What Does a UX Designer Do? And How to Begin

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A UX designer carries out duties similar to both a UX engineer and a product manager. This UX designer guide from Coursera explains the UX tools and methods that designers use to create intuitive and engaging digital products.

[Featured Image]: UX Designer working with team members.

A UX designer's role is to take a user-centred approach and apply it to the overall design process. This includes wireframing, prototyping, user testing, and data analysis.

What is a UX designer?

A UX designer is a cross between a product manager and a user experience (UX) engineer. As a UX designer, you’ll work on complex digital products and services that are used by millions of people on a daily basis. Your job is to ensure your customers have a seamless experience.

While designing, a UX designer needs to understand how their product will be used by real people. It is important for them to know who these users are, what they want from their product, and why they want it. They need to consider their target audience in terms of demographics, psychographics, motivations (why they want what they want), goals, values, behaviours, and attitudes. They also need to get familiar with the brand identity (the core values of the company) as well as any brand guidelines. 

UX designers work in digital product development, creating the look and feel as well as user experience for websites, mobile apps, and software. UX designer responsibilities vary depending on where you're working and what your product's function is, but most of the time you'll be concerned with how customers interact with a website or software.

A UX designer wants to know: 

  • Are users getting stuck or frustrated? 

  • Are they spending time trying to figure out what to do next? 

  • Do they like the way your website or app looks, or do they hate it? 

  • And most importantly, are they able to complete the tasks you want them to and see the value in doing so?

What you'll do as a user experience designer

As a UX (user experience) designer, you are the link between what customers need and want and how their experiences will work. You'll work with business managers to understand their overall objectives, and then you'll turn that information into a working prototype. But before you can decide which features your users need, you'll need to clearly define the goals, objectives, and mission of the project. 

Then you will create wireframes (simple designs of each page of the website), and determine how users should navigate through the site to accomplish their goals and make a purchase. UX designers also:

  • Customise prototypes with different colours, graphics, and text to determine appropriate layouts for each part of the prototype 

  • Work with developers to fine-tune those designs into working code in order to present your findings to marketers and other business leaders so that the website can eventually be launched

You'll observe users as they interact with a product or service. Using this data, you'll confirm whether the design achieves its intended purpose, then document and communicate your findings. You may create storyboards, mock-ups, prototypes, or diagrams of user flows, or you may develop personas or scenarios to help make sense of the data.

The first step to becoming a UX designer is to make sure you understand what this job entails. It's not just about visual design, but rather a focus on how something works and how people interact with it.

A good way to understand this concept is to think about the phone in your pocket. The hardware itself is the interface that you interact with in order to use the device, but there are also tons of apps that help you get things done. 

A good user experience designer helps determine how easy or difficult it is for a user to complete tasks both within and outside of an app. For example, it would be a good UX design to allow users to clear their notifications by swiping down on their device home screen—but it would be a bad design if they had to go into each individual app in order to accomplish that task.

UX design glossary of terms

The vocabulary of UX design is used to describe the various components that go into designing a successful website or software application. 

While you don't need to know every term, these are some of the most important words you'll run across as you research UX careers:

  • Information architecture (IA): This describes how content is organised on a site, which includes grouping together similar topics and subtopics, arranging things in an intuitive way so people can find what they're looking for, and having a consistent navigation bar or menu on every page.

  • Mockup: This refers to rough sketches of the site plan. You can create mockups using simple tools like Microsoft Word or PowerPoint, but you can also use more sophisticated software for this purpose.

  • Persona: This refers to a fictional person who represents your target user base. Personas help designers better understand users' needs by imagining what those users are like — their hobbies and interests, age range, job description, where they are accessing your platform from, and the device they are using.

  • A/B testing: A/B testing is a form of experimentation in which different versions of a webpage or product interface are shown to subsets of users, and the most popular version is used. A/B testing can be used to optimise conversion rates, test the effectiveness of various design elements, and improve user-friendliness.

The term "A/B testing" comes from experimental research designs in which two groups called "A" and "B" are compared against each other. In a well-designed experiment, both groups are exposed to the same variables (e.g., different website designs).*

  • Accessibility: Accessibility refers to the design of products that people with disabilities can use.

  • Card sort: A card sort is a method for understanding human classification behaviour. It typically involves giving people physically printed cards that they sort into groupings on their own. The results are used to generate an information architecture for a website.*

  • End-user: An end-user is any person who interacts with a product or service during its existence. The end-user doesn't have to be the ultimate consumer of the product or service; it may be an employee of the company that produces it.

