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What does a UX designer do? (Jobs, skills & tools used)

ux designer works on desktop mobile design usability and flow

Most of us take for granted that we can land on a web page today and know how to get where we need to go. But that isn't a coincidence一it's all by design.

User Experience (UX) Designers are in charge of testing, reading the data and creating the path of least resistance between a user's problem and their solution. It's a UX designer's job to understand what a user is looking to accomplish and to inform a site, app or product's design for the most optimal user experience. Or, as Teajai "T.J." Kimsey, a digital marketing leader with a background in web development and UX, explains: "My favorite part of the work is the 'Aha!' moment. It's that point when you see where the data and testing comes to life and the outcome is exactly as you wanted. It's the finished product but includes the thrill of getting there."

UX designer job description

A UX designer is a professional who designs user experiences for websites, apps and other digital products. They focus on the user's interaction with the product, from the initial setup to the final checkout.

UX designers use a variety of methods to understand user needs and preferences, including user research, usability testing and prototyping. They then use this information to create designs that are easy to use, efficient and enjoyable.

Here are a few specific duties of a UX designer:

Conduct user research to understand user needs and preferences

Create wireframes and prototypes to test different design ideas

Conduct usability testing to ensure that designs are easy to use

Analyze data from usability testing to improve designs

Conduct usability testing to ensure that designs are easy to use

Collaborate with designers, developers and stakeholders to create user-centered products

Where do UX designers work?

UX designers are in high demand, as businesses increasingly recognize the importance of creating user-friendly products, as such they can work in a variety of settings.

Technology companies, such as Google, Apple and Microsoft, are always looking for talented UX designers to help them create user-friendly products and services. Consulting firms, such as McKinsey & Company and Deloitte, offer UX design services to a variety of clients.

Many large companies have in-house UX design teams that work on projects for the company. Some UX designers choose to work freelance, which allows them to work on a variety of projects and set their own hours.

UX designers will be in high demand in a variety of industries, including:

  • Tech
  • Telecommunications
  • Advertising
  • Financial services
  • Healthcare
  • Retail
  • Education

No matter where they work, UX designers play an important role in creating products and services that are user-friendly and enjoyable.

Tools UX designers use

UX designers use a variety of tools to create user-friendly products and services. Some of the most common tools include:

Wireframing tools:
Wireframing tools are used to create low-fidelity sketches of designs. This helps UX designers to quickly iterate on designs and get feedback from users. Some popular wireframing tools include Balsamiq Mockups, Figma and Sketch.
Prototyping tools:
Prototyping tools are used to create interactive mockups of designs. This allows UX designers to test designs with users and get feedback on how they work. Some popular prototyping tools include InVision, Axure and Proto.io–Prototyping for all .
Usability testing tools:
Usability testing tools are used to collect data on how users interact with designs. This data can be used to improve the design of products and services. Some popular usability testing tools include UserTesting, Hotjar and CrazyEgg.
User research tools:
User research tools are used to collect data on user needs and wants. This data can be used to inform the design of products and services. Some popular user research tools include Google Analytics, SurveyMonkey and UserTesting.
Collaboration tools:
Collaboration tools are used to share designs with other team members and get feedback. Some popular collaboration tools include Slack, Google Drive and Trello.

Kimsey says one of her favorite tools is UserTesting.com, noting, "I use UserTesting.com to test the flow of a website and learn what the user journey looks like and where do they get "stuck" in the process. UserTesting is my favorite because the participants are random, anonymous and real world. I can also get audio feedback as the participant answers questions through the process." She also swears by, "Sketch, Figma and Marvel, which help create prototypes, mock-ups and other parts of the design process."

Traits and skills UX designers need

UX designers should have a variety of hard and soft skills that they will put to use from day to day, including:

UX designers conduct user research to understand the needs and wants of their users. This research can be qualitative, such as interviews and focus groups, or quantitative, such as surveys and analytics.
Information architecture:
UX designers organize the information in a product in a way that is easy for users to find and understand. This includes creating sitemaps, wireframes and prototypes.
Visual design:
UX designers use their design skills to create interfaces that are visually appealing and easy to use. This includes choosing colors, fonts and layouts.
UX designers create prototypes of their designs so that they can test them with users and get feedback. This helps them to identify and fix any usability problems before the product is released.
Usability testing:
UX designers conduct usability tests with users to get their feedback on the design of a product. This helps them to identify and fix any usability problems before the product is released.
UX designers work with a variety of people on a product, including developers, product and project managers and marketing professionals. They need to be able to collaborate effectively with these people to ensure that the product meets the needs of users.
UX designers need to be able to communicate their ideas effectively to both technical and non-technical audiences. They need to be able to explain their design decisions and why they made them.
UX designers are constantly solving problems. They need to be able to identify problems, come up with solutions and test those solutions.
UX designers need to be adaptable. The field of UX is constantly evolving, so they need to be able to learn new things and adapt to new technologies.

