Health care, government, social media, software … sometimes, the systems and services that people rely on everyday can be complicated and confusing. User experience (UX) professionals know it doesn’t have to be that way.
Organizations everywhere are embracing user-centered design to understand customers and solve their problems. And that means there’s high demand for UX professionals, who strive to make products and services easy and delightful to use.
Jobs in User Experience Design
People who work in UX design use tested methods to research problems, analyze ideas and come up with human-centered solutions. These processes, such as design thinking, can help any organization make sense of ambiguity, according to David Kendall, a Seattle-area UX design principal for AT&T.
UX roles are usually part of a cross-functional team that might include a product manager, a content strategist and a software engineer. UX roles run the gamut from research and writing to design. If you're looking to get into this field, four UX jobs to explore include UX researcher, UX designer, interaction designer and UX writer.
1. UX Researcher
UX researchers collect and analyze data about what users need and want. They observe and interact with users to understand their behaviors and environment, conduct tests and gather feedback.
“They work a lot on identifying and developing a persona, creating that idealized view of what the potential user looks, feels and acts like,” said Kendall, who teaches in the UW's Certificate in UX & Visual Interface Design.
UX researchers may have a background in psychology or human behavior. They sometimes also research competitors and/or similar companies to inform potential designs or pitfalls, Kendall said.
2. UX Designer
Leveraging research insights, UX designers decide what product or service a company should create to provide the best customer experience.
UX designers are broad-minded problem solvers and must know the design process from end-to-end, Kendall said. They identify opportunities, pain points and design a product’s form and function. They may use design tools such as user journeys, wireframing and prototyping.
Some UX designers have training in design, but Kendall said the field is well-suited for generalists. UX designers don’t usually code. But it can be helpful to be familiar with how HTML and CSS work, since the job is to provide design guidance for engineers and developers.
3. Interaction Designer
Interaction designers focus on how users engage with a product to accomplish tasks. For example, they may decide how users will input data into a visual interface, such as using forms, radio buttons or drop-down menus on a website.
These designers spend a lot of time prototyping. They also work closely with visual designers on the look and feel of a product, such as aligning branding and graphics with interactive elements.
Most interaction designers use design software, such as Sketch, or prototyping tools, such as Axure. Interaction designers don’t always know HTML and CSS. But, Kendall said, those who do are positioned to bridge their career to related fields, such as front-end development.
4. UX Writer
UX writers focus on words that help users navigate information and accomplish their goals. They use research insights to understand what words will be most relevant to users — and what words to avoid.
For example, UX writers are responsible for microcopy on websites and apps. They write these brief words and phrases, such as menus, prompts, buttons, error messages and captions, to provide context and help users take action. Successful UX writing is strategic, clear and conversational, so users immediately recognize what they need to do, according to Torrey Podmajersky, author of Strategic Writing for UX and instructor for the UW's Foundations of UX Writing course.
UX writers work closely with UX researchers and designers, and they use design tools such as wireframes and collaborative software such as Figma, says Podmajersky.
UX Professionals are in Demand
Even though some industries are in an economic downturn, the future for UX and design careers looks bright.
“It’s a pretty good time for UX design, probably the strongest I’ve ever seen, even given the chaos of the last couple of years,” Kendall said. “There’s a strong recognition that design really provides a lot of value.”
In 2021, user experience professionals were named as one of the top rising jobs on LinkedIn. Recent job postings include numerous UX and design roles across the Puget Sound area, at companies such as Amazon, Expedia, Facebook, Nordstrom, REI, T-Mobile, Uber and many more.
New UX roles are emerging alongside digital innovations. For example, Kendall said, companies are now seeking UX designers to work on products driven by artificial intelligence, virtual reality and conversational UX, including chatbots and voice-enabled products.
How to Get Started in UX
Most UX design professionals work for software-driven enterprises, but technical skills don’t define the field. Rather, employers look for people with outstanding soft skills, such as curiosity, empathy and a genuine interest in solving problems, Kendall said.
“To have high emotional intelligence and be able to leverage the strengths of the team and work together is very, very important,” Kendall said. “The era of a solo design hero in an organization is long gone.”
As part of the interview process, employers are likely to ask UX job candidates for a portfolio of past work. Programs like the Certificate in UX & Visual Interface Design can help aspiring UX professionals build a portfolio of design work. Some graduates take their learning even further with a UW Master of Human-Computer Interaction + Design or a Master in Human-Centered Design & Engineering.
“Design is a pretty amazing field,” Kendall said. “Put together a portfolio of work and a body of knowledge, and go out there and compete with the best.”
Want to learn more? Check out these design-focused programs offered by UW Professional & Continuing Education: