If you have read our blog post about what a UX designer does, you’d have noticed that the first thing we talk about is user research. Understanding the user, market, competition etc. is foundational for UX design. In several cases, the question of UX researcher vs UX designer might never arise, because it might be the same person doing both roles. But not all UX designers are researchers or vice versa. A specialist user experience researcher might do work that appears diametrically opposite to a user experience designer role. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the similarities between the two roles, differences and more. 

UX Researcher vs UX Designer: How do they Differ?

Before we get into the details of each role, there is an important factor you must remember. The job description of a UX professional might vary depending on the size of the organisation, product being built, team structure, business model etc. For instance, if you’re in a large organisation with multiple people in the UX team, each of them might specialise in areas such as research, animations, UI etc. On the other hand, if you work for a small startup, you might have to wear all the hats. With that in mind, let’s compare: UX researcher vs. UX designer.

UX Researcher vs UX Designer: Job roles

What is UX researcher?

The primary role of a user experience researcher is, as the name suggests, to conduct research. They study users — their needs, behaviours, aspirations, existing purchase patterns etc. In order to provide real-world insights for designers to build a product suitable for the target audience. In most application design teams, the UX researcher is the starting point of the design process.

What is UX designer?

A user experience designer is one who takes the understanding gained from research and builds products that meet their prospective users’ needs. They create user stories, build the information architecture, draw wireframes etc. We’d say, the UX researcher builds the foundation, and the UX designer builds the house!

UX Researcher vs UX Designer: Educational qualification

The required educational qualification for a UX researcher tends to be specific such as a degree in cognitive psychology, sociology, behavioural sciences or other related fields. See these open positions at Google and Amazon, for instance. While some roles might be happy with a bachelor’s degree, many specialised research roles might ask for a master’s or even a PhD. 

However, the asking qualifications for a UX designer are often less specific. As a more practical role, most recruiters are happy with any bachelor’s degree, or in some cases just equivalent experience. Check out these roles in Citibank and Amazon that have similar expectations.

UX Researcher vs UX Designer: Skillsets

UX Researcher Skills

A UX researcher needs to have strong research and analysis skills such as:

  • Understanding of qualitative and quantitative research methods like surveys, interviews, focus groups, observation etc. 
  • Familiarity with usability testing methods like A/B testing, guerilla testing, tree tests etc.
  • Creating user personas based on research.
  • Using analytics tools to build heatmaps, spot trends etc.

A UX researcher must have great people skills. At the user side, they need to get the user to trust them and open up about their real feedback. They also need to have empathetic observational skills to identify things the user might hesitate to say and engage them on those ideas. On the product side, they also need to be able to articulate their research outcomes clearly to product managers and designers for effective product building.

They need to be comfortable with tools such as forms, Survey Monkey, Google Analytics, monitoring and analytics tools and spreadsheets.

UX Designer Skills

A designer, on the other hand, would have skills in converting such knowledge into a functioning product. This could be:

  • Creating information architecture to enable smooth user journeys.
  • Building wireframes and wire flows.
  • Sketching high-fidelity mockups and prototyping.
  • In some cases, user interface and visual design.

For this, a UX designer needs a strong technical background and practical experience in design. They need to have an eye for good visual design as well as understand brands and style guides. They would typically use tools like Photoshop, XD, Sketch, Invision etc.

UX Researcher vs UX Designer: Salary

UX Researcher Salary

Source: Glassdoor

LinkedIn community says that the median salary of a UX researcher in India is Rs.13.8 lakhs, but the range goes from Rs. 4.5 lakhs to about Rs. 20 lakhs. But, UX research as a specialist field is still nascent in India — there are only over a hundred open positions currently advertised on LinkedIn. As you can see, there are very few responses to the salary survey, also implying that there are fewer specialist UX researchers working in India currently.

UX Designer Salary

Source: Glassdoor

On the other hand, LinkedIn has over 2300 UX designer positions advertised. And there is a much larger community of people who have reported their salaries to the LinkedIn survey, implying that there are more UX designers at work. Perhaps as a corollary, the salary is also comparatively lower than UX researchers. The median salary is Rs. 600,000, with the range going from Rs. 2.3 lakhs to about Rs. 15 lakhs. The field of UX design is on the rise — CNBC reported last year that UI/UX designer is one of the top 5 fastest-growing jobs in the country!

As the field evolves, there will be more and more specialists for each aspect of UX design, and the UX researcher will soon become a key role. For now, however, it is mostly treated as a part of a UX designer’s job, in general. To make headway into UX design, and gain the foundational skills of UX research, consider Springboard’s UI/UX design online learning program, which also includes 1:1 mentorship, coaching, real-world projects and a job guarantee!