What’s your experience while reading this blog post? Do you find it easy to read and navigate the page? How you experience a website, app, service, or product is your user experience. There’s a whole industry dedicated to making our interactions with these things easier, more efficient, and better designed: UX design. If you’re interested in a technical career that requires creativity and impacts everyday experiences, UX design might be the right career path for you. In this guide, we’ll cover:
- Overview of UX Design
- UX Design Careers
- Pros and Cons of Working in UX Design
- Working in UX Design: The Bottom Line
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Overview of UX Design
What is UX design? It stands for user experience design, and the field focuses on improving the user’s experience while they interact with a website, app, service, or product.
Let’s say you’re searching for a new pair of sneakers. You go to a site that has a quiz to help you figure out what kind of sneakers to get. After you get your results, you can automatically browse each option, see the price, and purchase with a click of a couple of buttons. Your experience buying sneakers is interactive, easy, and efficient — because of good UX design.
>>MORE: What Is Web Development?
UX Design Process
If UX design is about making a user’s experience better, what exactly goes into this process?
Defining the Problem
Before a UX designer starts problem-solving, they need to define what exactly they’re trying to solve. For example, is there little to no engagement on the website’s home page? Do users need clarification about what value the company offers?
This part of the process usually involves multiple stakeholders to help understand what their concerns are and what they’d like to see from the new design.
Once the team knows what problem they’re trying to solve, it’s time to research how to solve it. There are usually two types of research involved in this phase: user and market research.
User research involves interviewing users about their perception of the current product and other products, what they find confusing or clear, and what they might be looking for in the product. Market research is looking at competitors and seeing what their UX is like.
Next, it’s time to analyze the research you’ve collected to understand how you can apply your findings to your design.
For example, a UX team might make user personas (a fictional character representing an ideal user) and use storyboarding to map out how these ideal users will experience the newly designed product.
Now that you know what the problem is, what users are looking for, and how to solve it in a way that fits user motivations, it’s time to design the product. UX designers will create wireframes — tools to help map out a page’s features — and prototypes that make the wireframe come to life.
Once the team has created a high-fidelity design — a design that closely matches the final design of the product — it’s time to get feedback on it. You may test the design with people on your team, others at your company, and potential users to gather feedback.
After you’ve gotten feedback, it’s time to go back to the design and make any adjustments based on what your users said. While you might not take every point of feedback, you’ll often address any comment patterns or more significant issues from the feedback.
UX vs. UI
Sometimes people refer to UX design as UI UX design. But what does UI UX design mean, and how is UI different, if at all? UI is user interface design, which focuses on how the user interacts with a website, application, or other software.
UX and UI go hand in hand. UX is the big picture of how a user experiences the platform or product, while UI is the smaller components that users interact with that make up that platform or product.
In the sneaker website example, UX is your whole journey from landing on the website to purchasing. UI is the features on the website, like the buttons and images that appear on the page.
UX Design Careers
While “UX designer” is a common job title, many other jobs in the field have other titles that don’t include the industry name, even if UX design is one of their primary job responsibilities. Other job titles include:
- UX/UI designer
- Information architect
- Product manager
- Product designer
- Product owner
- Manager of product design
- Experience designer
- Interaction designer
- Strategic designer
>>MORE: Explore the day in the life as an experience designer and strategic designer at BCG.
To get into the field — and land one of those titles — you don’t necessarily need a specific degree in the industry. Eighty-two percent of UX designers hold a bachelor’s degree, but often these degrees aren’t in UX design. The field is relatively new, and there aren’t many collegiate UX design programs. Instead, many UX designers hold degrees in psychology, computer science, English, anthropology, and graphic design.
Depending on a company’s requirements, you might not need a degree. Professionals can also get their start in the field through online resources like courses, certifications, bootcamps, or virtual experience programs.
A mix of the right hard and soft skills can help you get into UX design:
- Hard skills: wireframing, UX writing, user testing, research, high-fidelity design, design tools (like Figma)
- Soft skills: storytelling, critical thinking, active listening, adaptability, and collaboration
>>MORE: Gain UX design skills like Figma and critical thinking with Accenture’s Product Design Virtual Experience Program.
Building an online portfolio with your work, even if it’s something you didn’t do professionally — work done in a class or independently, for example — is a great way to show your UX design skills during the hiring process.
>>MORE: Learn more about how to get into UX design.
Pros and Cons of Working in UX Design
UX design is an exciting field that allows you to be creative and work on multiple projects; however, it’s still a newer field, and it can be onerous to manage feedback from various stakeholders.
Variety of Daily Tasks
“I have the ability to solve problems in a creative way in an endless number of spaces,” Frankie Kastenbaum, senior UX designer at United Airlines, says. “Each project I have worked on, even though I have used the same skill sets, have never been similar. This is true for the area they focused on, but also for the problem at hand that I was trying to solve.”
Stephanie Shaw, product designer at Collectors, agrees that one of the best parts of the job is the variety of project areas:
“As a mobile product designer, I’m never doing one repetitive task over and over — I get to interact with users, do visual exploration, think about interactions and play with microanimations, even design marketing materials to promote our app updates.
Working in UX design is all about the user experience — which means you directly impact the user. So if you’re interested in making a tangible difference in how users experience a product, UX design can be a good career path for you.
Variety of Career Focus Areas
“There is so much opportunity to specialize in or focus on one area that excites you as you advance in your career,” Shaw says. “You can focus on research, on visual design, on motion and animation, on building design systems and brand guidelines, on product architecture, and more.”
The Industry Can Be a Mystery to Those Outside of It
“Because UX is still so new, we are often faced with the lack of understanding of what we do,” Kastenbaum says. “Currently, we don’t have the luxury to say ‘I’m a doctor’ and have it universally understood.” (This shows why we need articles like this that explain UX design!)
Cutting Through Company Noise
Feedback is a critical part of the UX design process, but sometimes it’s difficult to cut through all the differing opinions and get buy-in on a final design.
“You’ll have to diplomatically juggle lots of differing opinions and sometimes advocate for an experience that other stakeholders are not willing to invest in,” Shaw says. “You could spend lots of time designing concepts and ideas that never get shipped, or on projects that have very little room for creativity because of technical and business constraints. Or in an agile startup environment, you could be the only designer and not have other like-minds to collaborate with.”
Working in UX Design: The Bottom Line
If you’re interested in the user journey and want to have a tangible impact on products, UX design is an exciting, creative, and technical industry. While many UX designers hold a bachelor’s degree, you can learn the skills you need to succeed without one — and building up a strong portfolio is key to breaking into the industry.
Shaw summarizes it best: “UX Design blends creativity with problem solving, and that’s what I love about it.”
Learn the skills you need to land a job in this field — like wireframing, high-fidelity design, and prototyping — with BP’s Digital Design & UX Virtual Experience Program.
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