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What does a UX designer do? 

At a glance

  • A UX designer is responsible for creating a satisfying experience for users, including being accessible, useful and easy to use.
  • It’s easy to confuse “UX designer” and “UI designer”; a UI designer primarily focuses on the visual appeal of the application or software being worked on.
  • UX designers work on websites, applications and embedded systems.
  • Students can acquire UX skills through a Bachelor of Science in Computer
    Science degree
    at University of Phoenix.

What is a UX designer?

User experience (UX) focuses on each user’s interaction with an organization, business, product or service. According to Usability.gov, “At the core of UX is ensuring that users find value in what you are providing to them.”

Every business or service, from a retail shop to a hotel, provides a user experience to customers. However, in today’s digital economy, user experience design (UX design) is synonymous with mobile apps, websites, software, smart devices and other tech products.

UX designers ensure the app, site or other product or service is accessible, useful and pleasant to interact with regardless of each user’s limitations. Because of the increasing reliance on tech products in everyday life, UX designers are becoming more important to businesses and organizations. Here is a closer look at this growing field.

What is the difference between a UX designer and a UI designer?

UX design jobs are different from user interface design (UI) positions, which focus primarily on the interactive and visual aspects of the digital product but don’t consider overall usability. The terms “user experience” design and “user interface” design are often used interchangeably. But, as their distinct job titles suggest, they refer to distinct aspects of the digital product design process that play different roles in creating products or services. Here’s a breakdown of the differences between UX designers and UI designers.

User experience designer

A UX designer focuses on creating a seamless and meaningful experience for users when they interact with a digital product or service. This involves understanding user needs, conducting UX research, testing usability, and designing digital interfaces that are user-centered and have an intuitive and efficient information architecture. The goal of a UX designer is to ensure that users have a positive and satisfying interaction with the product.

Key responsibilities include:

  • Conducting user research to understand user behaviors, needs and pain points
  • Creating user personas and user journey maps to analyze interactions with the product
  • Wireframing prototypes to visualize the user flow and functionality
  • Testing wireframes and gathering feedback to improve the user experience
  • Collaborating with stakeholders, UI designers and web developers to implement the information architecture and final design

User interface designer

A UI designer is responsible for the visual and interactive elements — interaction design — or web design. They focus on creating aesthetically pleasing user interfaces that are easy to navigate and visually appealing. UI designers work on the look and feel of the product, ensuring that it aligns with the brand's visual identity.

Key responsibilities include:

  • Designing page layouts, color palettes, fonts and interactive elements
  • Creating high-fidelity wireframes and layouts to showcase the final design
  • Collaborating with web developers to translate designs into a functional product
  • Ensuring consistency in visual elements across the product
  • Paying attention to details that contribute to the overall user experience

Key differences include:

  • Focus: UX design emphasizes the overall user experience and how users interact with a product, while UI design focuses on the visual appearance and interactive elements.
  • Design vs. prototyping: UX designers often create wireframes and prototypes to map out user flows, while UI designers work on finalizing the visual design.
  • High level vs. detail: UX designers take a high-level view of the user journey, ensuring a cohesive user experience, while UI designers concentrate on individual visual elements and interactions.

UX and UI working together

While UX design and UI design play distinct roles in digital product design, they work closely together to create a comprehensive user experience. UX design provides the framework and functionality, while UI design enhances the visual appeal, usability, and interaction design. Together, they contribute to a user’s journey.

Education and training needed to be a UX designer

Educational requirements can vary depending on the nature of the role. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies web and digital designers together and states that requirements vary from employer to employer. However, consulting firm Nielsen Norman Group surveyed UX professionals and found that 82% had a bachelor’s degree.

General design or technology degrees provide an understanding of the technical aspects of UX. Students interested in in-depth technical knowledge, such as programming methods and languages, can pursue a degree in computer science. The advantage of a four-year tech degree is that it teaches a variety of in-demand technical skills, like software development and web design fundamentals.

Tech or UX design professionals in related fields, like programming, web development or graphic design, can seek opportunities to add to their skill set. Certificate programs, internships, UX design courses, UX boot camps and professional development courses can provide knowledge and skills related to user experience.

