What does a UX designer do? How can you become a UX designer?

Hi, I’m Elle! I work as a product designer at Getaround and as an industry mentor here at Pathrise, where I help our fellows land great jobs in product design through technical workshops and 1-on-1s. Check out my article where I answer the question: What does a UX designer do?

There are quite a few different roles that fall under the product design umbrella, including UX (user experience) designer. With so many different types of product and UX design roles available, the process of landing a great job as a UX designer can feel overwhelming, especially if you are unsure about what the role entails.

To help, we wanted to answer the question, “What does a UX designer do?” So, we broke down the most common backgrounds and skills that recruiters and hiring managers look for when hiring a UX designer

What educational background do you need to land a job as a UX designer? 

While more and more schools are offering programs in product design, that is not the only route to a role as a UX designer. Many UX designers have degrees in psychology, human-computer interaction, computer science, business, marketing & market research, graphic design, art, linguistics, and other related fields. 

To learn the necessary skills to land a job as a UX designer, people often pursue UX design internships at major tech companies, work as a freelancer for startups, or enroll in product design bootcamps that prepare people for entry level design jobs. With this additional experience, aspiring UX designers can build a strong UX design portfolio to demonstrate that they have the right skills to succeed.

What is UX design?

The responsibilities of UX designers can vary greatly from company to company. In general, UX designers focus on how users interact with products and services. This means they are often working on websites, mobile apps, software, AR/VR devices, and more. UX designers improve the journey that the user takes while using a product. They serve as liaisons between companies and customers by making sure that products and services meet the needs of both groups. More importantly, they frame their designs as solutions to potential business problems. 

Relevant tools: Loop11, Crazy Egg, Usability Tools, Appsee, Attensee, UserVoice, MouseStats

What types of roles fall under UX design? What is UX/UI design?

Many UX designers have responsibilities that overlap with other positions, especially UI designers. UI (user interface) design focuses on the visual components of the product, including the colors, schemes, icons, fonts, and branding. Some people specialize exclusively in UI design, especially those working on teams with devoted UX designers. But, many product designers have skills in both UX and UI design. Working together, UX and UI designers ensure that products are visually appealing while still being usable and accessible. 

UI/UX design tools: Sketch, Figma, MockFlow, Balsamiq, Adobe Comp, InVision Studio, Proto.io

If you are looking for UX design roles, keep an eye out for job postings with the following titles:

  • UX designer 
  • UX/UI designer
  • Senior UX designer
  • Lead UX designer
  • Product designer
  • UX writer and designer 
  • User experience designer

Depending on your background, you might be qualified for other positions as well, including: 

  • UX copywriter 
  • UI designer
  • Content strategist 
  • UX researcher
  • UI researcher

To help you understand what skills are required to land a job as a UX designer, we have unpacked the role’s various responsibilities in order to give you a better sense of what UX designers actually do on a day-to-day basis.

Create jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) frameworks and personas

As they design and modify their products, UX designers need to think about who their audiences are. The 2 most popular approaches are creating jobs-to-be-done frameworks, which are more general, and creating personas, which focus on a specific group or demographic.

Creating a JTBD framework shifts design thinking away from hypotheticals. This technique examines the aggregate of users to determine what they want to accomplish while using the product. With JTBD, UX designers ask why they use the product, not how. This approach can help reduce bias and generate more inclusive solutions, especially at the beginning of the design process. 

UX designers create hypothetical personas in order to identify the product’s pain points and propose solutions, such as new features and updates. To understand the tasks that different types of users want to complete and why, UX designers create personas. To make sure that their personas are accurate, UX designers examine data, identify user patterns, collaborate with outside stakeholders, and conduct interviews with target customers. Creating personas can help UX designers better understand users across multiple demographics. But, they need to make sure that the hypothetical personas are representative of their users and not too biased. 

Conduct user experience (UX) research

While some roles are exclusively devoted to UX research, many UX designers conduct user research as well. UX designers identify users’ needs, observe their behaviors, and ensure that their product is accessible to people with disabilities. In addition, they must remain knowledgeable about what the standards are in their industry and what their competitors are creating.

Many UX designers conduct A/B tests with potential users from their target demographic. A/B testing allows designers to observe how users interact with 2 or more versions of their product. This helps designers decide which version would appeal most to their future users. UX designers generally conduct A/B testing in person so that they can examine users’ behaviors and receive verbal feedback.

Tools: UserTesting, Optimizely, Desinion, Visual Website Optimizer

Determine the information architecture

After creating personas, examining user behavior, and conducting research, UX designers determine what kind of content is needed, and how that content will fit into the layout and organization of the product. On a website or an application, for instance, navigating from one component to another should be intuitive and encourage people to keep discovering new features. It is the UX designer’s job to make sure that this process is enjoyable for their product’s users.

Tools: MindManager, SmartDraw, Visio

Wireframe and map out user flows

To outline their product, designers create user flows and wireframes. These map out the path that users would take, from the product’s entry point to the user’s final interaction. While user flows help visualize every potential path that users can take, wireframes are 2D outlines of a single page, component, or screen.

Tools: Lucidchart, Gliffy Moqups, WireframeSketcher, Justinmind, Pencil, Balsamiq, PowerMockUp, Mockplus, UXPin, Solidify, POP

Create prototypes

Prototypes are simplified versions of the end product. Designers prototype in order to test out multiple approaches before they commit to the final design. Some prototypes are as simple as paper models, while others are interactive and closely resemble the end product. After creating a prototype that simulates the end product, UX designers can run additional user tests to determine what changes they should make before launch day. 

Tools: InVision, Adobe XD (Experience Design), Origami Studio, Axure Webflow, Framer, Atomic, Principle, UXPin, Mockplus, Flinto, ProtoPie

Work with teams

In addition to their technical skills, UX designers must have soft skills as well. Because they need to communicate with various clients, stakeholders, developers, researchers, writers, content strategists, and fellow designers, they need to be adaptable and empathetic, as well as have a passion for problem-solving and teamwork. They should be prepared to propose design solutions in response to requests from other collaborators, including software engineers, digital marketers, and data scientists. 

Team work: Webflow, Tilda, STUDIO, Lightwell, Mural, Zeplin, InVision, Marelapp, FileSquare, Notism, Red Pen, Memosort, Trello

If you are currently on the job market, you can consult our list of 70 product design interview questions from top tech companies to help you prepare for your upcoming interviews. Keep in mind that interviewers will be asking about how your previous experiences, especially the projects in your portfolio, connect to the responsibilities that are mentioned in that particular UX design job posting.

Pathrise is a career accelerator that works with students and professionals 1-on-1 so they can land their dream job in tech. With our tips and guidance, we’ve seen interview scores double for fellows in our program.

If you want to work with any of our mentors 1-on-1 to get help with your UX design applications, interviews, or with any other aspect of the job search, become a Pathrise fellow.

Apply today.

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