What Is a UX Designer? This is What You Need to Know

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Alexander Georges
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Lydia Chamberlain
October 22, 2019

If you’re wondering, “What is a UX designer?”, then you’re in the right place!

Today, I’ll be teaching you exactly what that hot buzzword UX designer means.

I’ve been practicing and learning UX design for over 6 years now, and Lydia has been practicing and learning for about the same number of years.

So we’re very qualified to answer this question for you.

In this post, we’ll be covering:

  1. What Is a UX Designer?
  2. Who Can Be a UX Designer?
  3. Why Should I Be a UX Designer?
  4. When Is the Right Time to Become a UX Designer?
  5. Where Are the Best UX Designer Jobs?

Let’s get started!

What Is a UX Designer?

What is UX?

We need to establish what UX is before saying what a UX designer is.

Very simply, UX (which is short for user experience) refers to a person’s experience when interacting with your product.

The word UX is usually used when referring to digital products, like a website or mobile app.

For example, a shopping app can be said to have good UX if its users can easily find products, love the products they see and enjoy using the app.

On the opposite end, a shopping app might have bad UX if users struggle to find the products they want, can’t find the checkout button or get frustrated when using the app.

You can also say that a non-digital product has a good or bad UX or user experience.

For example, a chair can be said to have a good user experience if it feels comfortable to sit in.

However, your product can never have perfectly good UX because your product will never be perfect.

That is why there is a process for improving UX called UX design.

What is UX design?

UX design, or user experience design, is the process of improving the user experience for a product.

It follows a systematic process of research, planning, designing, prototyping, and iterating to find and make the best experience for users.

UX design uses both qualitative and quantitative information to identify the current user experience and to come up with a plan to improve it.

If you want to learn more about what UX design is, then I encourage you to check out this post that breaks UX design down to 9 easy steps before you continue reading.

What is a UX designer?

Now we can answer your question, “What is a UX designer?”

A UX designer is a professional that uses the UX design process to improve digital products, such as mobile apps and websites.

UX designer has become a hot topic and popular field of study because companies are now starting to realize that both good development (or coding) and good user experience design, NOT just visual or user interface design, make for a great product that people enjoy using.

That’s also why UX designers often work closely with developers to turn ideas into design into code.

And if you know both UX design and coding, you are doubly valuable to companies!

Who Can Be a UX Designer?

We’ve answered “What is a UX designer?”, so now let’s talk about who can be a UX designer.

There aren’t many prerequisites to becoming a UX designer.

I’ve known previous graphic designers, writers, biology majors, and developers who have transferred into UX.

These individuals were able to show during interviews that they understood (UX) design thinking and were willing to learn.

I majored in UX design in the School of Information at the University of Michigan which gave me an edge, but Lydia was a student in the School of Art and Design and was still able to land an internship that lead to a full-time UX design career.

However, most of the individuals above were able to get their foot in the door by showing recruiters their (UX) design thinking with an online portfolio website.

An online portfolio website is a necessity nowadays for would-be UX designers, so you’ll definitely want to make one.

You can read some tips through this article we posted (P.S.it’ll be helpful even if you aren’t a student).

Most importantly, UX designers tend to have higher degrees of empathy.

They use that personality trait to understand and help users.

So if that sounds like you, then you might really enjoy being a UX designer.

Why Should I Be a UX Designer?

If you’re here reading this article, then you’ve already heard about UX design.

Considering how UX designers are the bell of the ball in the tech world right now, it’s not too surprising that you’re here.

As mentioned previously UX designers go hand-in-hand with developers to create amazing digital products.

After getting your foot in the door as a UX designer, there will be plenty of opportunities and positions available to you.

You’ll be in high demand, and your paycheck will reflect that.

As of this writing, Glassdoor cites that the average base salary for UX designers in the United States is $90,697 per year.

Needless to say, that’s higher than the average job.

However, what’s most important is that you can put your empathy ability to very good use.

You can provide people a better experience when using digital products, from individuals with difficulty seeing to individuals who have difficulty moving.

(Us UX designers take accessibility very seriously.)

You also get to solve difficult challenges in research and design in practically any industry.

I’ve been a UX designer for a travel startup, financial institutions, a control systems company, and a networking/telecommunications software company (among others).

I can tell you with great certainty that you’ll always be growing and learning something new.

If that excited you, then UX design might be for you.

When Is the Right Time to Become a UX Designer?

There’s no right age to become a UX designer.

I know people in there 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s who have recently gone into UX design.

If you’re interested in being a UX designer, then now is a great time to take steps towards becoming one.

But as mentioned above, you’ll want to first create an online portfolio website.

This is how you’ll showcase your work to recruiters when you apply to jobs through websites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, or company websites.

If you don’t have any previous UX design experience, then you’ll want to create a sample UX design project and show how you used the UX design process to make an amazing product (even if it’s not a real product).

For example, you can do a redesign of Apple Music or Facebook’s UI (or user interface) using the UX design process.

Some things you can describe include:

  1. What problem were you solving?
  2. Who were you solving your problem for?
  3. What was your process like?
  4. What mistakes did you make, and what did you learn from them?
  5. If you worked with others, how did you contribute to the team and their success?

There are plenty of articles we publish that can help you learn more about UX design and how to become a UX designer, so absorbing as much information as possible on the subject will really help you on your journey.

Where Are the Best UX Designer Jobs?

UX designer jobs can be found across the globe, but I’ll focus my answer to the U.S. because that’s where we’re located.

The best places to find UX designer jobs are in tech hubs around the United States.

That means locations like:

  • Seattle, WA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • San Jose, CA
  • Mountain View, CA
  • Austin, TX
  • New York, NY

That being said, there are plenty of UX design jobs not located in tech hubs.

For example, I work as a UX designer in downtown Detroit, MI.

But of course, the best UX jobs are relative to what you’re looking for.

If you’re looking for a UX design position in a bank, then Charlotte, NC might be a good fit.

Maybe you’re looking for a UX design job at an auto company?

Michigan might be the place for you then.

If you’re all about that startup life, then Silicon Valley is the way to go.

You should be able to find what you need as long as you do your homework and really dig into what “best” means to you.

As I said, UX touches practically every field, so you’ll never get bored.

But if you need help, we’re always here to answer your questions in the comment section below!

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