Responsibilities of a UX designer

The day-to-day responsibilities of a UX designer can vary slightly depending on the industry, office structure and platform type. However, many duties are the same regardless of the setting. These responsibilities may include the following:

  • Create sitemaps: UX designers follow user research to map out the screens and navigation flow for websites, apps or software. Developers and UI designers can use these blueprints as a guide for creating a user-friendly final product.
  • Create prototypes: Prototyping is an important part of the UX design process. You work with developers and designers to build a working test product. This prototype allows you to test usability and make changes before final publication.
  • Test usability: UX design requires extensive user testing. As a designer, you test the usability of your site or app yourself and get insights from other users.
  • Make improvements: After testing, you lead the effort to make UX-related improvements to the site. This step in the design process follows the prototyping, testing and debugging procedure before publication of final updates.
  • Research competitors: UX experts often look at competitors’ products and assess their usability with the aim of ensuring they are not lagging or missing a trend and are offering content, features or UX design elements to stand out from others.
  • Check accessibility: All users need to be able to access the site regardless of limiting factors. UX designers ensure compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Due to the Americans with Disabilities Act, some users have grounds for lawsuits if they cannot access a business’s website.

As a UX designer, your job can include other duties, such as writing for UX or commissioning website content, creating reports and communicating suggestions to decision-makers.

Where do UX designers work?

UX designers work in a wide range of settings. Most businesses and organizations rely on the UX of websites, apps and other digital platforms to communicate and interact with customers and users. UX designers help ensure the usability and overall value of these presences. 

One of the biggest advantages of a career in UX is the ability to find opportunities in almost any industry. Here are some of the most common examples.

  • E-commerce businesses: UX designers in e-commerce ensure the site, product listings and all connected features, like the shopping cart and payment processing systems, meet customer needs and expectations. In this job, you work closely with developers and designers and use analytics to track engagement and sales conversions.
  • Corporate websites: Corporations hire UX designers to ensure their websites provide the necessary information and interactivity to clients and customers. In addition to the design and usability of the site, you ensure users can find the information and features they need.
  • Embedded systems: UX design isn’t limited to websites and smartphone apps. Embedded systems — such as those used for smart refrigerators, climate controls or home security — require UX expertise. In this setting, designers are responsible for ensuring users have access to the necessary information and can intuitively control their systems via a display panel or phone app.
  • Software: UX designers work closely with software engineers and developers to ensure end users are able to operate the products effectively. With constantly updated software-as-a-service platforms becoming common, UX design professionals are becoming even more vital to software companies.

UX designers can find full-time employment with larger companies or work for a consultant or third-party service provider.

Should you become a UX designer?

You can consider a career in UX design if you enjoy user research, user testing, human-computer interaction, information architecture and other web-design tasks that combine creative and technical skills. While visual design abilities are important for UX design pros, you also need to understand accessibility, analyze user research and feedback and grasp the technical requirements of user interface and backend design.

When choosing a career path, you should decide if your skill set matches the job requirements. You should also assess the practical aspects of the job, like growth potential and salary, and measure whether you can realistically complete the necessary education.

Learn IT skills at University of Phoenix

If you’re interested in a career as a UX designer, University of Phoenix can help you learn the core skills in software development and web design typically required for this role. While UOPX does not offer a direct career path to becoming a UX designer, it does offer programs that teach graduates how to apply computer science theory to real-world business problems.

The University of Phoenix Bachelor of Science in Computer Science degree prepares students to analyze complex computing problems and apply development principles to produce computing-based solutions. Graduates will leave with skills that apply to a range of business IT needs and be prepared to pursue similar occupations to UX designers, such as software developers and computer consultants.

Students can also apply IT certificates to their computer science degree or pursue them as stand-alone certificates. For example, the University offers an Advanced Software Developer Certificate that covers topics ranging from introduction to software engineering to software architecture.

This is just a glimpse of what University of Phoenix has to offer in the field of computer science and IT. Explore what other IT programs are offered by visiting the UOPX website.

Headshot of Michael Feder

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and its Writing Seminars program and winner of the Stephen A. Dixon Literary Prize, Michael Feder brings an eye for detail and a passion for research to every article he writes. His academic and professional background includes experience in marketing, content development, script writing and SEO. Today, he works as a multimedia specialist at University of Phoenix where he covers a variety of topics ranging from healthcare to IT.

 

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