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How to Become a UX Designer

What is UX Design?

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

UX design—an abbreviation of “user experience design”—involves the interaction between users and a product or service, usually (but not always) in the digital space. In other words, UX design is the craft of making the user’s experience when interacting with a digital product as effective, efficient, and pleasant as possible: the process of building products with the user in mind.

This sweeping definition covers a wide range of considerations, including accessibility, ease of use and navigability, brand coherence and positioning, and general aesthetics. It also covers the users’ moment-to-moment reactions and how these add up to create the overall experience—both within a single product and across interactions with the company behind it, from initial intent to purchase through to product maintenance.

What Is the Meaning of UX Design?

At its core, UX design is the process of designing products and services that are easy to use and beneficial to the user, making the overall experience with your product enjoyable.

The term “user-centered design” was coined by Don Norman (the first person to hold the title of User Experience Architect at Apple) in his 1988 book The Design of Everyday Things. Norman defines UX as encompassing “all aspects of the end user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.” Given its overarching influence on the way consumers interact with brands, UX design has become an essential component of today’s business world, and is already changing the way organizations create their products and services.

What Is the Role of a UX Designer?

A UX Designer has to consider the “why,” the “what,” and the “how”:

  • Why would someone need this product?
  • What can they do with it?
  • How simple is it to use?

The “why” explains a user’s needs for a particular product. The “what” takes into consideration what a user can do with the product—that is, its features and functionality. And finally, the “how” primarily considers the experience: how customers will use the product, and what a UX Designer can do to ensure that the overall experience is as intuitive as possible. It’s not just about how a product, app or website looks, although that is an important aspect—it’s about how customers experience it, which also comprises usability and feel.

That makes UX design a “human-first” approach that often requires layers of research, prototyping, and testing, and a UX Designer role often stretches far beyond the scope of an individual project. “A given design problem has no single right answer,” writes Designer Farhan Khan. “UX Designers explore many different approaches to solving a specific user problem.”

With so many factors that UX design touches on—from branding to web and product design to usability—it should come as no surprise that UX Designers work closely with other related design fields, including:

User Interface (UI) Design

UI design concerns the stylization of the interface screens and touchpoints that a user encounters. As such, UI design involves specific visual design choices around typography; layout, images, and other visual elements; and micro-interactions, such as whether to provide a toggle or a button. Graphic design is nested in here as well; Graphic Designers’ contribution of visual elements—say, an illustration or newly redesigned corporate logo—is yet another piece of the bigger picture that UX Designers consider.

Interaction Design (IxD)

IxD overlaps with both UI and UX design, and some consider it something of a bridge between the two. IxD’s scope is broader than UI, as it involves the functionality and process flow of interface elements, so Interaction Designers typically lean heavily on front-end web development skills. Although UX design and IxD are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a distinction: IxD focuses squarely on the moments of direct interaction between user and product, while UX Designers see those moments as individual steps on a much longer journey of brand interaction.

In this way, a UX design role often incorporates many elements of UI design and IxD, but ultimately includes a broader scope of considerations, including those before and after a user interacts with a product. For this reason, UX Designers are often directly involved very early in the ideation phase of product development, and continue to consult right up until the product launches.

All that being said, there can be quite a bit of lateral movement between Graphic Designers, UI Designers, Interaction Designers, and UX Designers—especially for experienced Designers who have had the opportunity to build out their expertise in different areas—since many of the requisite skills are the same.

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