How to stand out as a UX designer

UX designers are always learning. Their work is informed by trends and research. In order to stay competitive, they need to be up-to-date on trends and insights.

There are a few things ways that UX designers can keep up on their skills outside of the classroom:

Online courses:
There are many online courses available that can teach UX designers new skills and techniques. These courses are often affordable and convenient, and they can be completed at the designer's own pace.
Bootcamps are intensive programs that can teach UX designers the skills they need to launch a career in the field. Bootcamps are typically more expensive than online courses, but they can be a great way to learn the basics of UX design quickly.
Conferences and workshops:
Conferences and workshops are a great way to learn about the latest trends in UX design and network with other designers. These events can be expensive, but they can be a valuable investment for UX designers who want to stay ahead of the curve.
There are many resources available online and in libraries that UX designers can use to learn new skills and techniques. Self-study can be a great way to learn at your own pace and on your own budget.

No matter which type of continuing education you choose, it's important to make sure that it's relevant to your career goals. If you're not sure where to start, you can talk to your manager, mentor or other experienced UX designers for advice.

What are the schooling requirements?

Becoming a UX designer takes time and effort, but it's a rewarding career that can offer great opportunities. If you're passionate about creating user-centered products, then UX design may be the perfect career for you.

First, earn the required qualifications

To get started, you first need to learn the basics of UX design. There are many resources available to help you learn the basics of UX design.

If you attended a high school that offered design courses, you may be qualified for an entry-level job in UX without any further education, or you may be able to consider a certificate program, which takes less time than a degree program, and generally focuses on a specific area of UX design. But if not, a 4-year bachelor's degree with an emphasis on tech design is a great place to start. There are many areas of focus for the aspiring UX designer; some include user research, information architecture, interaction design and experience strategy.

The term UX Designer is an umbrella for many specialties. Some designers may be more interested in learning about the graphic design principles that influence customer interactions, for instance. Others may be more interested in learning about the psychology of users and consumers. There's plenty of variety in this field, so you'll want to research the niche that interests you the most.

Second, don't forget to create your portfolio

Your portfolio—a collection of work that showcases your skills and experience—is a major component for showing what you can do. In fact, it's an essential tool for finding a job in UX design.

In college and in certificate programs, you should get a chance to create one or more UX designs for your portfolio. This is a good start, but one case study, site or app isn't enough. You want the best examples of your work all in one place.

Aspiring UX designers who take the initiative to create a robust portfolio are the ones who will find work they enjoy and that may pay well. Data analytics go hand in hand with UX research and design, so if you have any user statistics available, absolutely include those in your portfolio alongside your samples.

Third, go at your own pace and take as long as you need

There is no one-size-fits-all timeframe to become a UX designer, as the amount of time it takes will vary depending on your individual skills, experience and learning style. However, on average, it takes between two and six years to become a UX designer.

If you are new to UX design, you may want to start by taking some online courses or bootcamps to learn the basics of the field. Once you have a good understanding of the fundamentals, you can start working on projects to build your skills and experience. You can also network with other UX designers to learn more about the industry and find job opportunities. Some great resources to find UX design communities, conferences and ask questions include:

Once you have a portfolio of your work and some experience, you will be in a good position to start applying for UX design jobs. With hard work and dedication, you can become a UX designer in just a few years.

Pay potential and job outlook

There's a growing need for UX Designers as companies realize the importance of intuitive design.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't have a salary estimate for UX Designers specifically, but it does project that there will be a 15.2% increase in Web and Digital Interface Designer positions in the U.S. through 2031. That's much higher than the nationwide median growth outlook of 6% for all other fields combined.

This growth is expected as businesses continue to invest in digital products and services, as competition grows and as consumers demand more user-friendly experiences.

UX designers with a strong portfolio of work and experience in a particular industry will be in the best position to find jobs.

Here are some additional factors that will contribute to the growth of the UX design field:

  • The increasing popularity of mobile devices and apps
  • The growth of e-commerce
  • The need for businesses to create more user-friendly websites and applications
  • The increasing demand for user-centered design

Getting started

If you are interested in a career in UX design, now is a great time to get started. The field is growing rapidly, and there are many opportunities for talented designers.

mariah beckman

Written and reported by:

Mariah Beckman

Contributing Writer

With professional insights from:

Teajai "T.J." Kimsey

Digital marketing Leader, BWD/Advanced Web Strategies, Inc.

UX Designer Degree & Career Guide