If you’ve got a natural flair for great visuals and a knack for solving puzzles, you could make a great UX designer.
A UX design career involves creating apps and websites that people love to use, and you need a unique combination of creativity skills and technical ability. In this guide we’ll explore how to become a UX designer.
What’s a UX designer?
UX designers – which stands for user experience – design websites and mobile apps that look great and are fun to use. They're also called product designers.
Their goal is to make sure that the ‘user experience’ for people using the app or website is as efficient, accessible and enjoyable as possible. They work with clients (businesses or individuals who want to make an app or website) to carefully target specific groups or ‘end users’.
They carry out tests in order to create, update and improve digital products – this includes how they look (visual aesthetics) as well as how they work (functionality). They aim to make each step of a user’s journey on the website or app as logical and fun as possible – no matter whether they’re using a computer, phone, TV or tablet. UX designers have a mix of technical skills, and visual and creative aptitude.
There are usually three general kinds of UX designer jobs, who work on different aspects of design. They are: interaction designers; information designers; and visual designers.
What do UX designers do?
The tasks of a UX designer will vary depending on the company they work for. They might be creating an online shop for the retail sector, for example, or designing an app for a charity that gives information and advice to the public.
Everyday tasks and responsibilities might include:
- Meet clients and talk to them about what they need and want for their new product (the app or site).
- Make a proposal to the client by sketching ideas both on paper and in apps / software.
- Create prototypes and ‘wireframes’ for the new product using a range of different software and digital tools. These will show the UX designer’s team and clients what the app or site will look like, and how the user journey will work.
- Build features for the new app or site, including user personas, user journeys and maps of the site.
- Work in a team with visual designers, product designers, engineers and project managers.
- Stay in regular contact with the clients to make sure the design is meeting their requirements and goals.
- Go to meetings to discuss how the project is coming along.
- Test the product with real users to make sure the app or site is informative, easy to use and engaging.
- Analyse issues then redesign the app based on the testing to make them better.
- Research users and their needs.
The starting salary for UX designer jobs at the junior level tends to be between £19,000 and £25,000, depending on where you work. Experienced UX designers can earn up to £50,000.
What skills are needed for a UX design career?
The characteristics, qualities and skills usually needed to become a UX designer include:
- Excellent attention to detail.
- Problem-solving skills.
- Good visual awareness and ability to understand and process concepts.
- Keen to learn new specialist skills and programmes.
- Good communication skills so you can discuss concepts with your team and then explain designs to your clients.
- Interest in design and coding.
- A logical and methodical approach so you can use a step-by-step approach to make sure designs are user-friendly.
- Good concentration and focus.
- People skills: you’ll work in a team with plenty of other professionals.
- Flexible and adaptable: you will work in a fast-changing area with lots of new technologies.
- Analytical thinking skills.
- Good numeracy skills.
- Able to take the initiative as well as follow briefs or instructions.
- Persistent and determined.
How to become a UX designer
You will often need a degree in order to pursue a UX design career. Relevant subjects include digital design, computer science, product design, digital marketing, media technology and graphic design. You’ll also need to know HTML and be able to use UX software. You’ll typically need two or three A-levels for these degrees.
You can also become a UX designer by doing an apprenticeship and then working your way up. There are creative and design apprenticeships in digital media, product design and graphic design. You’ll usually need five GCSEs at grade 4 or above to apply for an advanced apprenticeship; and you may also need A-levels to apply for a higher or degree level apprenticeship.
For either route, work experience will help set you apart when it comes to applying for jobs. Contact design agencies in your local area and see if you can volunteer your help in research sessions. Get proactive and teach yourself to code – check out these free online courses. Knowledge of development tools like CSS will also be important, as well as experience using Adobe Creative Suite. Collect your work together in a portfolio to show employers.