  • Prototype: A prototype is a preliminary model of something. In the design process, it's usually the next step after an idea has been generated and we (designers) know what to design. Most often, designers create prototypes to check our ideas before moving forward with a project.

  • User flow: User flow is the path that users take in your app from the very first moment they discover it to when they become regular active users. It's all about getting people from A to B as easily as possible. This could mean showing them how to find a specific feature or setting, or it could be something more general like helping them navigate between your main menu pages.

  • Wireframe: A wireframe is a visual guide used in the planning stage of website or app development that defines the structure of pages and their content before you get into design mode. Wireframes are created using tools such as Balsamiq or Canva and are perfect for working out which elements need to go where on your site and how they link together.

UI vs UX: Are they the same?

The terms UX and UI are often used interchangeably, but they are two different things.

  • UI refers to the look and feel of a website, app, or software. It includes elements such as colours, imagery, typography, icons, and buttons.

  • UX is what the user interacts with. This is the way they navigate an app or website and how they use it to interact with the business. It can also include the user's reaction and emotions to using an interface.

Here are some of the most common job titles for UX designers:

  • UX Researcher

  • UX Analyst

  • UX Architect

  • UX Designer

  • Product Analyst

  • Interaction Designer

  • Service Designer

  • Usability Specialist

Related Roles

  • UX Architect – A UX Architect is a senior-level designer who is the lead designer and is responsible for the overall end-to-end user experience and interaction design of a product.

  • UI Designer – A UI Designer is a designer who specialises in User Interface (UI) design. This includes designing the layout of forms, buttons, fields, and other GUI elements.

  • Visual Designer – A Visual Designer is a designer who specialises in graphic design and illustration. Depending on the company, they may be responsible for creating icons, shots, illustrations, and more.

  • Product Designer – A Product Designer is a designer who specialises in product design that focuses on the look and feel of a product and involves working closely with business stakeholders to understand their needs and provide solutions to their problems.

What is a full-stack UX designer?

The term "full-stack designer" refers to someone who has comprehensive knowledge or experience in multiple areas related to their field of work—as opposed to being an expert in just one area. 

A full-stack UX designer is expected to be able to do everything from observational research, conducting surveys and interviews with users, creating wireframes and prototypes using a prototyping tool, conducting usability tests, and presenting data from all of those activities in a meaningful way at the end of the project.  A full-stack UX designer must also be good at communicating with clients about every aspect of the project throughout the process—not just presenting findings at the end.

What does it take to be a UX designer?

To succeed as a UX designer, you need an eye for design and a talent for explaining what you're doing and why. You also need the willingness to keep learning and to work collaboratively with teams of people who aren't designers. And you should be able to communicate well, both verbally and in writing.

Working in UX design you should have an understanding of user psychology, interaction design principles, information architecture, and visual design. You should be able to conduct research, analyse results and present their findings in a way that communicates to stakeholders. In short, they need to be able to think like both a designer and a researcher.

UX tasks and responsibilities

If you're looking for a job in UX design, it's a good idea to know what companies will expect of you. Whether you're applying for a full-time position or are just starting out on your own, here is what a UX designer typically does.

Technical skills of a UX designer

Trying to learn everything about every software tool on the market is not necessary. But there are some essential technical skills that every UX designer must have.

Wireframing: The only way to know if your design will work is to build it. Wireframing is the process of creating low-fidelity mockups of your design before you've invested time or money into building it. It's a way of testing your ideas and making sure they'll work in practice.

Prototyping: Once you've got something worth showing, it's time to make your design interactive—wireframes aren't enough. Prototyping involves creating virtual models of your design so users can interact with them and give you feedback.

Research and data analysis: A good UX designer has to be able to research their target audience and understand what it is that people want. This can be done through online surveys, face-to-face interviews, and even simple conversations with friends or family members. They then have to be able to analyse the data they gather and make sense of it all. If you do not know how to do this, you will find it very difficult to create great designs.

Basic coding skills: Coding skills are not essential for everyone but if you work in a tech company it is highly likely that at some point you will need them. Even if you only have basic coding knowledge, it can come in handy. It won't just help you improve your UX designs but could also get you a job.

Ideation visualisation: No matter how well you think you understand the needs of your users, talking to them directly is always better. Whether it's user testing or just asking friends for feedback, listening to and analysing their thoughts will help you refine your designs further.

