The tech industry is moving at a fast pace, and so are the learning pathways. Fields like user experience (UX) design barely had a name in the tech industry 10 years ago, let alone an established training program. And while the field continues to grow in prominence, there’s still no one-size-fits-all program that teaches you every aspect of UX design.
UX is an interdisciplinary field, so it incorporates expertise from a range of different disciplines. Practitioners working in the field may have arrived there via prior roles like web development, software engineering or graphic design. Although, in recent years, there’s been more of a concerted effort by various institutions to bring together the knowledge areas relevant to UX design into a dedicated syllabus.
This article provides an outline of the role of UX designer and the current training options for those interested in specializing in this area. We’ll also look at self-learning options and the key skills you’ll need to cultivate for a successful UX career.
What Does a UX Designer Do?
UX designers are professionals who research what users want and advocate user needs in the design of a product, while also aligning this with the goals of the business. Their responsibilities include designing, writing the UX copy, and selling design solutions to the business.
A UX designer’s job consists of three main tasks:
UX research – Acquiring relevant data through customer research. This data is then used to make adapt products and improve on them.
Information architecture – UX designers strategize the development of a product using the data collected through user research.
Product iteration testing – UX research is incorporated alongside with other professionals’ recommendations to suggest improvements to different product versions.
Training in UX Design
Getting started in any tech career involves earning qualifications, and UX design is no exception. To become a successful UX designer, you need to build a foundation in the subjects related to UX design and develop the skills and techniques required in this profession.
Becoming a UX designer is a long journey that begins with learning the basics. It requires proficiency in technical knowledge, computer logic, and coding along with other software skills. Since UX designers are the advocates of users and customers, their job also requires a deep understanding of human psychology.
There are multiple paths that you can follow to start leaning UX design. The path that’s best suited to you will largely depend on where you are in your career right now. A college degree might be your best option if you’ve just graduated from high school. Or an online training program might suit your schedule if you’re a working professional looking for a career change.
Education Paths for UX Design
One of the interesting features of UX design is that it’s comprised of multiple disciplines. You can undertake study in various different areas to build your UX design expertise, including Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Information Architecture (IA), and Interaction Design (ID). Education in UX is complex; no single discipline will provide an all-encompassing knowledge of UX design. It takes a broad base of knowledge, skills, and experience to break into this career. But the results are equally rewarding. With the combination of the right education and skills, a fulfilling and high-paying job in UX design could be right around the corner.
Here are some of the different paths that you can take for your education and training in UX design:
Bachelor’s degree – A bachelor’s degree in a UX-related discipline is necessary to get started in an entry-level UX designer job. A bachelor’s degree in a field related to technology dealing with web applications and websites can be helpful. The advantages of a bachelor’s degree are that it will teach you about topics related to software and technology. It also provides a structured learning environment in which you can develop your interaction and communication skills. There are some drawbacks compared to other options, though, like the high cost of tuition fees.
Some technical bachelor’s degrees appropriate for UX design include:
- Software development
- Web design and development
- Computer programming
- Information technology
- Graphic design or visual design
- Web programming
- Information architecture
Associate’s degree – An associate degree in graphic design or web design can also help get you started with your UX design education. These degrees are much more affordable than bachelor’s degrees and take only two years to complete. They’re a suitable option for someone who doesn’t want to invest four years and a lot of money in a bachelor’s degree.
Master’s degree – A master’s degree in UX can add value to your resume. This additional education will ensure that you’re skilled enough to deal with software and solve user experience problems. Some of the most popular master’s degrees in UX are:
- Humans Computer Interaction (HCI)
- Library and information science
- Information design
- Computer science
- Human factors
There are several advantages to going for a master’s degree in UX. These include:
- You’ll gain new academic knowledge and skills in specialized areas of UX.
- You can work on your thesis or other projects.
- You can improve your research skills.
- You can connect with peers and professionals to build your network.
Online courses and training programs – This mode of learning has gained popularity in recent times. Anyone who wants to learn UX design can opt for online courses and training programs. These types of courses are typically designed for a range of different expertise levels, ranging from beginner to expert-level courses. This learning path is especially beneficial for working professionals who don’t have the time or funds to dedicated to a college education, especially if they’ve already been down that path before. It can also benefit professionals who want to refresh their UX design skills.
Bootcamps – Bootcamps are a quick way to learn the skills required in UX design and prepare yourself for the job market. They’re an intensive learning route, but they can also be expensive. Before investing your time and money in a bootcamp, you should take the time to thoroughly research the available options. Since bootcamps condense learning material into a period of usually three to six months, you need to make sure you’re prepared to work hard for the designated time period.
Make sure that the bootcamp you’re joining provides you with the following:
- An up-to-date modern curriculum.
- The ability to work on real-time projects with real companies.
- Guidance in building a strong portfolio.
- Help with building a network of professional peers.
- Constructive criticism of your work.
For a high quality bootcamp that’s provides all of the above and more, check out Thinkful’s UX/UI Design bootcamp. You’ll pick up career-ready skills in five months, with one-on-one mentorship, interview prep and community support. Or you can knock it over in six months with the part-time version.
Certifications – Certifications are a great way to learn new skills and take away something to add to your resume. They can help you stand out from your competition and pave the way for new career opportunities. Various universities and platforms provide UX certifications. Some of the best ones are:
- The UX and UX Master Certification – Nielsen Norman Group
- The User Experience Design Immersive certificate – GeneralAssemb.ly
- Certified User Experience Analyst – Human Factors International
- Certificate in User Experience and Customer-Centered Design – California State University at Fullerton
- User Experience Research and Design Certification – Coursera
Can You Teach Yourself UX Design?
There’s recently been a rise in the number of self-taught professionals entering the field of UX design. Learning UX on your own requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and patience. There are many pros and cons to this mode of learning. It’s close to free of charge and allows you the flexibility of learning at your own pace. You can spend more time on your areas of weakness and design your own study schedule.
In spite of these advantages, self-learning can also be exhausting. Without a mentor to guide you in the right direction, you might end up wasting time on irrelevant resources. You might also fall behind because of the lack of structure and assignment due dates.
To succeed in this mode of learning, start by learning the basics of UX design. Don't tackle complex topics first. Start small. Ensure that you have UX design tools and resources at your disposal. and set deadlines to hold yourself accountable.
UX Designer Skills
UX design is a multidisciplinary field that requires you to have both the technical and soft skills necessary for the job. This includes:
- UX research
- Wireframing and UI prototyping
- UX writing
- Visual communication
- User empathy
- Interaction design
- Data analytics
- Communication skills
Ready to find out more about UX design? There’s no better way to prepare yourself than through reading about the experiences of others and the essential tips. Read more about this exciting field on our UX/UI blog.