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Career Path: How to Become a UX Designer

Ranked by Forbes as one of the best jobs for work-life balance, working as a UX Designer offers many benefits. You get to interact with many professionals on different creative projects. And with millions of small and medium companies looking to increase their digital presence through websites, mobile apps and other digital platforms, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the employment for designers in the computer systems design service will grow by up to 20 percent—faster than the national average.

Getting Started

You do not need a degree to work as a ...more

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Career Path: How to Become a UX Designer

Ranked by Forbes as one of the best jobs for work-life balance, working as a UX Designer offers many benefits. You get to interact with many professionals on different creative projects. And with millions of small and medium companies looking to increase their digital presence through websites, mobile apps and other digital platforms, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the employment for designers in the computer systems design service will grow by up to 20 percent—faster than the national average.

Getting Started

You do not need a degree to work as a UX Designer, but having one in your resume will definitely help if you’re trying to break into the industry. A bachelor’s degree in graphic design, digital media, computer science or any design-related course will also be a huge advantage later in your career when you negotiate for a promotion or pay increase.

That said, at least one out of every six UX designers is self-taught. If you’re new to UX design, you can learn more about the field by enrolling for online courses that cover the subject. Look for online blogs and sign up for popular podcasts. Focus on learning the core principles of design to give yourself a good foundation. Some of the other minimum qualifications that you’ll need to succeed as a designer include:

  • Good visual awareness
  • Excellent communication skills
  • An eye for detail
  • An ability to meet tight deadlines
  • Good problem-solving skills
  • High concentration and an ability to stay focused on designs

Consider Design School

If college isn’t an option and you prefer a more traditional route to learning, consider signing up for a program at a design school. The upside to design schools is that they provide practical exercises and access to professional mentorship that can be invaluable moving ahead. Most design programs run between three to 12 months and offer a broad curriculum that covers the use of important applications like InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop.

Working as a UX Designer

UX designers work with different tools, applications and specialist software to create engaging designs. Depending on the size of the company, you may collaborate with a team of researchers and developers. In addition to creating intuitive layouts for mobile apps and tablets, your duties may also involve creating multiple mockups and visual concepts for clients. As you grow in your role and rise to mid-level position, you’ll take on more responsibilities such as ensuring that the final product design lines up with the company’s vision and core objectives. You may also be required to create multiple concepts for cross-platform compatibility.

Advance Your Career: How to become a Senior UX Designer

Depending on the size of the company, Senior UX Designers may supervise teams or head departments. Working in this position requires good leadership skills strong attention to detail and solid writing and speaking skills. While it typically takes five years to rise to this position, you can accelerate your rise by taking several career initiatives during your junior and mid-level years.

Consider Getting a Mentor

If you’re new to UX design, then having a mentor can help you avoid early mistakes or recover faster from rookie pitfalls. Your mentor doesn’t have to work in the office. You could check local design groups, online forums, social media or even design schools. Look for professionals who can give objective critiques of your design with constructive feedback.

Learn New Tools

Most UX designers work with the same set of tools, but there are career changing benefits to expanding your horizon and learning new tools. Keep an eye out for new wireframes trending within the industry and add these to your digital toolbox. Some tools may be better suited to a particular project but the only you’ll be able to leverage this advantage is by knowing what your options are.

Break out of Your Box

A great way to boost your career as a UX designer is to consider options outside your comfort zone. While it’s great to finesse you skills with design applications, you gain even more by expanding your knowledge with other elements in the development process. Take foundation courses in programming to improve your knowledge of languages like JavaScript and CSS or learn more about the process behind User Research. Knowing more about all the elements involved in product designs is even more critical if you’re hoping to become an IT manager or project manager.

Improve your communication

A large part of your work as a UX designer will involve communicating with team members and clients. Technical terms like phenomenology and heuristics may be okay to use within the company of other designers, but you’ll need to prune these out of your vocabulary.

Be ProActive and Expand Your Network

Junior UX designers often struggle during the initial stages of their career. Experts recommend that instead of avoiding difficult tasks, young recruits be more proactive and actually request for projects. Don’t be afraid to ask for design work—even if it does not fit in your job description. Designers who take the initiative are more likely to end up as lead designers.

Sign up with different online tech forums and following influencers on social media to stay abreast on industrial changes. Following UX groups on subreddits as well as design blogs. Having a wide network increases your visibility, making it that much easier for you to find potential job openings.

UX Designer Job Description

We’ve done the research for you. After evaluating numerous job descriptions, we’ve written our own representative job description for a mid-level UX Designer with between 2 and 5 years of relevant experience.

As a UX designer, you’ll be responsible for designing interfaces and graphic user elements like widgets and tabs. You’ll contribute to the development of the user experience strategy from the ground up while collaborating with the rest of the team. You’ll also be expected to translate UX research and concepts into sitemaps, wireframes, mockups and prototypes.

