“Good design is good business,” Thomas J. Watson, former CEO of IBM, once famously said. This is truer today than ever before. In a world where all our experiences are mediated by technology — more so during the current global lockdown, where we’re all physically isolated from even our near and dear ones — technology products play a crucial role in our everyday lives. A UX designer is responsible for making these technology products useful, usable and enjoyable. But what is their job? What does a UX designer do? It’s this question that we’ll answer in detail in this blog post.

What does a UX Designer do?

The role of a user experience designer can be broken into three main roles.

  • Understanding the user
  • Designing the product
  • Fine-tuning the product

Each of these roles involves several tasks. Let’s see them one by one.

1. What does a UX Designer do: Understanding your audience

How can one design user experience before knowing who the user is, what they want, how much they know, what other products they use etc.? The first and fundamental role of a UX designer is user research. 

Conducting User Research

The foremost UX designer skills are research and analysis. UX designers conduct primary and secondary research to gain a deeper understanding of the user. They might begin by performing online research about the market, products of competitors and the profile of potential customers. After gaining the contextual understanding, they might back that up with primary research — sending surveys, organising focus groups, conducting 1-to-1 interviews etc. 

Creating Customer Persona

Based on the research, UX designers then create customer personas. In theory, a persona is a typical customer, an archetype. But, in reality, it is a detailed and in-depth account of customer groups for any product. UX designers consider demographics, psychographics, goals, needs, wants, motivations, behaviours, even personality type while building a customer persona. Most products have more than one customer type, and therefore several personas. In fact, tech teams even give names for their personas to humanise them.

Mapping User Journey

One of the key aspects of UX design is the dynamic and interactive nature of modern tech products. UX design is not just about how the app looks or works in a static page, but how it helps the customer navigate their journey effectively and pleasurably. So, UX designers will map all the steps a customer might walkthrough to perform each task. 

2. What does a UX Designer do: Designing the product

Only when UX designers have a clear and thorough understanding of their user do they move to the next stage — designing the product. 

Building the Information Architecture (IA)

IA is the basis for the structure of a website. It defines where all the information is, in relation to where the customer is. In web application design, the idea of hierarchical information is very important. By placing information in a logical hierarchy, UX designers make it easy for users to find what they need. Think of any e-commerce application. You’ll see the main menu will have links to home, account, shop, etc. When you click on shop, it might show categories like apparel, electronics, books etc. When you click on apparel, it may break into men and women. Women’s clothing might branch into traditional, western, office wear, loungewear etc. Each of them then categorised by size, colour, and the like. A UX designer’s job is to build the information architecture in such a manner that the user finds it quick and easy to find what they need. 

Making Wireframes and Prototypes

Another key UX designer skill is to create wireframes — a barebones representation of the final product, placing all the elements on the screen, be it an app or a website. At this stage, the UX designer is not worried about colours, shapes, fonts, styles etc. Their main focus is to present all the information in a clear and usable manner.

For example, the wireframe of a simple profile page might be something like below.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Depending on various factors like the size of the team, type of organisation, the product being built etc., some UX designers also build prototypes — a designed simulation of what the product might finally look like. 

3. What does a UX Designer do: Fine-tuning the product

Today, absolutely no product development happens without constant user testing for continuous improvement. 

User Testing

Even before the application is built, UX designers take their prototypes back to their customers to make sure that the product being built meets the customer’s needs. In many cases, they build highly interactive prototypes and allow beta testers to use them. They give them specific functions to perform — based on the app you’re building this might be to create a profile, order a product, publish a blog post etc. — and watch the customer’s interaction. This will help learn things about user behaviour that users themselves might not know or articulate. 

UI Design

Though this is rare, some UX designers also design the user interface including visuals, colour schemes, icons, typography, animations etc. Even in cases that the UX designer personally does not design these visual elements, they might work closely with the UI designer to ensure it augments the user experience.

Don’t let the word ‘design’ in a UX design role distract you. The job of a UX designer is much less about putting pen to paper and much more about making the product valuable in the real world. UX jobs are perfect for those who can combine technical and people skills in equal measure. If you aspire to become a UX professional, consider Springboard’s online learning program in UI/UX design. Springboard’s experts strongly believe that becoming a UX designer is one-part learning, one-part practice and one-part mentorship and support. So, we’ve built the UX design online learning program to give our students a combination of theory, project-based learning, 1:1 mentoring and coaching along with a job guarantee. It teaches research, design and communication, while also building a portfolio of products to present at your next interview. Check it out now!