From websites and apps to kiosks, user experience (UX) designers are tasked with developing the overall experience of digital products. They help businesses ensure their digital platforms are designed with the customer’s perspective in mind through research, design, and problem-solving. Though UX began in the tech world, the job has grown to encompass much more. Everything a customer experiences with a company’s products, services, and environments can fall under the responsibility of a UX designer, depending on the employer.
UX designers can wear many hats, handling user research, information architecture, interaction design, to name a few. Often, they help balance business and technical needs with those of the audience. UX designers bridge the technical world with the human world to develop online products, such as sites and apps, that attract and engage users.
UX Designer Responsibilities: What UX Designers Do
As with most careers, the responsibilities of UX designers differ depending on their employers. In small companies, these designers tend to have more responsibilities compared to those working in larger companies where the tasks are split among various people on a team. In general, the UX designer responsibilities can be summarized into seven steps, according to a blog by Adobe.
Research is the foundation of a successful UX project because it gives designers the ability to create a design that is based on what consumers want and need. This step is often called product research, which includes both product and market research. This in-depth exploration of the product and audience gives designers insight into the users’ intended objectives and motivating factors, as well as the client’s business goals, industry standards, and any opportunities within the current structure. Data can be gathered through many avenues, such as interviews, analyzing competitors, online surveys, and focus groups.
UX designers develop and use personas in the design process to ensure they are actively designing for their target audience(s). Personas are fictitious representations of those audiences, based on research data and patterns in individual goals, attitudes, and behaviors with regards to the company’s product or service and there is often more than one persona per project. For example, in a project geared toward school security products, the designer might create different personas for teachers, administrators, security personnel, and building managers. Personas help designers to step into the mind of the target audience and think through all the steps the user might take while using or interacting with any aspect of the company or its product.
3. Information Architecture
To experience an interactive product, users navigate through pages of content. Information architecture structures the content within the digital product to establish how information will be displayed and accessed. This process results in the creation of site maps, hierarchies, categories, and metadata, and these structures can become the basis for the product’s navigation.
Wireframes are the starting point for visualizing the content and flow of the product. They are purposely simple, but complex enough to represent the entire product. They are meant to prompt discussions about the functionality of the product as opposed to the look and feel of it.
The prototype is a working model of the final product that allow users to interact with it. They come in many different levels of fidelity. Low fidelity paper prototypes can be used early in the design process to ensure the product is headed in the right direction. Higher fidelity interactive prototypes can be used later in the design process to ensure the product is understandable and easy to use before investing in development.
In this step, it’s common for UX designers to do in-person testing with someone not familiar with the project to gather feedback to see where improvements can be made. Testing can go through several iterations. At the end of testing, the project moves on to the engineers and UI designers.
When the digital product is launched, the job is not over. UX designers are generally called on to make incremental improvement to the product based on user analytics. The goal is always to launch the best possible product, but real-world use will uncover ways to optimize and improve the experience. In addition, many projects have long lifespans with new features that require new releases, which are followed by more optimization.
Types of UX Designers
UX designers can specialize in one or more areas. Note that specialties can vary depending on the work environment. All salary info is based on real-time data from PayScale.
UX managers oversee the user experience design on behalf of their employer. They lead a group of professionals to research, design, and evaluate the effectiveness of the company’s product experiences. These managers set project goals, collaborate with other departments, and analyze data, such as industry trends and usability studies. The average annual salary for this position is $106,723.
UX strategists improve existing products, create user journey maps and wireframes using personas and scenarios, and design and perform A/B testing to improve conversion rates of existing products. The average annual salary for UX strategists is $83,197.
UX researchers develop project requirements and expectations, research user needs and behavior, create personas and scenarios, and utilize user analytics to improve existing products. The average annual salary for UX researchers is $82,814.
UX designers have a portfolio of tools to help them with each of the specialized tasks of the process. Here’s a short sampling of popular tools in common use today.
Wireframing and prototyping
- POP by Marvel: Turns sketches into interactive prototypes for iOS and Android devices
- Adobe XD: Designs and prototypes user experience for web and mobile apps
- Sketch: Creates high-quality wireframes and mockups
- Invision: Easily creates a live prototype from static images
- Axure: Offers wireframing and complex prototyping functions without the need for coding
- ProtoPie: Builds dynamic interactive experiences with a focus on micro-interactions
Research and user testing
- Optimal Workshop: Offers a full suite of user research tools
- UserTesting.com: Enables professionals to see and hear customers as they engage with products
- Omni Graffle: Creates graphics and visuals like content maps, screen flows, and wireframes
- Visio: Creates simple or complicated diagrams and vector graphics
Interested in a career as a UX designer?
Lesley University’s online BS in Design for User Experience program prepares students to master the essentials of creating meaningful, people-first UX design. Our program has a strong foundation in graphic design principles and teaches you to understand the human experience at the center of the design process. We’ll prepare you to apply and implement all aspects of the UX design process as you learn to research, conceptualize, design, and prototype user interfaces and experiences for digital interactions.