Like most jobs, the title “UX designer” can mean different things depending on your workplace. It can mean anything from working on the research side, the technical side, to the strategy side.
To get to know the different roles in the UX field, do some research by talking to people in the industry and learning from them. By learning the options, you can figure out where you fit best.
(Click here to view elements of the user experience full-size.)
UX can encompass many different elements, many of which Jesse James Garrett charted back in 2000. While fields are always growing and developing, most of the areas he defined are still are relevant today.
A few job titles you may encounter in UX:
Visual Designer/graphic designer/UI designer – works on the visual or graphic treatment, which gives the look and feel to a project
Information architect – looks at the way information is structured and organized (think: website navigation)
Interaction designer – considers the way people interact with products and interfaces
Design researcher – gains an understanding of environments and user behaviors through research (typically in the field; known as ethnography); may also conduct usability testing
Usability tester – tests prototypes and products on actual users to see if the desired goals are achieved in order to better understand how products can be improved
UX writer/content strategist – writes CTA (call to action), such a sign-up pop-up for a newsletter, or an error message crafted for clarity
Front-end developer – brings digital products to life through code
Product manager – decides what should get built, which problems the team are solving, what the vision of the product is, and what business model applies; PMs are responsible for the return on investment (ROI) of their product
Unicorn – sees a project through from start to finish; someone who does everything from coding to visual design
With a smaller team, you may be dabbling in many aspects of UX design. In a large team, you may be specialized or only focus on one area. In the latter case, you may only be conducting design research or usability studies, or designing wireframes. Often in the startup world, companies will look for “unicorn designers” who are experts in everything from research to testing, designing and developing interfaces, and maybe even writing content. This can be exciting or overwhelming. Regardless of the situation you find yourself in, it’s important to have a strong understanding of the entire process, so you can better work with team members. Also, in being familiar with all of the parts, you’ll figure out which ones you enjoy most, or are stronger at, and can eventually start to focus on and specialize in those areas. Furthermore, UX is a field that’s growing and developing fast, so it’s a good idea to keep up with industry trends and news.
UX design also can be described as participatory design or collaborative design. Essentially this means that you’ll be working with other people to create the best possible solution. Many design teams are described as multidisciplinary because they involve many different types of people, who are not necessarily all creative types.