User experience (UX) design is all about providing a relevant and meaningful experience to users. It involves the entire process of integrating the product, along with crucial aspects like branding, product design, usability, and function. In essence, UX design could be anything that meets a particular consumer's needs in a specific context when they use a product or service.
UX design involves knowledge of several different fields, including market research, consumer psychology, design and technology, business strategies, and copywriting to an extent. So, in addition to the aesthetics of a product or technology, a good UX designer must be able to gauge a consumer’s needs and develop a product that matches or exceeds their expectations.
Needless to say, designers rely on a complete dashboard of tools to produce their end product. Here are some of the need-to-know programs if you're pursuing a career in UX.
What Is (and Isn’t) UX Design?
When we talk about UX design, we often also hear UI (user interface) design, which is sometimes used interchangeably with it. Though they are two different facets of web design, they tend to work hand in hand. While UI mainly deals with the design of interfaces and how a user interacts with it, UX is more about dealing with the experience of a user when they use a product or service.
Even terms like web design are often confused with UX Design. While UX designers are primarily focused on understanding consumer needs and psychology, web designers don’t necessarily focus on the consumer mindset in as much detail. Web design is significantly less iterative, while UX design is a continuous process involving the regular integration of improvements.
Tools Used by UX Designers
UX design tools are a combination of design workflows, information architecture as well as prototyping. Some commonly used tools in the field of UX design include:
- FlowMapp – UX design involves building user flows and constructing visual sitemaps. This is exactly what FlowMapp offers. This specialized UX design app also helps in project planning, team interactions, organizing projects, and communicating with clients.
- Balsamiq – You can create low fidelity wireframes and layouts easily in Balsamiq. Even if you’re inexperienced in wireframing, you’ll find this tool accessible to use. It also enables interaction within teams and with external clients.
- VisualSitemaps – This tool is specifically designed for generating visual sitemaps. It has many advantages like its ability to generate password-protected dummy websites that haven't gone live yet. VisualSitemaps provides complete automation, and its files can easily be imported into Sketch.
- Wireframe.cc – This one helps UX designers create low fidelity wireframes very quickly, by deliberately limiting the color palette and using simple rectangular elements with an uncomplicated interface.
- Optimal Workshop – If you want to find out in-depth data and insights about users, and how they interact with the UX design of a site, this is the tool to use. It includes everything from analyzing the usability of a design to testing and evaluation. You’ll also have the ability to decode the information architecture.
- TreeJack – Information architecture is an overall package that needs to be taken care of by a UX designer. When designing a website along with its structure and flow, the quality of the content matters too. This is where information architecture comes into play. With TreeJack you can test the website design with real users. It provides valuable insights by generating a result that shows the user's path and navigation through the web content, which can be further used for editing purposes later.
- Figma – Because Figma is browser-based, it’s easily accessible for all, and allows multiple users to work or view a project at the same time. This vector-based tool helps with illustrations, prototyping, and code generation. It has style libraries that make the process of creating and updating a web design easy.
- UX Pin – This platform offers design, prototyping and handoffs on Windows, Mac, or in a simple browser. It can also be integrated with PhotoShop, which allows designers to convert static files into interactive prototypes without losing any layers. With UX Pin, you can design an entire UX from scratch—right from low-fidelity wireframes to high-fidelity prototypes. Important features like UI patterns, codeless animations, and interactivity can be easily added by dragging and dropping, even onto basic wireframes.
- Sketch – Sketch is an image editor for digital design and is primarily a vector-based tool that enables you to draw and resize figures without loss of sharpness. It offers automatic slicing features and one-click exports that allow you to develop assets in a variety of formats. Sketch is great for wireframing as well as prototyping. It’s available only for Mac users, although Windows users can open and edit files through the Lunacy app. You can get this tool for a one-time payment, but you have to renew the license yearly to get updates.
- Adobe Experience Design (XD) – This is a vector-based tool for website wireframing and the creation of simple prototypes. Being an Adobe product, it’s integrated with Adobe Creative Cloud. You can draw, reuse, remix vectors and build artwork to create wireframes, screen layouts, interactive prototypes, and production-ready products. It allows you to switch between design and prototypes, and add feedback from team members and clients to test the look and feel of the products. It’s offered on both Mac and Windows.
- Photoline – Photoline offers features like photo manipulation, non-destructive layers, vector editing, and desktop publishing. It also features a few exclusive bonuses, like multi-layered EXR importing and exporting. It’s a good app if you’re on a budget as it’s available at a cheaper rate compared to its counterparts.
- User Testing – This is a tool used for user research and prototype testing. Target users are recruited, and their reactions to the product or technology are gauged via video and audio channels over a short period. Another app with a similar function is Objectively.
Other apps used for different facets of UX design include Atomic, Framer, InVision, WebFlow, Axure, Principle, Origami Studio, Just in Mind, XMind, Mural, StylifyMe. It’s worth having a look at the functionality of each app, as they cover different aspects of UX design, such as color coding, prototyping, and even software coding.
Skills Required to Become a UX Designer
Demand for UX designers has seen a sharp rise over the past decade. Many companies are hiring the title of UX Designer, but the requirements and job descriptions can vary greatly. In addition to your knowledge of the above mentioned tools, employers will look favorably on a background in cognitive science or psychology, an art major, or experience in market research.
Below is a quick guide to the hard and soft skills that are generally considered indispensable across the UX field:
1. Research and Analysis – A UX designer needs thorough quantitative and qualitative research skills to investigate user needs, as well as investigate competitor products available in the market.
2. Information Architecture – UX designers should have control of information, both from a product design perspective and a managerial perspective. Understanding how to organize all this information is what creates a truly delightful user experience.
3. Wireframing – UX designers should be familiar with both low-fidelity and high-fidelity wireframing skills. Wireframes are rough sketches of screen design. They’re used throughout digital design projects and help UX designers explore possible design solutions in great detail without investing a lot of time.
4. Prototyping and Testing – UX designers need to have knowledge of creating prototypes and conducting user testing exercises, before finalizing and launching the design.
5. Visual and UI design – Knowledge of visual design and user interface (UI) design is of high importance for a UX designer.
1. Critical thinking – Good UX designers should have the ability to analyze problems deeply and question the assumptions. They should be able to make connections between ideas or positions that may seem far apart. Identifying errors in reasoning and spotting weaknesses in a system should come naturally to a UX designer.
2. Curiosity – UX designers should have an ongoing thirst for knowledge and desire to learn about the latest developments in their industry. Practice active listening and ask plenty of questions in day to day interactions.
3. Collaboration and communication – A UX designer usually has to work with many stakeholders and multiple team members. Good communication skills and a collaborative attitude are key for the successful completion of UX projects, as well as for client satisfaction.
Kickstart Your Career in UX Design
Most companies hiring UX designers look for tech-related qualifications, like computer science, IT, or computer programming. But you don’t necessarily need a degree to get hired. You can opt for an online course or bootcamp, like Thinkful’s UX / UI Design program, which is offered in both a full-time and part-time format. This course will help you build an interview-ready portfolio and show your employer that you have the cutting-edge design skills they need. The best part is that Thinkful offers a job guarantee within six months—meaning your tuition is free if you don’t find a job fast.
With the right skills, tools and qualifications, a career in UX design could be just what you’ve been searching for. To read more about UX, check out Thinkful’s UX/UI Design blog. You can also read more about career outcomes for this exciting field.