How to Become a UX Designer: Skills, Requirements, and Career Guide
Are you fascinated by how people interact with technology? Do you have a passion for creating beautiful and intuitive user interfaces? If so, a career in UX design may be the perfect fit for you. UX designers play a critical role in designing and optimizing user experiences for a wide range of digital products, from mobile apps and websites to enterprise software and e-commerce platforms. They work closely with stakeholders, developers, and other design professionals to identify user needs, design user interfaces, and conduct user research to refine and improve the user experience.
If you're interested in becoming a UX designer, this guide is for you. We'll walk you through the essential skills and requirements for the role, as well as the various career paths and opportunities available to UX designers. We'll also provide tips on how to break into the industry and advance your career over time.
What is a UX Designer?
UX is short for "user experience," which indicates the field around how people interact with the specific technology.
Conversely, UI is short for User Interface. Usually jobs will list as UX/UI, so it's good to be versed in both. A UX designer will communicate ideas with team members through flow charts, wireframes and finally fully fleshed visual designs. This job requires collaborating with teammates to discover and improve ways with which users engage with the site experience.
A design project will start with a collaboration of UX researchers, product managers and analysts to identify user needs. After fleshing out an idea, the UX designer is the primary contact responsible for the product and showing off what the new experience will solve.
*UX designers are different from visual designers in that they are mostly focused on an experience, rather than a graphic or image.
Responsibilities of a UX Designer
What does a UX/UI Designer do?
UX designers will often work on a project basis, and projects can range anywhere from a few days to several months. A project will start with a collaboration of UX researchers and product analysts to identify user needs. A day to day of ux designer will depend on where they are in the design process, fleshed out below.
A project begins with an initial ideation phase, where the UX designer collaborates with other team members to showcase the biggest issues in the current experience. This collaboration often happens with the entire product team, and is based on a mix of qualitative and quantitative data. The UX designer will mock up wireframes to show the team potential solutions to the concept while focusing on the problems the new experience will solve. This will often take several rounds of feedback to accommodate for all scenarios and inputs. These are called "Feedback Rounds."
After securing team and leadership buy-in for a project solution, a UX designer will begin the visual design process. This includes mapping out each screen of the experience and noting the interaction elements involved. Often this comes with cross-functional team collaboration with copywriters, photographers, and legal teams (occasionally). The project or product manager usually facilitates all visual feedback rounds.
After these rounds have been completed, a UX designer will present the designs in a prototype format to a developer to be implemented for the product. There is ongoing communication between the UX designer and engineering team to achieve the desired experience.
UX Designer Team Members
If you're unsure that product analytics is right for you because of the math, or whatever issue, check out the roles of a UX Researcher, Project Manager, or even a Product Manager, and maybe even get a little freaky and look at a frontend engineer.
Do I need a degree to be a UX Designer?
Absolutely not! This is actually a great role that is not even usually offered in traditional education systems. This makes it slightly more competitive, but with the right preparation you can set yourself apart. lmi offers
If you are lucky enough to have a degree, this job fits great with both psychology and fine arts fields. Psychology degrees in particular often do well in these positions because they’re able to understand and focus on the “why” behind user interactions and enjoy the act of designing for user experience. Fine arts are great because any art background can help with designing for users, though definitely not necessary to be successful.
Truthfully, the best ux/ui designers we've ever worked with do NOT have degrees!
If you're new here to bridged, we're glad to meet you! We are huge fans of alternate forms of education, and recommend specific certifications to target skills. While this job works great with degrees, you have other options.
Do I need a bootcamp to become a UX Designer?
Bootcamps are great intros to the field of user experience, full stop. But they are extremely time consuming and expensive.
We believe you can learn just as much from using a tool like bridged or Coursera to identify and learn skills at 1/10 of the cost of a traditional bootcamp. If you have the resources to access a bootcamp, they often come with connections and suggestions that help catapult your career.
However, if you are highly motivated and don't mind self-paced learning, you do not need a bootcamp to be a successful UX designer.
Our Favorite UX Designer Certifications
UX Design Professional Certificate
This is an extremely popular and well-recommended program within the industry. It's so popular though, that completing it alone will not help you get hired. We recommend using this program to learn the ropes, but subsidizing your learnings with other portfolio work.
