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How to Become a UX Designer

What Does a UX Designer Do?

Ready to start your career in Design? Find out more about BrainStation's User Experience Design Bootcamp

A UX Designer is focused on all aspects of a product’s development, including design, usability, funcion, and even branding and marketing. Their work touches the entire end-to-end journey of a user’s interaction with a product, and includes identifying new opportunities for the product and business.

As usability expert Jakob Nielson explains, “There is no single defining characteristic of user experience careers.” In 2014, Nielsen conducted a survey of approximately one thousand UX professionals, and discovered that they reported a whopping 210 different job titles, not to mention wide-ranging roles and responsibilities. This is because UX looks different at every organization and varies greatly depending on the nature of the product.

What Does a UX Designer Do Day-to-Day?

There are a few key aspects to the UX design process—a cluster of core activities and responsibilities – that make up the bulk of a UX Designer’s day-to-day work. According to the 2020 BrainStation Digital Skills Survey, UX Designers spend a significant amount of time working in each of the following categories.

User Research

Many people aren’t aware of how much research UX design entails. In fact, market, product, and user research are major components of UX design, as research is crucial to understanding the user and their individual needs. User research often focuses on the behavior, motivations, and needs of a customer to help the Designer identify what opportunities exist in a particular market for product solutions. Among the research methods UX Designers commonly use to gather information and insights about target users are data collection, surveys, user interviews, and focus groups.

Persona Development

The development of user personas is another crucial phase of the UX design process. During this stage, UX Designers consolidate and interpret their findings to construct representative personas based on patterns and commonalities in their research. Each persona communicates a potential user’s demographic information, motivations, needs, potential responses, and anything else Developers will need to consider—a useful tool that helps the organization gain a clearer picture of who they’re building the product for.

Information Architecture (IA)

Information Architecture describes the way in which information is mapped out and organized to communicate a clear purpose—in a word, how the information is navigated. Adobe defines IA as “the creation of a structure for a website, app, or other product, which allows users to understand where they are—and where the information they want is in relation to their current position.” This blueprint ultimately aims to optimize the way users encounter, move through, and interact with the product or site; with this in hand, the design team can begin building wireframes and prototypes.

Wireframing

As one of the first steps toward building the final product, UX Designers create wireframes—low-fidelity design sketches that represent different screens or stages of the product throughout the user journey. Wireframes include simple representations of UI design elements, which serve as a guide for further development and product design.

Prototyping and High-Fidelity Design

Compared to wireframes, prototypes are a higher-fidelity design of the product, which can be leveraged for user testing and for illustrating the product to the development team. UX Designers create these prototypes to have a look, feel, and range of capabilities very similar to the projected final product. Clickable prototypes allow test users to interact with the product—which lets UX Designers try out practical variations of the experience and identify areas for improvement.

User Testing

There are a number of ways that UX Designers can test products. User testing is one of the most common, and involves allowing users to interact with a prototype of the final design to analyze its accessibility, usability, and intuitiveness. But there are other methods as well; focus groups, moderated user tests, and unmoderated user tests all provide valuable feedback on what is and isn’t working. Ultimately, product testing is one of the last, crucial steps toward identifying what changes should happen as you proceed with development.

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