Project skills for UX designers

The top soft skills required by employers in the UX field include communication, project management and team collaboration.

Communication: Communication is one of the essential skills for any job. UX designers must be able to communicate effectively with clients, colleagues, and team members. This means being able to listen actively, ask questions, and speak clearly in writing and verbally. In addition, being organised and making clear decisions are critical communication skills that can help make your work more effective.

Project management: A project manager's responsibility is to plan projects while considering customer goals, budget concerns, and other constraints. A good project manager understands how each project fits into the company's overall plan and works with team members to complete each project on time and within budget.

Team collaboration: UX designers must be able to work cooperatively with others on a team to achieve a common goal. Working collaboratively requires listening to others' ideas, coordinating schedules with teammates (including working remotely), and providing constructive feedback for better teamwork.

Requirements to become a UX designer

Curiosity: Curiosity is a prerequisite for a good UX designer. They must always be interested in learning more about users' needs and desires as well as new technologies that will help them achieve those aims.

Creativity: Creativity is not only important for visual designers but also for UX designers because they use it to develop innovative solutions

Why choose this career path?

If you're still not sure whether a career in UX design is for you, here are eight potential reasons why you should become a UX designer: 

  1. You get to work with cool technologies. 

  2. You get to solve problems that actually matter, and make people's lives easier. 

  3. You get to see your designs come to life and make an impact on other people's lives. 

  4. You have an opportunityget to work with smart, talented, and motivated people who are just as passionate about the design field as you are. 

  5. You can earn more than £59,951/yr if you work hard enough and your skills are good enough [1]. 

  6. You can help startups or small companies save money by designing their websites/apps/products better. 

  7. You can travel around the world and work from wherever you want with today's technology (websites, emails, messaging apps). 

  8. You can have a lot of fun doing it!

How do you get started as a UX designer?

There are severala lot of paths to becoming a UX designer. You maycan be someone who has been designing for a while and just wants to add UX to your skillset. You can be a graphic designer, an architect, someone in industrial design, or even a developer. The point is, if you're passionate about human-centred design and have the ability to see the big picture, you can make the shift over to UX design.

Why a career in UX design?

There are a lot of reasons why you might want to pursue a career in UX design. You might want to be a part of the exciting, innovative field that is constantly changing and evolving. You might want to be a part of the new design revolution where an entire industry is trying to make things better for its customers. Or perhaps you are just seeking a well-paying job with good growth prospects.

Whether or not this is the right fit for you depends on your personality, interests, and reasons for wanting to pursue a career in UX design. Are you good at interacting with people? Do you enjoy solving problems? Are you creative? These are all traits that will help you succeed as a UX designer.

UX design is a hot field and a great place to be right now. It's a well-rounded skill set that allows you to do more than just design pretty visuals. You can have an impact on the way your users interact with products, which is invaluable.

Salaries earned by UX designers

According to Glassdoor, the average UX designer salary in the UK is £59,951/yr. The lowest 10 percent of salaries reported by users are around £34,000. The highest 10 percent of salaries reported by users are around £105,000 [2].

As a UX designer, you can choose to specialise in a certain field, such as information architecture or usability analysis. As you gain experience, you’ll advance within your specialisation to become a subject-matter expert or take on a managerial role.

Growing career opportunities

Companies are rapidly adopting UX design in the process of creating their products. More and more companies are making UX designers a key player in the process, as it became clear that quality and user experience has a direct correlation with sales.

How to get started

Despite the fact that recruiters and employers are finding it harder to evaluate the skills of UX designers, there are still a lot of people who aspire to be one.

Because UX design is a relatively new field, many people don't know where to start when they want to become a UX designer. Here are some tips to help you become a UX designer:

1. Take a course in UX design.

Most universities now offer courses in UX design as part of their business or computer science curriculum. You can also find courses online like the Google UX Design Professional Certificate.

2. Practice your skills in the real world.

The best way to learn how to become a UX designer is by doing it for real, so look for opportunities for internships or apprenticeships with experienced designers. If you have trouble finding them, create your own project and put it online as a portfolio piece.

3. Build a design portfolio.

Your portfolio will help answer questions about your current level of skill and also help you showcase yourself when looking for work as a UX designer. Your portfolio should include examples of projects you've worked on, any designs you've created, information about the people you've worked with, and testimonials from colleagues and clients.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Article sources


Designlab. “What Salary Can You Expect as a UX Designer? (Updated for 2022), https://designlab.com/blog/ux-design-salary/." Accessed August 11, 2022.

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