Overview of UX Design
This course is great if you're new to the tech world and interested in learning about more options than just UX design.
LinkedIn Learning subscriptions are great for exploring many options with one cost.
The Ultimate Guide to Usability and UX
Join more than 20 thousand other students and build your user research and UX design skills with this hands-on user experience training course. You could also pair this with a Figma class to really round out your learning.
Salary and Career Potential
What is a UX Designer's salary?
We've aggregated thousands of salaries across glassdoor and linkedin, and ux designers can make anywhere between 75k - 95k, depending on their location and skillsets.
Career Path of a UX Designer
While this sample career path is very common in the tech industry, ux designers can have a range of roles and responsibilities. Often UX designers transition into other product roles, and sometimes even research roles!
- UX Designer, or Junior UX Designer: Spend about 2-4 years at each level here.
- Senior UX Designer, or UX Researcher: Spend about 3-5 years here.
- Design Manager, or Research Manager: Spend about 5-10 years here.
- Director of UX: This one is tricky, but most folks spend roughly 4-6 years here.
Job Requirements and Skills
Popular Job Description for a UX Designer
We've used AI to aggregate the top job descriptions used by hiring managers looking for UX Designers. When putting your resume together, try to mimic these listings. To learn more about this process, check out our partner Jobscan for a comprehensive resume review.
- Conduct user research and usability testing to inform product design and development
- Design and prototype user interfaces for mobile apps, websites, and other digital products
- Collaborate with stakeholders, developers, and other design professionals to ensure user needs are met and design requirements are understood
- Develop user personas, user scenarios, and other design documentation to inform the design process
- Use industry-standard design tools, such as Sketch, Figma, and Adobe Creative Suite, to create high-fidelity design deliverables
- Stay up to date on emerging trends and best practices in UX design, and incorporate them into our design process
- Participate in cross-functional design reviews, and provide feedback and guidance to other designers on the team
Top Technical Skills of a UX Designer
We've compiled thousands of job descriptions for designers to record the most common requirements to save you time. While preparing for interviews, keep in mind specific times you've demonstrated these skills.
- Quickly test hypotheses with prototypes and minimum viable products (MVPs)
- Identify target users and assist with interviews or other types of data gathering to help articulate user needs
- Collaboration with engineering teams to ensure that design concepts are feasible and implemented correctly
- Produce high-quality solutions through deliverables like customer journey maps, prototypes, storyboards, site maps and wireframes
- Moderated Prototype Evaluation
Top Functional Skills of a UX Designer
We recommend getting familiar with different types of customer questions if you plan to pursue a career in user experience. If finding these answers seems interesting to you, read on!
- Awareness of accessibility, mobile-responsive designs, and best-in-class solutions
- Collaborate with the team and our clients to identify the right solutions and products to build
- Provide guidance on UX research techniques and testing
- Have a compelling portfolio that demonstrates attention to detail and highlights a deep understanding of product design
Top Tools of a UX Designer
We've also compiled the most common tools listed in job description. If you're serious about becoming a product analyst, get familiar with these and be ready to talk about them.
For Gathering Qualitative Data
For Prototyping & Design
- Adobe Suite
For Portfolio Creation
For Task Management
Key Traits of a Successful UX Designer
Design Thinking - UX designers should be familiar with design thinking, a human-centered approach to problem-solving that involves iterative cycles of empathizing with users, defining problems, ideating solutions, prototyping designs, and testing with users. By using design thinking processes, UX designers can develop design concepts and solutions that meet user needs and align with business goals.
Attention to Detail - UX designers need to have a sharp eye for small details that can make or break a user's experience with a product. This includes paying attention to typography, color, contrast, layout, and other visual elements that impact the usability and aesthetics of a design.
Resilience - UX designers need to be able to adapt to changes in scope, feedback from stakeholders, and shifting priorities while still delivering high-quality design work. This requires a certain level of resilience and flexibility to handle the inevitable ups and downs of the design process and work collaboratively with others.
Curiosity - UX designers should be naturally curious and driven to understand user needs and preferences. They should be constantly seeking out new ways to improve the user experience through user research, data analysis, and experimentation. This involves a strong sense of empathy, an ability to listen and observe users, and a willingness to challenge assumptions and seek out new perspectives.
