The rapid development of the digital sphere promoted the creation of many new professions in the design industry in particular. Web, graphic, motion, animation, product, user interface, and user experience is not even the full list of attributes we can put in front of the word “designer”.
So, no wonder that the question “what do UX designers do?” makes many people confused, especially those who need to hire one for their project.
As a design agency whose main responsibility is to provide UI/UX design services, Eleken knows perfectly well what a UX designer does regularly.
We want to help those who are looking for a designer to join their team and want to make sure that a UX designer is exactly what they need. And to understand what this profession is all about, it’s worth starting with clarifying the term user experience design itself.
What is UX design?
There is no universally accepted definition of UX design. User Experience design is a multifaceted concept that includes many disciplines: interactive design, information architecture, visual design, and usability.
Still, if we need to provide a definition it would be the following: UX design is the process of creating products that are useful, simple, and enjoyable to use. It's about how to improve the product experience so that customers easily find its value.
The objective of the user experience design is to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty through the benefits, ease of use, and pleasure that the client receives while interacting with the product.
Who is a UX designer?
From the above info, we may conclude that a UX designer is a specialist who is primarily concerned with how users interact with a product. UX designers explore different approaches to solving specific user problems. The main task of this type of professional is to make sure that the product logically flows from one step of the user journey to the next till the customer reaches their final goal.
To fulfill this task UX specialists conduct product research, then based on the insights they build wireframes and prototypes, and run user tests to make sure they create a usable and intuitive product that brings value and makes customers satisfied.
In other words, a user experience designer gathers analytics and turns it into a logical workflow, consistent layout, and user-friendly interface. A UX designer is more of a link between a programmer and a user, a web designer, and a site visitor, and also plays an important role in creating a usable interface for a software product.
Key issues that UX designer solves:
- Set goals and objectives (what we ultimately need to achieve)
- Select suitable UX tools for achieving those goals
- Design a product that is as convenient and easy as possible for the target audience
- Analyze the result and test it (check whether the product meets the customer's expectations and how high is the level of user satisfaction).
Basic tools UX designers work with:
- Adobe XD
Now let’s talk about the regular duties of this kind of expert in more detail.
UX designer responsibilities
The roles and responsibilities of a UX designer may differ depending on the company they work for and the type of project they are engaged in.
For that reason, the responsibilities may vary from researching and conducting usability testing to interacting in each step of a UI/UX design process. Still, some duties are fundamental for any specialist of this kind.
UX research usually consists of learning the market (to understand the reason for the product’s existence), and the target audience (to study the needs and goals of end-users).
Research helps designers not to make decisions and assumptions based on their personal feelings alone. The goal of UX is user-centered design, and research tells designers who the end-user is, in what context users will use the product or service, and what are their final goals.
Research helps to:
- ensure that the target audience of the product is selected correctly
- understand goals, expectations, and context of the use
- identify usability problems in the current solution
- test ideas and new concepts for product development
- find out how users perceive your product in comparison to competitors
The initial stage of work, during which specialist collects information necessary for the development of an optimal design solution includes:
- interviews with business experts and users
- statistical analysis
- analysis of competitors and their audience
- study of the product and own experience of use
The collected data is processed to come up with the right design decisions on its basis.
Defining and creating user personas
The term “user persona" is used to refer to a fictional character that represents one of the categories of users for which a UX specialist is developing a product. The best way to create a character is to use various types of research, such as user tests, surveys, questionnaires, focus groups, and other UX research methods.
User persona doesn’t have to contain every aspect of an imaginary person's life, but rather focuses on those characteristics that affect the way customers interact with a product.
When our team was helping HandPrinter, a unique startup with a great mission to heal our planet, to design their product, identifying three types of user personas helped us to create an intuitive user flow that made the way customers interact with the app easier and more pleasant.
Define information architecture
Once the research is done and the user personas are created the UX designer defines the information architecture of the product. Information architecture deals with the principles of organizing and navigating information to help people find and process the data they need faster and more successfully.
It defines the basic structure of the product and shows the relation between the user’s current position and their goal. Building information architecture means creating intuitive navigation, prioritizing data, and creating categories.
For example, when we were working on designing a website for Abode, a security-focused smart home solution, it was very difficult to structure all the information so that the user flow remains intuitive and the interface not cluttered.
Below you can see the way we visualized the user flow, not to overload visitors with technical information and give them an opportunity to learn more details if needed. You can read more in Abode’s case study.
The next important duty is to build wireframes.
A wireframe is a low-fidelity design of the product. It shows:
- The main content
- Page structure
- Description and basic visualization of the interaction between the interface and the user
Think of it as the skeleton of the design that represents every detail of the final product.
Wireframes are important because they allow the designer to plan the layout of elements and interaction with the interface without being distracted by the choice of color, font, text, and so on.
A prototype is a simulation of the final interaction between the user and the interface. It may not look exactly like the final product, but must be accurately modeled and have significant similarities to the final experience.
They should allow the user to:
- Perceive content and interact with the interface
- Test basic interactions similar to the final product
Prototypes are used to the fullest in user testing. These simulations of the final product form the basis for quality usability tests even before development begins.
Testing is essential for UX designers as it allows them to understand if there are any issues that users may experience while interacting with a product and if the product needs further changes and refining.
Usability testing is performed with real users because they are more likely to find weak points than people who work with the product since the latter would no longer notice them.
Attracting new and existing users to testing is a great opportunity to understand whether:
- they are aware of how the product works, they are not confused or lost
- they can perform the basic actions they need to reach their goals
- they face any usability issues or bugs
- they have a pleasant and seamless experience
Whom to hire: junior or senior UX designer
Now you have a basic understanding of who the UX designer is and what they do. The next challenge is to understand if there is a striking difference between junior and senior UX designer roles and responsibilities.
Let’s start with things that both junior and senior UX designers do:
- Conduct product research
- Design user-centered solution
- Perform user tests
- Refine the product based on the insights they received from testing
Seems like they both perform all essential duties. Then, what does a senior UX designer do that a junior does not?
Usually, the lead UX designer’s responsibilities include planning and controlling the process of the UX team. They don’t execute each step of the design process.
Junior UX designer’s responsibilities allow them to join and assist the team in different tasks at any stage of the product life-cycle.
Basically, junior designers work with regular issues, senior specialists solve more complex problems.
One more important thing that differentiates these two specialists is their salary.
Take a look at the average base pay per year of a junior and senior specialist:
That’s why, in case you are a startup with a limited budget, then hiring a senior professional may not be reasonable and it’s better to find some well-trained Jr. UX designer. If you are a big company with enough financial resources then you can hire a designer of a higher level.
To sum up
The true objective of the UX designer is to make the user's path to their goal as short, simple, convenient, and effective as possible.
And to reach this goal UX designers use tools and methods we’ve discussed earlier in this article: they conduct thorough research, learn their target audience and create user personas, define the most optimal information architecture, create intuitive user flows, wireframes, and interactive prototypes and finally test everything to come up with the best design solution.
Finding a perfect candidate is a complicated task. To make this process easier for you we wrote a blog post on how to find a designer. And in case you are looking for a thought design partner with experience in your field take a look at Eleken’s case studies to learn more about our expertise in UX design.