What We Need Your Help With

  • Planning and implementing new designs
  • Enhancing existing interface designs
  • Creating prototypes for new layouts
  • Coordinating with the team on issues like page design, page routing and navigation
  • Preparing customer analyses and conducting competitive analysis of websites or applications
  • Translating concepts into wireframes, mockups and prototypes
  • Assisting in the creation of a content developing strategy Testing new designs and ideas before implementing
  • Collaborating with front-end designers and UX researchers
  • Delivering user-centered and intuitive solutions
  • Creating design mockups for the design team
  • Communicating with clients
  • Making strategic decisions related to design functions and core
  • Creating reports for senior management
  • Tracking usability goals for the department

We Look For

  • 3+ years of experience working as a UX designer or similar role
  • 2+ years of experience with CSS3 and HTML5
  • Ability to explain design concepts
  • Experience working with standard UX software like Balsamiq, Axure, InVision, UXPin, Sketch and Framer
  • Extensive knowledge of mobile-first design and UX design best practices
  • Good understanding of the C2C marketplace
  • Effective communication, good time management and creativity
  • Good knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite, including Acrobat, InDesign, Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Illustrator
  • Experience designing complex solutions for digital environments
  • Ability to commit to 40+ hour work-weeks
  • An interest in staying updated with the latest design trends
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Design, Graphic Design, Digital arts or a related degree

These Would Also Be Nice

  • Knowledge of usability factors in human-computer interaction (HCI)
  • Good grasp of rapid prototyping, heuristic analysis and user-centered design (UCD)
  • Expertise in JavaScript
  • Experience with project management

Senior UX Designer Career Paths: Where to Go from Here

UX Designers enjoy a lot of flexibility with their jobs. After working as a UX designer for more than five years, some designers go on to launch successful freelancer careers or open their own studios. Your career at this point can go down several paths, depending on your interests.

Technical Path

If you have good programming skills and extensive knowledge of HTML, JavaScript and CSS, you could expand your job description from UX designer to front-end developer. Learning Python, PHP and Ruby as well as expanding your skills with servers would put you in the position of becoming a full-stack engineer, capable of working in front-end or back-end departments. You could even make the transition to mobile development or become a video game UX designer, where your responsibilities may include creating a functional interface for immersive gameplay. Although a bachelor’s degree in computer science is typically preferred for these roles, most recruiters are willing to overlook these when a candidate has extensive experience and a good grasp of the core industry concepts.

Manager Path

If you enjoy the experience of guiding and overseeing projects and you have good communication skills, you could work your way up the ranks, going from a UX Designer to UX Manager and then to UX Director. In a larger company, you could even forge a path towards the position of VP of User experience.

Working in these positions will require less time in front of a computer screen and more time engaged in meetings and managing schedules. For even larger companies, being a project manager may mean frequent trips between differing offices, conducting department meetings and creating regular reports of top execs. You can accelerate your growth to a manager position by completing an MBA or Master’s degree in a related field.

Going Beyond UX Design

After 10 years in UX design, you may want to consider options in a different field. For instance, with strong skills in graphic design and a bachelor’s degree, you’ll be well placed to make the transition to industrial design where you contribute to developing concepts for manufactured products. A career in this direction may require additional courses in three-dimensional modeling and computer-aided design and drafting (CADD). You could also make the shift towards becoming a graphic designer, multimedia artist or animator. The education requirements for these jobs are mostly similar, but you may need additional courses in related areas like animation to forge ahead.

You could also start a journey towards becoming an Arts Director, responsible for directing the visual production style at advertising companies, special design service firms and even TV companies. Ultimately, your decision should be one that takes into consideration your skills and career interests.

Adobe Photoshop is the mode widely used photo editing and image manipulation application in the world. It is used by designers and hobbyists worldwide to design products, advertising, applications, websites, art, and more.

"Agile Methodologies" or "Agile" are ways of describing an iterative approach to software development. Often adopted as an alternative to waterfall and other traditional sequential development practices. It is meant to help teams work quickly to i...

PHP

PHP is a widely-used open-source scripting language that has seen wide use in web application development. PHP code must be processed by an interpreter like the Zend Engine. With a strong open-source community and large adoption world-wide, PHP ...

JavaScript is a scripting language, originally implemented in web browsers, but now widely used server-side via the Node.js platform. It supports a runtime system based on numerical, Boolean and string values, with built-in, first-class support f...

HTML, or HyperText Markup Language, is a markup language derived from SGML, used to describe web sites and applications to be run in a common web browser. Invented in 1993 by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, HTML documents are broken up into HTML elements, w...

CSS

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) describes how HTML elements are displayed. Along with JavaScript and HTML, CSS is one of the cornerstones of front-end web development. CSS separates presentation and content, allowing styles to be defined and used t...

Python is an object-oriented programming language notable for its clarity, power and flexibility. Python is an interpreted language, meaning that an interpreter reads and runs the code directly, rather than compiling down into static lower level c...

Java is a statically-typed, cross-platform language. It is concurrent, class-based, and object-oriented. It has minimal implementation dependencies and compiled Java code can run on all platforms that support Java without the need for recompilat...

C++

C++ is an object-oriented language derived from C, and invented by Bjarne Stroustrup, while working at AT&T's Bell Labs. It is widely used for systems-level programming, and building applications on Windows and various Unix operating systems (Lin...

Top industries hiring UX Designers

eCommerce

The retail landscape has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Retail was once a brick-and-mortar industry, comprised of small, independently owned-and-operated businesses and large chain stores with multiple outposts throughout the c...

Education

The education industry involves working in an environment that implements and teaches various skills and applicable material. Formal education typically involves various levels of education, including preschool, primary, secondary, tertiary, vo...

Analytics

Analytics and Business Intelligence roles are often confused but are also directly linked. Data that is collected when a user interacts with a system is then cleaned and stored. That data is then accessed using reports and graphical dashboards. Th...

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