The world around us is quickly becoming more sophisticated; technological innovation is reshaping the world faster than ever, and today we interact with dozens of devices and digital products on a daily basis. From buying things to paying bills, we do it online through desktop computers and mobile devices — and this creates a high demand for people who design experiences for devices and products. Graphic designers, UI designers, and motion designers are all shaping the user experience of products.

Since user experience encompasses all aspects of interaction with a product, it’s relatively easy to see why UX is a key piece of a product’s success. Today’s users expect a lot from products they use; if a product doesn’t satisfy expectations, people will likely abandon it and move to competitors. With such intense competition in the market, companies can no longer risk having a poor user experience.

UX design is booming and in order to keep up with the times, it is important that you at least brush up on your UX design skills. Here are six of the most important ones:

1. An opportunity to become a better designer

As a discipline, UX design is a combination of methods and tools that allow designers to solve real problems and craft a truly functional, useful, and enjoyable design. Every discussion about UX design starts with the UX design process. In the most basic way, this process can be presented as a constant cycle of refinement and iteration. UX designers form hypotheses around how to best solve a problem, test that hypothesis, and learn from it. Since there’s no single solution for a problem, designers constantly search for a better solution.

Diagram of the UX design process - build, learn, test.
The UX design process can be best simplified with three words: build, test, learn.

Going through the process allows designers to improve the following skills:

  • Empathy. UX design is the art and science of solving a user’s problems. Before creating something, designers need to know what problem they’re solving and for whom. Designers have to understand users’ needs and wants and translate them into product requirements. That’s why learning UX design also implies learning about people. Better understanding the people you design for makes your designs much more powerful.
  • Validate product ideas. Even if you define a problem you want to solve, it might not necessarily be a problem that people are willing to pay you to solve. Since user experience design is rooted in understanding users better, it can allow you to predict which products or features solve important problems. This means that you’ll be more likely to build something that many people want to pay you for.
  • Design focus. Experience design makes you thoroughly think through your design ideas, identify core design goals for a product, and utilize research data when making important design decisions. This allows you to create designs that are both beautiful and functional.
  • Communication. Design is a team sport. Collaboration with other team members is an excellent opportunity to learn from them, and this will inevitably make you a much stronger designer.
  • Validation. Designers form a hypothesis on how to solve a problem. But the hypothesis should always be validated before the team will invest time in creating a solution based on it. Testing with potential or existing users helps UX designers understand whether or not a design outcome satisfies the intended goal. Testing, as a natural part of the design process, also allows designers to understand interaction patterns (e.g. where users get confused, or what delights them) and use this knowledge when crafting design.
  • Prototyping. Learning UX design also includes getting hands-on prototyping skills. Prototyping is an extremely important part of a UX designer’s skill set; it allows designers to turn their ideas into something that other people can consume easily. Good prototyping skills enable designers to communicate design ideas better and get buy-in from stakeholders much easier. With the right software, it’s possible to create a prototype that feels almost indistinguishable from a real product.

2. Make people’s lives better

Perhaps the most important thing about user experience design is its user-centric approach — it puts the people at the heart of the design process. User research and usability testing are the most important parts of a UX designer’s job. Research and testing allow UX designers to turn empathy-based concepts (such as user thoughts, feelings, and frustrations) into project requirements (information that the team members can use to build a product).

UX designers spend much of their time speaking to users and learning how they use products, while creating the best possible experience that addresses their needs. That’s why experience design is so powerful: it goes far beyond a designer’s canvas and impacts real-life experiences. UX designers have a real opportunity to change the way people do everyday things.

Empathy map canvas
The idea that users drive product design is at the heart of experience design. Empathy map canvas. Image by Dave Gray

3. Good design makes better business

Customer satisfaction is an essential element to the success of any business. A happy customer not only becomes a loyal customer, but also becomes a brand ambassador. This person recommends your product to family and friends, and such recommendations are the best form of marketing and advertising.

There’s a direct correlation between product success in the market and the user experience of the product. The better experience you create for your customers, the happier they will be and the more likely that they’ll recommend the product.