Critical Thinking - UX designers need to be able to think critically to prioritize design solutions and solve problems for users effectively. This involves analyzing user feedback, business requirements, and design constraints to identify the most important design problems to solve. It also requires the ability to generate creative solutions and evaluate them objectively based on user needs and business goals.
Creative Visualization - UX designers should have excellent visualization and presentation skills to communicate their ideas effectively and create engaging, intuitive user experiences. This includes the ability to sketch, wireframe, prototype, and create high-fidelity designs using industry-standard tools such as Sketch, Figma, or Adobe Creative Suite. It also involves the ability to present design solutions to stakeholders, team members, and clients in a clear and compelling way.
Get UX Design Experience
How to get experience as a UX/UI Designer
Learning on the job is one of the fastest ways to get familiar with new topics, and showing is much better than telling. Use a tool like Figma or Sketch and look at their UI kits and templates to find one you like and use it as a jumping off point. Most ux/ui design jobs require a portfolio, and unlike cover letters hiring managers often DO look at them.
We recommend reaching out to your community! Ask to redo websites pro-bono. You will learn much more from doing real work than reading about it or watching videos. If a local company bites, ask to interview their clientele! Perform prototype testing! Keep tabs on the things you're doing for a portfolio review in future interviews.
Even if your work is spec (speculative, meaning not for a company) work, having professional-looking fake work in there shows you may be worth the shot. The other bonus about spec work is your can work on what inspires YOU, instead of what a company might need.
This spec/real work is usually compiled in a site creator like Squarespace, Wix or Webflow (our fav), and tada! You have a portfolio. Read on for popular tools and classes to get started.
Some spec work ideas for your portfolio:
- A mobile application for a delivery service
- A website for your favorite local business
- A platform application for a budgeting tool
Spec work is awesome, but UX design is extremely competitive and we're always looking for ways to help you stick out.
It's absolutely no secret local businesses are struggling. If you have a favorite one, whether it be a restaurant, bar or pet groomer, we encourage you to think about completing some spec work on their behalf and sharing with the owner afterwards. If you think your work is extra great, offer to sell it to them at a discounted rate (design is usually quite expensive!)
Even if they don't want the work, you can showcase their original site next to your improved one on your portfolio review, which shows you can think of improvements for real companies. Use our recommended problem/solution format, and focus on how you solved their problems. The hiring manager will be impressed.
UX/UI Designer Portfolio Review
UX Design interviews often have a crucial step called the Portfolio Review, where the prospective designer is expected to walk through their portfolio. It helps to have 3-4 meaty projects in the portfolio, and while many classes and bootcamps help with providing material for this, there are some tricks to being impressive.
This is the step where you show off all your spec (or real!) work to a real audience. Keep in mind, this is a presentation, but should still be lighthearted and fun. Most interviewers are looking for the "why" behind your designs, and if you can think like a user.
We recommend this presentation format: "I saw this problem (XYZ problem) with this application, so I did some research to validate a solution, and here's how I'd recommend solving it." The research part is the key to a successful review, because it shows you can be a voice for your users.
Recap Our Format for a Successful Portfolio Review
- Here is a problem I noticed with this application or other similar applications.
- This is the research I completed to validate the problem exists for other users, and that process helped me gather potential ways to tackle it.
- My proposed solution solves these problems in 3 ways. Let's talk about them.
Get Started with a Bridged Recommendation
Review: UX Research & Design Specialization by University of Michigan
Key takeaway: UX designers are responsible for thinking through and communicating the look and feel of sites and applications so that they are intuitive to people who use them.
Learning the skills to be a successful UX design is a great way to break into tech. This can be self-taught, and has a lower barrier of entry than a lot of roles. But because of this, it's a little competitive, so we recommend doing as much extra work as possible.
Here at Bridged we are huge fans of stacking micro-certifications to achieve desired career results. We're building a product to make your career planning fun and affordable, and we'd love to talk to YOU! Was this article helpful? Did you land an interview for a marketing coordinator role?
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Glassdoor Team. “Salary: UX Designer (February, 2023) | Glassdoor.” Glassdoor, Glassdoor, 1 Feb. 2023, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/product-analyst-salary-SRCH_KO0,15.html