By now you’ve probably heard the term “user experience” or “UX” being thrown around. It’s become a bit of a buzzword lately. But what does it actually mean, and what does it take to start a career in UX? This article takes a closer look at UX design, and what you need to know to land a job in this emerging field.
What is UX Design?
User experience or UX basically refers to the experience a user has while interacting with a product or a service. The term UX was coined by Dr. Donald Norman, a cognitive scientist, in the 1990s. According to Laura Klien, author of UX for Lean Startups and Build Better Products, “UX design is the process used to determine what the experience will be like when a user interacts with your product”.
Why Is UX Important?
UX prioritizes the fulfilment of user needs. It works to provide positive experiences that keep customers loyal to a product or brand. UX is not limited to digital products—it’s relevant to many different areas.
The quality and efficiency of a product or service are important aspects of UX design. If a website is designed from the creator’s perspective—without thinking about the people who will be using it—then it is less likely to be useful or successful. Meaningful UX helps companies to guide the customer’s journey with their business, providing valuable insights that contribute to the business’s success.
Skills Required for UX
UX design combines various disciplines such as user interface design, usability, accessibility, information architecture, and Human Computer Interaction. If you’re thinking about a career in UX, you should work on developing the following skills.
Wireframing and Prototyping
These are some of the most important hard skills needed for UX design. By creating wireframes and prototypes, UX designers can test their ideas quickly. It also helps to catch mistakes in the idea phase and test the practicality of each idea.
Strong UX is based on good user research. This helps you to understand and predict user expectations and needs. Interviews, surveys, and questionnaires are common examples of user research methods that will help to determine user expectations and needs, which in turn should inform the design of your product or service.
UX professionals need to communicate with clients and stakeholders a lot. You have to be able to present your ideas and prototypes in impressive, engaging, and convincing ways. That’s why great communications skills are essential.
Information architecture involves organizing information in accessible and meaningful ways. There’s so much information available around us these days, especially on the internet. So it’s become crucial to keep information organized and structured. Understanding how to use label systems, site maps, and navigational structures is a crucial skill for UX designers.
Understanding someone else’s perspective and their needs is vital to UX design work. Having this capacity will help you to design and create products and services that can solve unique problems and meet user needs.
Excellent UX designers have the ability to consistently create interactive prototypes. This is because a prototype should be able to accurately display how a user will interact with a product. The quality of your work depends heavily on your understanding of how the customer views the product and feels about it, and your ability to incorporate that into an interactive design.
How To Get a Job in UX
There are no shortcuts to become a UX designer. You’ll need to study and work hard. Below are some useful steps that may help you in achieving a position in the field.
1) Read up
There are plenty of books about UX on the market, which will help you gain a better understanding of the field, the everyday experiences of UX designers, and the exact type of role you might want to pursue. Blogs written by UX designers are another great place to read about real word successes and failures, which will provide you with great insights. This may also help you decide if this is the career for you.
2) Get a degree or certification
Most companies hiring UX designers will look favorably on 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 peace of mind that you have the cutting-edge design skills they need.
3) Work on your skills
Once you have the necessary qualifications, be sure to keep working on the crucial skill sets required for UX, like those previously outlined in this article. This will help you to stand out as a potential candidate.
4) Gain experience
If you’re after a good position with a reputable company that pays well, then you’re going to need some experience in the field. Freelancing is a good option to gain experience in UX design. Work on a few small projects as a freelancer, or apply for an internship.
5) Find that job
Once you have the right qualifications, skills and experience, finding a job shouldn’t be too hard. You might want to join a few online forums and communities to help you network with other professionals and find out about new opportunities.
Tools for learning UX
There are a few easily accessible tools that most UX designers are familiar with. Below is a list of the key tools that will help you while learning UX.
This tool allows you to create interactive prototypes that look and work how your app should. You can create innovative mockups that will assist in better communication and collaboration.
This is another tool used to create mockups and test usability. With Figma, multiple people can work on the same project at the same time, just like Google Docs. This facilitates easy accessibility and transparency.
Balsamiq is one of the best tools for creating low fidelity wireframes. Its accessible to any skill level, so its especially useful for people who have no prior experience in wireframes.
Another great tool for wireframes, especially if you want to keep it simple and straightforward. Wireframe.cc employs a minimalist color palette and the elements are simple rectangles, making it very easy to use.
This popular prototyping tool allows you to transform simple and static files into high fidelity prototypes. Other team members and clients can comment on the designs directly and share their views in real time. It gives you the ability to show your wireframes and prototypes to clients in quickly and effectively.
This is a vector-based UX design tool known for its versatility. It provides features like prototyping, designing, collaborating, sharing, and many more. It’s also available as a mobile app. Adobe XD allows you to create wireframes, user flows, high-fidelity designs, interactive prototypes, and more.
If you’re not an expert in HTML and CSS, Webflow is a great option for creating interactive and innovative prototypes. Its user-friendly interface allows you to create almost anything you can imagine. It also saves you time by generating code on its own.
This tool is useful for both UX and UI, helping you to create prototypes and keep track of workflow. High fidelity is its key point of difference, and it allows for easy collaboration with all users able to see changes and progress in real time.
Start Your UX Career
With the right skills, tools and qualifications, a career in UX is right around the corner. If you’d like to read more about UX, check out Thinkful’s UX/UI Design blog. You can also read more about career outcomes for this exciting study path.