Businesses increasingly recognize that good UX is a matter of survival. Companies see UX design as a bottom-line investment and put big money into it. Forrester Research reports that, on average, every dollar invested in UX brings $100 in return with an ROI of 9,900 percent. In the following video, Susan Weinschenk makes it clear why the upfront investments in user experience design are so valuable to a business in the long run:

Video that demonstrates the ROI of investing in a design career.

4. Step up your career

After reading the above paragraph, it should be clear to you why so many companies are pushing to bring experience design to the forefront of their businesses. This positions UX designers for success in today’s job market. The market has grown significantly recently and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. According to CNN, 10-year job growth for user experience designers is expected to jump 18 percent. This is excellent news for aspiring UX designers because it not only means more jobs on the market but also much more interesting work. It’s a perfect time to learn UX design to boost your career and land a new job.

Graph showing UX and UI designer demand from 2001 to 2025
UX/UI designer demand. Emsi Analyst 2017.1 (Employees)

Looking at the recent evolution of user interface design might give you a sense of how user expectations have changed and what’s next. It’s evident voice-enabled interfaces and VR/AR interfaces are the industry’s next big things, and designers for those mediums are expected to be a top priority for hiring.

5. Experience design pays well

UX designers also attract very healthy salaries. High demand for UX designers has increased the average paycheck. The median UX designer salary in the U.S. is $70,000/year for entry-level, and $95,000/year for a seasoned UX designer. It’s clear that the starting salary in this industry — with no experience — is definitely still a great incentive.

A chart showing the annual salaries of UX Professionals in the United States from 1997 to 2019
This chart shows the average annual salary for two types of UX professionals in the United States. Image by NNG.

6. Be on the edge of technology

Learn UX design to take part in innovative projects. A career in experience design will put you at the cutting edge of digital design, continually changing and evolving in a field where new platforms, patterns, and software emerge almost every day. UX designers never shy away from experimenting with new technologies and design approaches. In the next few years, we expect to see an increase in demand for designers applying their expertise to the UX of augmented and virtual reality platforms. And this is a field where designers can really shape the future.

How To Learn UX Design

At this point, I hope you’re thinking about learning UX design. High demand, good salaries, interesting projects, creativity — that all sounds amazing. But wait, how do you start?

The great news is that you likely already have some helpful skills in your arsenal that will help you learn UX design. Since user experience is a field that borrows from a variety of disciplines, the doors are open not only for designers but also for professionals from engineering, marketing, psychology, research, and many other fields. And you don’t have to get a degree in UX design to learn all the required knowledge and skills. In this article, How To Break Into UX Design, I’ve provided a step-by-step guide on how to move into UX design from other fields. Perhaps the most important advice I can give you is to try to read and learn as much about experience design as you can.

You can learn about the fundamentals of design from books:

  • The Design of Everyday Things (Don Norman)
  • About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design (Alan Cooper)
  • Don’t Make Me Think (Steve Krug)
  • 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People (Susan Weinschenk)

And once you have the basics, you can start learning about trends in the design industry. Here is a short list of resources that will help you with that:

  • Smashing Magazine is one of the world’s most popular and highly regarded magazines in the area of web design and web development. The User Experience section features great articles on usability, information architecture, interaction design, and other UX-related topics for both digital (web, mobile, desktop apps) and physical products.
  • 52 Weeks of UX is a discourse on the process of designing for real people. The site contains dozens of interesting topics related to user experience and human behaviors.
  • Nielsen Norman Group is the trusted authority on all things related to UX. You can eliminate guesswork and rely on NNG’s fundamental reports, research, and articles regarding user experience.
  • Luke W, by UX expert Luke Wroblewski, publishes articles and reviews about product design and provides helpful materials for mobile and web design strategy.
  • UX Mastery helps UX professionals get started in the field and get better at what they do. The site contains a lot of helpful articles, tutorials, and resources.

If you’re looking to add more resources to your list, check out the article 30 UX Design Inspiration Resources.

Conclusion

There are lots of resources available to help you break into UX Design. There’s nothing like the sense of accomplishment that comes from solving design problems and the satisfaction you receive when you see someone using a product you’ve designed.

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