“UX Designer” is quickly becoming one of the most in-demand job titles in the tech field. With the average salary for a User Experience Designer/Product Designer in the United States at $115,743 per year with excellent compensation packages, learning how to become a UX Designer is definitely a lucrative career choice! It’s important to note that full-time job openings remain highly skewed towards senior-level design positions. Organizations are relying more on contractors with specialized and tactical design roles. The good news is that freelancer and contract UX Designers are expected to have a higher retention rate than those employed in-house. Great news for Digital Nomads and Remote Workers!
What is a UX Designer?
There’s no commonly accepted definition of what a UX Designer is but most UX Designers would agree that UX design is the art and science of designing HOW users experience a product from beginning to end. Programs such as Photoshop, Sketch, and Illustrator are used to create storyboards, wireframes, mockups, and sitemaps are used by UX Designers to finish their product and test it with users. The overall goal is to enhance the “user experience” of a product and make it more delightful. Think of the smartphone in your hand right now. It most likely had a previous generation that wasn’t as good. Would you go back to the first generation and use that instead? Most likely not! UX Designers played a role in making your smartphone experience as pleasant as possible. The great thing about learning how to become a UX Designer is that UX Designers come from all walks of life. A college degree is not required but it’s helpful to have one. For those wanting to transition into another career, becoming a UX Designer is an attractive choice.
Difference Between a UX Designer and UI Designer
Both UX Designer and UI Designer roles are often combined into single roles in companies but there is a difference! UX Designers focus on user experience. This is the journey of a user through a product’s many interfaces. User Interface Designers will focus on how a user interacts with the visual elements and cues of a product. To use a car analogy, a UX Designer will focus on the entire experience of driving a car. Looking at it, sitting down in comfortable seats, enjoying the ease of operating it, etc. The UI Designer will focus on the dashboard icons. Making sure that they are clear and in logical places. They’ll also make sure that your hazard light button is easy to see and has the right icon. You wouldn’t want a happy face for your hazard lights right? Or…maybe I shouldn’t have asked that question (LOL).
What are the Traits of an Amazing UX Designer?
- Passionate: UX Design is a calling. You should be fascinated by patterns, the way things work, and how users interact with products.
- Emphatic: You must be able to empathize with users’ pain and frustration when using products to design great products.
- Humble: You must be able to work in collaboration with others with various roles and from different departments.
- Self-Starting: You’ll need to constantly learn and train yourself in various areas and bolster your portfolio.
- Genuine Interest in Technology: You must love the way that people interact with technology and love technology yourself!
Duties and Expectations
UX Designers draw on the results from user research and workflow analysis to create satisfying and compelling experiences for product users. UX Designers must be creative, technical, and have problem-solving skills. Psychology, storytelling, and an understanding of computer science are important as well. A solid understanding of graphic design and web technologies is paramount. As a UX Designer, you’ll be working with user interface designers, web developers, and graphic designers. Tools for wireframing include Axure RP and Balsamiq. Design programs that you may work with include Photoshop, Illustrator, Fireworks, and InVision.
UX Designer Responsibilities:
- Explaining research results and consulting with clients to understand their goals.
- Conduct usability testing
- Create wireframes, storyboards, sitemaps, and screen flows
- Create product prototypes
- Develop personas and usage scenarios
- Analyze user feedback and activity. Iterating designs to further enhance the user experience
- Assist with content development
- Conduct competitor and customer analysis
How to Become a UX Designer: Familiarize Yourself with UI/UX Principles
When learning about UX Design, it’s important to build a solid foundation and understand basic design principles. Doing so will enable you to understand the psychological aspects of design and allow you to think more “creatively”.
Basic Design Principles
Fundamentals and psychology of colors as well as color vocabulary.
Organize information with contrast, creating focus and building hierarchies.
Creating text that’s readable and choosing fonts.
Creating intuitive and usable designs.
Design Thinking is a process of phases that UX Designers must go through. It is the process of designing a product from the perspective of being understood and used by users rather than having users adopt behaviors in order to learn how to use the system. It is divided into Empathise, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test. The goal is to design useful and valuable products based on the needs of users.
In this first stage of Design Thinking, you’ll get to know the wants, needs, and objectives of users. You’ll be observing and engaging with them to understand their experiences and motivations.
In this second stage of Design Thinking, the information gathered during the Empathise stage is used to define the problem. Observations are analyzed and key problems are identified. Once a problem statement is created the third stage of Design Thinking, Ideate, will begin.
In this third stage of Design Thinking, a solid foundation of understanding your users arises from the insights from all of the previous stages of the Design Thinking process. Brainstorming, mind mapping, bodystorming, etc. are all ideation techniques that will help to create innovative solutions and ideas. The main goal in this stage is to generate as many potential solutions as possible.
In this fourth stage of Design Thinking, experimentation occurs and ideas are turned into tangible products. A prototype is a scaled-down version of a product which incorporates the potential solutions that were identified in previous stages. Each solution is tested to highlight any constraints and flaws. During this stage, solutions are accepted, improved, redesigned, or rejected depending on the performance of their prototypes.
