What Does a UX Designer Do?

students learning about UX design and what the field involves

The term “UX design” was first coined in the 1990s by Donald Norman. Norman is a professor and design researcher who theorized upon the necessity of encouraging and supporting desired user behaviors through improvements in the user experience of a product. In short, UX design explores how users feel when interacting with a product, and UX design professionals seek to enhance products to create a more enjoyable user experience.

UX design is a fascinating career field that is multidisciplinary in nature. It blends aspects of psychology, technology, cognitive science, computer science and usability engineering. Because UX design is multidisciplinary, there are many degrees that could be considered UX design degrees, including computer science and web design degrees.

The Purpose of UX Design

Broadly speaking, the primary goal of UX design is to improve a customer’s experience of a product. That product may be either digital or physical. Because a user’s experience can encompass many different types of interactions with a product, a UX designer’s role is similarly broad in scope. These professionals are concerned with the entire lifecycle of the product, from the customer’s acquisition of it to how customers use every feature of the product to the ways in which customers might troubleshoot the product when something goes wrong. Branding, design, usability and function are all considered equally important in UX design. To accomplish their goals, these professionals must consider the “why, what and how” of the product. They may ask themselves questions such as the following:

  • Questions of motivation: Why would customers use this product? What pain point are they trying to overcome? What sort of enrichment do they want to bring to their life?
  • Questions of product usage: What can customers do with this product? What does this product offer?
  • Questions of interaction: How do customers interact with this product? Do users consider this product to be aesthetically appealing? Is the product accessible?

The Specific Job Responsibilities of UX Design Professionals

UX design professionals have a wide variety of job responsibilities that can vary depending on the specific company they work for and the types of products they design. In general, however, a UX designer will typically approach a new project by creating buyer personas. Buyer personas are customer profiles that both designers and marketers use to better understand the type of people who will buy the product.

As an example, let’s say the project is a new website intended to sell shoes and the buyer persona is Joan. Joan is a 30- to 40-year-old mom who enjoys physical fitness and is concerned about looking fashionable, yet also needs to stay within a reasonable budget.

After developing and becoming familiar with the buyer persona, the UX designer will consider how to apply its insights to the e-commerce website. This might include doing some beta testing on the website. The professional will make mock purchases while mimicking Joan’s behavior on the website in order to better understand how she would interact with it. As a result, the UX designer can identify Joan’s potential pain points and how she might want the website to be designed better.

Since Joan enjoys physical fitness, she might want to filter the available shoes by sport, such as hiking and running. Since she enjoys looking fashionable, she might also want to filter the shoes by color, brand or style. And because she’s a mom on a budget, she might want to filter the shoes by price range. All of these insights can help the UX designer identify ways to modify the website in order to improve the customer experience. Some of the other specific tasks a UX designer might do can include the following:

  • Conducting competitor research to better understand user expectations.
  • Establishing information architecture and creating user flows and wireframes to map out the user’s journey.
  • Developing product prototypes to enable simulation testing prior to product launch.
  • Performing user testing to identify design flaws that need to be fixed.

Note that UX design is not the same as user interface (UI) design. UX designers do not usually concern themselves with the visuals of the project. That task falls to UI designers, who choose color schemes, typography, icons and the final imagery.

The Pathways to Becoming a UX Designer

There is no single pathway to becoming a UX designer. Rather, there are many routes you could follow. Since many UX designers are hired to work on websites and apps, a degree in web design is a smart choice.

It isn’t typically necessary to earn a graduate-level UX design degree, and there are no specific certifications required. However, it’s definitely a smart idea to try to land an internship in the field. This will help you develop professional connections and learn important skills while on the job.

To prepare for your exciting career, you can establish a solid academic framework at Grand Canyon University. Our online learning community offers a number of UX design degree options, such as the Bachelor of Arts in Digital Design with an Emphasis in Web Design degree. Begin your pathway to success by clicking on Request Info above.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.

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