By now you’ve probably heard the term “user experience” or “UX” being thrown around. It’s become a bit of a buzzword lately.
But what does it actually mean, and what does it take to start a career in UX? Let's take a closer look at UX design, and what you need to know to land a job in this emerging field.
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What is UX Design?
Today, user experience (UX) has come to refer specifically to digital products: websites, apps, and software. Companies hire UX Designers to make sure their digital products are aesthetically appealing and easy to use.
Why Is UX Important?
Professional UX Designers strive to provide positive experiences that keep customers loyal to a product or brand.
The skillset of a UX designer can lead to a company's success over others in the market. With growing competition, organizations of all sizes need to make sure their sites and apps work flawlessly. It’s an added bonus if their online tools are actually memorable for customers, and enjoyable to use.
That's why UX designers have become indispensable. User experience is all about having empathy for the customer, and making sure the product is actually solving a problem for the target audience. Strong UX design is necessary in order for an online tool to be successful.
It’s easy enough to have a great idea for an app: but if that app isn’t built with the end-user in mind, then no one will download it, engage with the product or recommend it to others.
Skills Required for UX
UX jobs vary widely based on the industry. If you’re thinking about a career in UX, you should work on developing the following skills.
Wireframing and Prototyping: These are some of the most important hard skills needed for UX design. By creating wireframes and prototypes, UX designers can test their ideas quickly. It also helps to catch mistakes in the idea phase and test the practicality of each idea.
User Research: Strong UX is based on thorough and thoughtful user research. This helps you to understand and predict user expectations and needs. Interviews, surveys, and questionnaires are common examples of user research methods that will help to determine user expectations and needs, which in turn should inform the design of your product or service.
Communication: UX professionals need to communicate with clients and stakeholders a lot. You have to be able to present your ideas and prototypes in impressive, engaging, and convincing ways. That’s why great communications skills are essential.
Information Architecture: Information architecture involves organizing information in accessible and meaningful ways. There’s so much information available around us these days, especially on the internet. So it’s become crucial to keep information organized and structured.
Understanding how to use label systems, site maps, and navigational structures is a crucial skill for UX designers.
User Empathy: Understanding someone else’s perspective and their needs is vital to UX design work. Having this capacity will help you to design and create products and services that can solve unique problems and meet user needs.
Interactive Design: Excellent UX designers have the ability to consistently create interactive prototypes. This is because a prototype should be able to accurately display how a user will interact with a product. The quality of your work depends heavily on your understanding of how the customer views the product and feels about it, and your ability to incorporate that into an interactive design.
How To Get a Job in UX
There are no shortcuts to become a UX designer. You’ll need to study and work hard. Below are some useful steps that may help you in achieving a position in the field.
Read up: There are plenty of books about UX on the market, which will help you gain a better understanding of the field, the everyday experiences of UX designers, and the exact type of role you might want to pursue.
Blogs written by UX designers are another great place to read about real word successes and failures, which will provide you with great insights. Some industry reading may also help you decide if this is really the career for you.
Get a degree or certification: Most companies hiring UX designers will look favorably on tech-related qualifications, like computer science, IT, or computer programming.
But you don’t necessarily need a degree to get hired. You can opt for an online course or bootcamp, like our UX / UI Design program, which is offered in both a full-time and part-time format. This course will help you build an interview-ready portfolio and show your employer peace of mind that you have the cutting-edge design skills they need.
Work on your skills: Once you have the necessary qualifications, be sure to keep working on the crucial skill sets required for UX, like those previously outlined in this article. This will help you to stand out as a potential candidate.
Gain experience: If you’re after a good position with a reputable company that pays well, then you’re going to need some experience in the field. Freelancing is a good option to gain experience in UX design. Work on a few small projects as a freelancer, or apply for a UX internship.
Find that job: Once you have the right qualifications, skills and experience, finding a job shouldn’t be too hard. You might want to join a few online forums and communities to help you network with other professionals and find out about new opportunities.
Tools for learning UX
There are a few easily accessible tools that most UX designers are familiar with. Below is a list of the key tools that will help you while learning UX.
Proto.io: This tool lets you create innovative mockups that will assist in better communication and collaboration.
Figma: This is another tool used to create mockups and test usability. With Figma, multiple people can work on the same project at the same time, just like Google Docs. This facilitates easy accessibility and transparency.
Balsamiq: Balsamiq is one of the best tools for creating low fidelity wireframes. Its accessible to any skill level, so its especially useful for people who have no prior experience in wireframes.
Wireframe.cc: Another great tool for wireframes, especially if you want to keep it simple and straightforward. Wireframe.cc employs a minimalist color palette and the elements are simple rectangles, making it very easy to use.
InVision: This popular prototyping tool allows you to transform simple and static files into high fidelity prototypes. Other team members and clients can comment on the designs directly and share their views in real time. It gives you the ability to show your wireframes and prototypes to clients in quickly and effectively.
Adobe XD: This is a vector-based UX design tool known for its versatility. It provides features like prototyping, designing, collaborating, sharing, and many more. It’s also available as a mobile app. Adobe XD allows you to create wireframes, user flows, high-fidelity designs, interactive prototypes, and more.
Webflow: If you’re not an expert in HTML and CSS, Webflow is a great option for creating interactive and innovative prototypes. Its user-friendly interface allows you to create almost anything you can imagine. It also saves you time by generating code on its own.
Axure: This tool is useful for both UX and UI, helping you to create prototypes and keep track of workflow. High fidelity is its key point of difference, and it allows for easy collaboration with all users able to see changes and progress in real time.
Start Your UX Career
With the right skills, tools and qualifications, a career in UX is right around the corner. If you’d like to read more about UX, check out Thinkful’s UX/UI Design blog. You can also read more about career outcomes for this exciting study path.
Is UX design a growing field?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the fields of digital design and development are expected to grow by 8% from 2019 – 2029. That’s an accelerated rate compared to the average predicted job growth. So UX is a solid career choice and a stable field to enter.
Is there a free UX crash course?
You can find free learning resources, like e-books and tutorials, that will help you get a grasp of the basics. But if you want to change careers and break into UX, you’ll probably be better off with a paid, structured program to give you a complete introduction and support you as you learn.
Do I need to learn to code to become a UX designer?
While you may not use code on a daily basis, you should probably learn some basic coding skills in order to become a UX designer. This will help you better understand the capabilities and limitations of different coding languages, and will help you collaborate with the developers building your solution.
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