In this fifth stage of Design Thinking, a product is validated before it is developed. In this final stage, the results generated from the testing phase may lead you back to the previous stages. New insights are then found which will help improve the current build of your product. It will then be tested over again and iterated until a final product is created and finally delivered.
Continuously Improve Upon Your Design Skills
Having a very strong visual/UI design mastery is extremely valuable when learning how to become a UX Designer. It can take months and even years of practice… but it’s necessary that you master this skillset. You’ll be designing interfaces on different devices like laptops, desktops, tablets, smartphones, etc. You’ll want to become familiar with UI/UX design patterns. These are recurring solutions that solve common design problems that you might encounter in your daily life as a UI/UX designer. They are the standard reference points, guides, and templates that you’ll use to solve issues when designing a mobile app or website. This saves you time and makes you more efficient as a designer since you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
Design Pattern Resources
- pttrns.com A collection of mobile design patterns
- www.uisources.comMobile design patterns & interactions
- UI.patterns User Interface Design patterns are recurring solutions that solve common design problems
- uimovement.com UI design inspiration
Develop An Eye For Design
Just knowing UX Design principles is not enough. You’ll have to train your eye to see good and bad designs and to identify their strengths and weaknesses. The best way to do this is by becoming inspired by other designers. Whenever you come across beautiful designs, make a note of it, and save copies. The blank canvas in your mind will continuously be inspired by the research you do when looking at other designs.
- onepagelove.com One page websites
- dribble.com A Community of designers that showcase their work
- pttrns.comMobile Design Patterns
Blog and News Websites
Learn UX Design Tools
The following are the best tools that you’ll use for web design. It’s important to master these and make yourself marketable!
- Sketch interface design
- Figma collaborative interface design
- Balsamiq low fidelity wireframing
- Adobe XD interface design and prototyping
- Marvel App making mockups interactive
- Invision App prototyping and collaboration
Find a Mentor
Finding and acquiring a mentor when you’re learning how to become a UX Designer is a must! A mentor will be able to answer your questions and help to guide you on your UX Designer journey. They’ll be able to use their vast stores of knowledge to tell you how to improve on your designs which is invaluable in helping you to learn the basics of collaboration and valuing other’s opinions as well. My UX Research mentor and boss has given me unique insights in how to approach UX problems. My UX Design Mentor at Springboard (Affiliate Link for $250 off first course) helped me tremendously when I was learning how to do wireframes. When designing, there’s a million ways to approach and solve a problem. A great UX mentor will help you learn how to resolve them and most importantly they’ll teach you why.
Design Your Own Projects
It takes practice to become a better UX Designer. You won’t be able to get any clients/jobs without experience. So how do you get the experience to take on clients/jobs? You’ll have to be proactive and create your own! By creating your own projects, you’ll be able to showcase your skills as a designer to woo prospective clients and employers. Having a portfolio and showcasing how you came to develop solutions and designs is one of the biggest determining factors when you apply for jobs to get hired. It’s your golden ticket to getting noticed by recruiters that are looking to interview UX Designer candidates. You can utilize a website to host your portfolio or use other websites. With a portfolio that’s available to the public, you can get user feedback on your designs which will aid you in interating and improving upon them.
- Behance Portfolio platform
- Dribbble Portfolio Platform
- UPlabs Portfolio platform with free design resources!
- Instagram Social Network platform that’s a photo and video-sharing social networking service
Resources to get started right away
The following resources are curated to help you develop a solid foundation.
- Future Learn – Digital Skills: User Experience Course: User Experience Design course created by Accenture. It’s a 3-week course that covers the foundations of UX Design, tools and testing.
- Open To Study – User Experience for the Web: UX Design for websites course that’s divided into four different modules: Overview of User Experience, The Elements of UX, Knowing Your Users, and Usability Evaluation Techniques.
- Springboard UX Design Bootcamp: With my Affiliate Link you can get $750 off your first course. I took this boot camp and focused on UX Design. The curriculum was amazing and having a mentor kept me focused! The great thing about a paid program is that the curriculum keeps you focused and ensures that you don’t overstudy in one area.
- User Experience Design | General Assembly: Get hands-on UX design experience and apply user research, testing, and prototyping to challenging projects.
- Skillshare: Great resource for learning specific skill sets. (Affiliate Link)
- Udemy: Another great resource for learning specific skill sets.
Did you enjoy learning how to become a UX Designer?
It’s a lot of information to take in. But once you learn the fundamentals of design and the Design Thinking process it’ll all come together eventually. The great thing about learning how to become a UX Designer is that if you’re not too fond of coding but love design, it’s the perfect career path for you to take. If you’d rather design gorgeous visuals than code this job will allow you to do so. Of course, if you do learn how to code, it will allow you to collaborate a bit better with web developers and understand the limitations of web design. I transitioned into UX thanks to the mentorship of my current boss. I had a really difficult time finding a job when I came back to America after teaching English abroad in South Korea and UX was my ticket to working remotely. I highly recommend UX Design to those that are looking to upgrade their salary and transition to the tech field. I hope this blog was informative and inspired you to get into UX Design. It’s an amazing career field with lots of opportunities. Good luck!