The Usability Guide to Becoming a UX Designer

UX design is an interesting new career that involves designing with the consumer or user in mind. UX designers make sure that websites, apps, products, and even packaging are easy and pleasing to use. It's a type of design that hasn't been around for long, but in recent times had become an important aspect for many companies. Employers are hiring people specifically to do this job, assuming web developers and other designers won't necessarily have UX skills. If you’re interested in a career that is creative but challenges you to be empathetic and figure out what people want, you need to know how to become a UX designer.

What is UX Design?

UX design is user experience design, and it refers to designing with people in mind. Companies want users and customers to have positive experiences with their websites, apps, and products. They hire UX designers, or graphic or product designers with UX experience, to make sure their products and websites are usable, clear, pleasing, and all-around positive for consumers.

A UX designer does many things to ensure a positive experience. They do research to find out who the typical users are. They create personas for these users as well as scenarios and storyboards to better understand them. They then design web pages, applications, and products with information about users in mind, striving to make the user experience positive. They also conduct user tests, to make sure the designs are what users want.

How to Become a UX Designer

This is a career that is focused on other people, but it also requires solid design and software skills. You need to be one part graphic designer and one part psychologist, doing the research and figuring out what makes people satisfied with a product or application. To get into this exciting new career, take a few simple steps:

  1. Get an education in design. You may be great at figuring out what people like and want, but if you don’t have a design education, you won’t have the skills for UX design. Get a diploma or degree in graphic design or web design so that you have solid skills in creating graphics, web pages, apps, products, and packaging. This will also give you the necessary technical skills, such as the ability to use design software, and a good background in the basic principles of design that you will use in a career involving user experience.
  2. Work with a mentor. Whether you find a mentor through your design program or elsewhere, this is an important step. UX design is still a new career, so you won’t likely find a program that specifically teaches you how to do this job. In addition to your background in design, you can greatly benefit from working with a mentor, someone who has worked in UX design and can guide and help you learn more about this career. A good mentor will also help you network and eventually find a job in UX design. Speak with your instructors about how they can help you find someone willing to mentor you.
  3. Create and work on UX projects and develop a portfolio. Long before you get hired by a company to work in UX design, you need to have some UX design experience. You need something for your portfolio that will show you can design for user experience, and to get that you may need to make up a project. Design a fake app, create a layout for a pretend website, or even build on one of your design class projects to cater to a specific user experience. This will give you something to show future employers. As you create your design portfolio through doing class projects, be sure to include elements of UX design, demonstrating how you used UX principles in all the projects you completed. Be sure to also highlight any reseach or user insights that helped shape the design.
  4. Keep learning and keep reading up on UX design. Your design program may not have any classes on UX design, but you are likely to touch on the subject in some of your classes. If you want to specialize in this kind of design, that may not be enough. Take your education into your own hands and read as much as you can about UX design. Read UX blogs and websites as well as books on the topic. Look for online classes you can take to add to your skill set and resume. Classes that are specifically about the principles of UX design will be helpful.

The Market for UX Designers

Many UX designers have a background in web design or graphic design. Both of these careers are growing according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Web design is growing particularly fast, with plenty of opportunities for new positions in the coming years. There are many opportunities for people who specialize in UX design, whether they are first graphic designers or web designers.

As companies strive more and more to make sure their consumers and users have a positive experience with products and websites, this specific career in UX design is expected to continue its grow. It's also a lucrative career if you have the right skills and experience. UX designers on average earn about $95,000 but can earn upwards of $150,000 per year.

Learning how to become a UX designer is pretty straightforward. If you have a solid educational background in design and make the effort to learn more about UX design, as well as working with a mentor, you can easily get into this rewarding career. Start with your education and build a foundation as a creative and technological designer. Look for graphic design or web design programs near you to get your career off the ground.

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