t a requirement for UX design, but are a big advantage. If you know how websites and apps are built, you’ll better understand your product’s utility, which enables you to communicate clearly with web designers and developers. And anytime you have more skills to offer, your career opportunities expand. So, why not become a unicorn?
7. Are there many UX design jobs? How much do UX designers make?
Absolutely! UX design consistently ranks as one of the 50 best jobs in America with all kinds of opportunities in the field.
As a UX designer, you can expect an average annual salary nearing $100k. And, for example, the Indeed job board has thousands of UX designer listings at the moment – and that’s not even close to the limit for UX design positions.
There’s a range of roles in UX design so you can also find jobs in specific areas of UX like user research, information architecture, interaction design, and of course UI design. So, if you’re looking for a career with plenty of possibilities and a bright and lucrative future, UX design may be perfect for you!