User Experience is one of my favorite things to talk about -- if that weren’t obvious enough to those of you who have seen me and Jessie-Lee Nichols tear apart the user-submitted websites during IMPACTs Website Throwdown!
Nothing excites me more than taking a deep dive into the usability and functionality of a website and, with a background in graphic and web design and years of experience as an inbound marketer, I have become quite good at understanding UX and its importance in creating a successful marketing strategy.
In this post, I will talk about what UX is as well as the incredible opportunities it has created for designers, developers, and even marketing professionals, especially in recent years.
There are tons of options for getting started in this fun, creative, and immensely important field, which we will also cover. Let’s dive in!
What is User Experience?
According to Wikipedia, user experience refers to a person's emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system, or service.
It includes the practical, experiential, effective, meaningful, and valuable aspects of human-computer interaction and product ownership.
UX focuses on the deep understanding of users; what they need, what they value, their abilities as well as their limitations as they relate to a given product, website, or technology.
At its core, UX is about ensuring the user finds value in what you are providing to them.
The graphic below is a visualization of the components that are necessary for creating a positive user experience.
You must come across credible and users must trust and believe what you tell them
These criteria work hand-in-hand to deliver the optimal experience to the end-user.
Think back for a moment to the last time you were delivered a site (or interacted with an app) that provided a less than optimal user experience.
For me, this was just a few days ago when I was searching for recipes from my smartphone.
I landed on a site with what appeared to be delicious recipes, however, it was not mobile responsive and instantly began to frustrate me.
Having to pinch and zoom to see what’s happening on a website is so 2008.
The less than ideal user experience quickly prompted me to bounce and continue visiting other sites.
The poor user experience mentioned above, as well as the infographic that I found A Guide to UX Careers, inspired me to write this post.
I stumbled upon this informative infographic while pulling together some resources to send to a friend who has interest in a career in web design, social media marketing, and/or photography.
When he and I were chatting, a career in user experience instantly came to mind and I started doing some research.
As mentioned above, UX is one of the fastest and most exciting segments of the interactive industry.
I have found, however, that it still remains somewhat of a mystery to those not actively working in the space.
What types of jobs can one get with a background in UX? What types of projects can one expect to work on? What’s the latest and great software for UX professionals? And what can one expect to make entering into this field?
Below is a breakdown of what I found.
What’s Driving the Demand for UX Professionals
In 2017, O’Riley published the 2017 Design Salary Survey that showed designers working in the UX space command thehighest median salary ($89,000 at the time).
The survey also showed that designers who are adopting new tools like Sketch, and agile working environments are able to attract the highest paying jobs, too.
So, what’s driving the demand for these incredibly talented designers, researchers, and analytics?
Well, I truly believe that it's the massive increase in interactive technology in our day-to-day lives.
There are now more websites, apps, smartphones, social media, and content at our fingertips than ever before and this massive increase has occurred mostly within the past ten years.
The need for user experience support on web-based projects (such as websites, eCommerce sites, and landing pages), advertising campaigns (such as banners, email campaigns, video game, surveys, and social networks), and client-side applications (such as mobile apps) is at an all-time high.
If you are interested in making a shift in your career toward UX, now is a great time to take that leap.
Not only are there plenty of opportunities, but there are tons of great trainings available online.
Here are a few UX/UI training course to check out, if you are interested:
UPDATE: I just discovered that Springboard (mentioned above) is now offering a UX Career Track Program. Its a 350 hour (or 6 month) bootcamp that focuses on doing rather than learning. I dug a little deeper into the new program and think its a great option for those who are serious about a career in UX, plus they guarantee you will find a job within six months of completion or they will refund your tuition! That's pretty amazing.
Common Skills of a UX Professional
While each job in the UX field is slightly different, below is a list of some of the most common skill sets that UX professionals tend to have:
Markup (e.g.HTML, XHTML, XML)
Page Layout/Interface Design
Image Editing & Production
Information Architecture/Wireframing/Site Mapping
Back-end Development (e.g. PHP, Ruby on Rails, ASP)
With these skills in hand, below are just a handful of the opportunities that can await you.
Job Opportunities for UX Professionals
The primary role of aUser researcher is to understand user behaviors, needs, and motivations through observation techniques, task analysis, and other feedback methodologies. Mike Kuniaysky, the head of UX design for PARC, refers to user research as “the process of understanding the impact of design on an audience.”
As a User Researcher, you would conduct user and task analysis to identify areas for improvement in the overall user experience and compile your findings to make meaningful and actionable recommendations to the design/development team.
Salary Range $80k - $117k
The primary focus of a Usability Analysts is to understand what the customer experiences as they interact with a software, app, website or other product/service. Until recently, Usability Analysts positions were typically found only in the web design world, however, the need for such a role has been popping up in other industries as a method for ensuring customer satisfaction and increasing sales.
As a Usability Analyst, you would interact with and evaluate what makes a website or other product function well and what could be done to improve the experience of the end user. Your finding are typically shared with the entire UX team and used to back up design decisions.
Salary Range $66k - $127k
The job of an Information Architect is to organize and create structure within the content of a website (or application) so the user instantly feels comfortable navigating and finding what they need.
As an Information Architect, you would focus not only on the target audience of the website or application, but also on the type of product or service being offered and generate the wireframes and sitemaps that ensure a positive user experience.
From there, the UX designer will use your mappings to buildout and plan a navigation system and, ultimately, the website or application platform.
Salary Range $80k - $126k
The role of an Interaction Designer is to focus on designing engaging interfaces with well-thought-out behaviors.
Understanding how users and technology interact together fundamental to this role.
As in Information Architect, you would use this understanding to anticipate how someone might interact with the system, fix problems early, as well as invent new ways of doing things.
You are the primary designer of the operational components of the website or application.
Salary Range $74k - $115k
The role of a Visual Designer is to focus on the aesthetics of a site or application and strategically (based on all the data provided by the User Researcher and Usability Analyst) implement images, colors, fonts, and other visual elements.
As a Visual Designer, you would be responsible for the graphical user interface of a given website or application, keeping in mind that successful visual design does not take away from the content on the page or the page’s function.
Instead, it enhances it by engaging users and helping to build trust and interest in the brand.
Salary Range $60k - $97k
User Experience Designers are often jacks-of-all-trades within the user-centered design process.
As a UX designer, you will be the one who drives the development and communication of the user design process for a given project.
You will participate in the research, analysis, development and testing phases of the design process.
Salary Range $73k - $110k
As you can see, there are many paths to choose from when it comes to a career in user experience.
The data-driven marketer may find themselves passionate about a User Analyst role or even a User Research role where a web or graphic designer may be more interested in Interaction Design, Visual Design, and UX Design.
There are even options for developers who would like to have a more creative role and provide input on the entire design process. They can; developers make great UX Information Architects, Interaction Designers, and sometimes even Visual Designers.
With our day-to-day lives being consumed by technology and interactive tools like smartphones, refrigerators that keep track of our groceries, and cars that drive for us, strong UX is more necessary than ever.
In fact, CNN predicts that UX Design jobs will grow at 22% between now and 2020, with over 2 million new jobs being created.
If you are interested in expanding your skill set as a designer, developer, or marketer, I encourage you to take a deeper dive into the career opportunities and roles outlined above.
You may even consider enrolling in an online course!
Whether you are a data-driven marketer more interested in research and analysis or a creative designer who loves to make things function (like me), take the leap and get yourself involved in UX, it may just change your career forever!