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User Experience (UX) Designer

User Experience (UX) Designer

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The Builder
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The Creator

Spotlights

Various Titles within UX Team

UI (User interface) Designer, Interaction Designer, Visual/UX Designer, Information Architect

Job Description

A UX Designer works on websites, applications, intranets, online communities or software and they encompass one or more of the following elements (depending on the company):

  • Information Architecture: Designs the structure, the “blueprint” of the site (i.e. How the pages group together, navigation) that support the objectives of the system they are designing. What is the flow of users through our site? How does the software help the user catalog their information? How is that presented back to the user?
  • Interaction Design:  Organizes and labels the site to maximize findability (ability of user to find information on site) and usability (user’s ease of reach, use and understanding of site) for the user. There are five dimensions of interaction design: words, visual representations, physical objects/space, time, and behavior.
  • Visual Design:  Designs the “look-and-feel”. Works with the graphics, colors, typography, and images.
  • Front-end Code: Programs the code to produce the visual design.   
  • User Research: Provides an understanding of user behavior (what they need, what they want, what they think, how they interact with other people, and why).  Know how to get un-biased, pure feedback as best as possible.
Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Fun to build something you can see and use!  
  • Impacts daily life
  • Dynamic – ever-changing and exciting
  • Mix of creativity and technology – hybrids
  • Career is in demand and growing
  • People are always thinking of ways to do things better

“It’s fun. The great thing about design is that it is a fun field. You get to work with creative and passionate people. You get to build something that is totally satisfying at the end.” Ann Ku, Former Manager of Interaction Design, Hotwire.com

The Inside Scoop
Skills Needed on the Job
  • Graphic design skills (visual designer)
  • Strong conceptual skills
  • Empathy: Must understand the users’ needs and goals when they go on the site
  • Bring together several moving pieces
  • Ability to prioritize information
  • Team work: You are working with a multi-disciplinary group of people and it takes a team to create a good user experience.
  • Communication and Selling skills: Design is subjective so you need to clearly communicate and “sell” why your design decisions are the way to go.
  • Data analysis: Need to analyze and apply user feedback and research
  • Software: (visual) Photoshop, Illustrator; (front-end code) HTML, CSS, JavaScript, HTML5; (wireframing/ prototyping) Visio, Omnigraffle or Axure.  
Main Activities
  • Doing research (what other sites are doing, to get ideas), creating sketches (drafts, wireframes) to improve site, share with team (programmers who build)
  • User research: get people’s feedback.
  • Mixture of individual work and team work.
  • Project base work, deadlines
  • Have product working, prioritize what we need to work and then when do we want to get done.
  • Coordinate with lots of people, work on deadline.
  • Communicate and convince people (look at data), in the past we tried this layout and more people clicked on it.
  • Analyze data and show people that this layout worked and this one didn’t…
Different Types of Organizations
  • In-house startup: Ideal if you can wear many hats, longer hours.
  • In-house established company: Usually specialize in one of the elements, Usually regular hours.
  • Agency: Work for different companies, usually specialize in one of the elements.
Current Trends
  • Increasing UX design work in mobile, tablet, and social media.
  • Demand for user research (how to build user feedback into build, collect user data).
What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were younger…

“I was open to new ideas, was curious about how things worked and how to improve things.”

“I wanted to build something that was functional.”

Education and Training Needed
  • HS Diploma required.
  • For Visual Design: Associate’s degree or Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design, Art, Visual Design, or Computer Graphics.
  • For Interaction Design: Bachelors Degree in HCI (Human Computer Interaction), Interaction Design, or Psychology.
  • Highly recommend getting a degree. If not, must have a portfolio.
Top Educational Institutions

This is a new discipline that is still being defined in the academic setting.

Human Computer Interaction programs

  • Carnegie Mellow University
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • University of Washington, Seattle
  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • Cornell University
  • Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology
  • University of Art and Design Helsinki
  • Design your own major at Stanford University (includes classes in Product Design, Computer Science, Art, Psychology and Communication)
Things to do in High School and College
  • Create a personal website! – Design it, program it.
  • Volunteer to work on a website for your school or a non-profit organization.  
  • There are sites where you can build sites without having to code
Typical Roadmap
UX Designer Typical Roadmap
How to Land your 1st job
  • Build a portfolio: Don’t just show the final outcome, but also the sketches, flow, wireframes that you created to arrive at that outcome.
  • Network! : See if any of your LinkedIn friends have friends who work at the company you are interested in applying to.
  • Apply on jobsites: If you have a good portfolio, you can get an interview off a job posting. However, it is also good to network and know somebody at the company.
  • In the interview: Must be able to explain the thought process behind your design:  what was the goal of project, why did you choose this layout instead of another?, what other options did you consider? Need to clearly communicate your reasoning.  
How to Climb the Ladder
  • Need to be on the forefront of changing technologies: Design for Mobile, tablet, understanding social media.
  • Be passionate about design.
  • Go to conferences/talks.
  • Follow the trends in the industry.
  • See other sites that you like, sites that people are using a lot.
  • Get out there and talk to people.
  • Be and stay intellectually curious and educate yourself: This is a changing field so you must stay up to date with what’s going on in the industry and new trends and technologies.
  • Become a leader in the field: blog about your expertise, teach classes.
Recommended Tools/Resources

Articles

Associations

  • The Information Architecture Institute http://www.iainstitute.org/en/
  • Interaction Design Association http://www.ixda.org/

Books

Conferences

Programs

The Information Architecture Institute Mentoring Program http://www.iainstitute.org/en/members/mentoring/mentoring_program.php

Tools

Trade Magazines/Websites

Plan B

User Researcher, User Strategist

Infographic

Click here to download the infographic

UX Designer Gladeographix

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Online Courses and Tools