Join Drew Bridewell for an in-depth discussion in this video The roles in user experience design, part of Practical UX Weekly: Season Two.
- Design. Design can transpire in many different disguises. We experience it every single day of our lives. We wake up to design, design the way we eat, work with tools that have been designed, we use tools to design, and we consume things that were designed and we live in a world that is constantly being designed. When you think about it, design isn't going anywhere. We need it and love it when it's really good, and we feel frustrated when it's really bad. It impacts our society, changes the behavior in it, and has the potential of impacting our lives in ways we never knew were even possible.
Design has been around since the beginning of time. Some design comes natural, like in nature, and others manifested by our dreams. When something you can do affects so many others around you, it's essential to take it seriously. I recently did a search on the LinkedIn Jobs page for the term design. What I got back was astonishing. Over 700,000 design-related jobs are currently on the market. There could be many reasons why there are so many jobs right now that are design-related, but I think one core reason is the fact that design is changing the world.
It's not just the designers who are doing the design. Product managers, marketing, sales, customer success, and engineering all have to think about design but that doesn't mean they are executing on the craft to turn those thoughts into a tangible experience. It's exciting to see this many available opportunities, because companies are recognizing that good design is good for business, therefore, they're investing in more designers to help not only design the look and the feel of an experience, but they're calling on user experience design experts to redesign human interactions and services.
The truth is, we need more designers to help fill this gap. At the core, user experience design is the art of designing experiences that solve real world problems that are aligned with a business goal and strategy. It's of the utmost importance that these problems that need to be solved map directly back to current, relevant human difficulties. In this video, I'm going to talk about the core roles in user experience design. I'll talk about what they do, how they collaborate, their core responsibilities, the different career options inside of UX design, and the fact that these roles will change over time, and that's okay.
One of the core responsibilities of a UX design professional is to be adaptable and iterative. If a job that needs to be done expands, changes, or goes away, then we need to help the business, and the people around us evolve with it. Let's now look at 10 different roles in the user experience design field. Before I begin, I want to be clear that each role I'll describe might be represented differently from one company to another. So if you're a designer, I suggest not worrying about how your company does it today, but thinking more about the skills that are required to master all of them.
Let's look at the first role, interaction designer. This is an individual who focuses on the interaction touch points and overall workflow of an experience. For example, you have to redesign the steps for a customer to order their groceries online. Before, there were no ways to get groceries delivered, so in order to design a great experience for grocery delivery, now an interaction designer has to understand the process of how the food was grown, how to get it from the farm to the grocery, then how it gets selected, carefully picked, replace any unavailable items, make sure they're carefully bagged, then driven to your home.
Then that grocery shopper acknowledges completion, receives a rating, then the rating feeds the quality of the service, which keeps more orders coming in. The interaction designer cares about these steps. They're empathetic to their consumer, the business and the society as a whole. The interaction designer's role is focused on making these processes as effortless as possible. The next role is a visual designer. They're passionate about the presentation and the feeling that comes over you when you experience it.
Through the use of color, layouts, spacing objects and typography, a visual designer will balance their intuition or gut with a practical business need to deliver a quality experience that is not just pretty but equally functional. Without the balance, one will dig a hole that the other's not capable of getting out of. Visual designers have the ability to recognize that something is off from halfway across the room. They'll see it and want to make sense of it in an entirely different way.
For the next role, we'll look at the individual who helps the business define the right problems to solve and uncovers the truth about how an experience is perceived by its users. The UX researcher. A researcher gets excited about discovering the root cause of a problem. They write research plans, conduct usability studies, and attend design reviews. And they're always thinking about whether or not the team is focused on solving the right problem. UX researchers also have a clever way of asking the right questions so you can get to a truly unbiased insight.
Now, let's look at a role that will help a business develop more of a personality, and improve its ability to humanize the experience. The UX copywriter. They help write the narrative of an experience, and help the business with its voice and tone, to tell a consistent message to its users, not only with how to use the product, but the tone of its language so users can begin to get to know the brand. If you haven't subscribed to InVision's UX blog, I would encourage you to do so. The copywriting being generated by the InVision app team around how they communicate with its customers is world class.
Another great example in product copywriting can be found in the business messaging platform, Slack. Its subtle but powerful loading messages are thoughtful, respectful and fun. That was done by a UX copywriter. Then there's an individual who's often tasked to do all the roles I've already mentioned combined. This is the user experience designer. They are a bridge between visual design, interaction design and research. They love getting to dive into each of the roles and tie those skills together into the title UX designer.
This person also focuses on design strategy and business strategy. They care deeply about the end to end experience, and the business impact that they can contribute to. Next is a newer role to make its way into the world of UX, the motion designer. They design the movement inside all aspects of the product, to help the experience feel more alive. They like to make sure that the motion implemented into the experiences has purpose and complements the experience.
First, just building motion, because it looks cool. The motion designer's principles follow closely to a visual designer's objectives. The implemented motion has to have a balance, and intuition to deliver a quality experience that is not just pretty but equally functional. The last few roles we'll discuss will shift responsibilities of being an individual design contributor to thinking about the success of other people and the business as a whole.
Through difficult conversations, mentorships, coaching and leadership, these roles are tied to people management. This doesn't mean they don't have to focus on design. It just means their responsibilities have grown and it's a big responsibility. Let's look at an important role that partners with leadership to elevate the design teams in organizations to be more productive and successful. This is the program manager, also known as design operations.
If you like working with people, and improving processes through tools, connecting with designers, and being great at planning and pulling complex personalities together, then this might be your ticket. But who supports all these professionals, coaches them, and helps them grow each and every day? The UX manager. They're not only leaders for the team, but they coach designers on finding their own way, and sharing their failures. Not to dictate where one should go, but to guide and to let the designer own their choice.
They'll often coach teams on problem solving methods, like design sprints, design audits, and strategies of possible new directions. They remove roadblocks, help with career development, and inspire their team. They attend meetings with cross-functional teams, so their teams aren't stuck in meetings for hours out of the day. They protect their team from distractions, because in the world of design, distractions can lead to lost time, and lost time can lead to lost possible solutions, resulting in lost revenue.
As you mature as a UX manager, the level of responsibilities grow as different needs for the team need to be met. This role matures to a UX director. They drive design direction for the brand, align with horizontal business partners, establish a psychological safe environment with their rich culture, and they have some overlapping responsibilities with a UX manager. The last role that we'll cover is the top held position as a UX professional, the head of design.
They're responsible for the overall experience across the business, the teams and the product. They think about the strategies for the future of the company, develop a design culture that embraces inclusion and diversity. They care deeply about the success of their design org, and they play the role of a thought leader that a team would want to follow. So now that you have an understanding of the different roles available in user experience design, I'd encourage you to follow your passions, and do the work that lights up your soul.
If you feel excited about any of these roles I mentioned, then one of these 700,000 available design jobs is yours for the taking. And keep in mind that there are many amazing learning resources to help you learn the skills you need in order to work your way into this field. The world needs you. The world is ready for better design, and can't afford to not have you working to improve it. If you'd like to continue the conversation or have questions about the roles in user experience design, then I'd love to discuss them with you.
Find me on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter at abridewell. Or you can post a question on our Practical UX Weekly LinkedIn group. Thanks for watching, and I look forward to seeing you next time.
To continue the conversation with Drew and other user experience professionals, join Drew's Practical UX: Lessons from the Trenches LinkedIn group.
Check out Practical UX Weekly (2017) for 40 more tips and tricks.
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