What You Need to Know as a Design and User Experience Graduate
The term ‘design’ is very broad and rather vague due to the number of responsibilities and careers that can be found in the term of being a designer. The roles of a designer exists in a range of areas and industries including industrial, print and technology. With the growth of technology and tech companies, a number of job titles in design have emerged including user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) designer.
To qualify as a designer in the tech industry, most employers look for graduates that have a bachelor’s degree in psychology, visual design, communications, computer science, or a similar field. However, having a graduate’s degree or a degree in a specific field would allow you to have a higher change in employment. In addition, those looking for a career in this field should also be familiar with coding languages including Java, Perl, HTML, CSS, and XML/XSL as well as knowledge in programs such as Flash, Photoshop and Dreamweaver.
What to Expect
When it comes to the field of digital design, the industry of technology has many different disciplines. User Experience (UX) designers take the role in creating the look and feel of a specific computer entity (e.g. website or application) which allows them to produce a type of human-computer interaction. UX designers usually work in a team and they can be divided into five major key roles, including1,2:
1. UX Researcher and Usability
UX research comes before anything else and occurs at the start of the project. This role involves finding key information that could be used to form the basis of the project design strategy and also becomes a point of reference that supports design decision once the project starts. Having done detailed UX research, the significance of the information that you obtain can be important enough to determine a success or failure of a project. Occasionally, UX designers carry out the role of UX researchers. The UX research phase could include any or all of the following, depending on the project:
- Ensuring business stakeholders that the business goals and objectives are clear and prioritised through interviews
- User interviews that cover topics of usage, devices, tasks, time spent, frustration, likes, ideas for improvement
- User task based analysis
- User information held within a marketing department
- User trends and digital intelligence on a country by country or region by region basis
- Visitor stats/usage analysis (quantitative analysis)
- Existing and forecasted user trends
- Competitor site/application analysis
- Market reports and current news
- Strengths and weaknesses of chosen development platform
- Interviews with customer focused departments
Usability comes after the project is done in which it is the website/page/application is tested with real life users. Some common types of usability testing are:
- Clickable prototype Often made up of either static images or working html/flash web pages that are made clickable
- Clickable wireframes Although lacks the core aspects of visual design, it can be a quick way to utilise wireframe documentation for testing designs
- Remote usability testing Users can be testes with the comfort of real life browsing environment which allows their progress to be viewed/recorded using a relevant software
- Paper prototype Web pages or interfaces sketched onto paper and then testes. This approach is often used during the early stages of a project as a quick, low cost way to test, refine and re-test
2. Information Architect (IA)
The responsibility of an information architect is to make sure that the digital entity (e.g. website, application, etc.) makes sense from a user’s perspective. There is a lot of tasks that need to be done behind the scenes with the objective that the right information is presented in the right place, at the right time, and in the right way.
3. Interaction Designer or User Interface (UI) Designer
Although interaction and UI designers are related, they differ from each other when it comes to their focused roles. UI designers are responsible for the design of the website or application pages/functional components in which users can interact with and ensures that the UI visually communicates with the design the UX designer laid out. The work of a UX and UI designer are similar and it is common for companies to combine these roles into one. The tools commonly used by UI designers are Photoshop, Sketch, Illustrator, and Fireworks.
As for interaction designers, also known as motion designers, are in charge of creating animation inside an app. They deal with what the interface does after a user touches it. The tools commonly used for this area are AfterEffects, Core Composer, Flash, and Origami.
4. Visual Designer
The role of a visual designer is to create an impression that is easy on the eyes by utilising and blending colours that can carry a brand’s identity as well as optimising the user’s ability to interpret, engage and interact with a digital entity (e.g. website or application). Instead of being concerned on the interactions of the product or how the screens are linked, a visual designer’s focus is on crafting icons, controls and visual elements. Tools commonly used by visual designers are Photoshop and Sketch.
Core principles of a visual designer include:
- White (or empty) space
- Levels of information
5. Front-End Developer (UI developer)
The job titles you can find yourself having are3:
- UX designer
- Interaction designer
- UX architect
- UX analyst
- Visual designer
- Digital designer
- UX/UI engineer
- Product designer
- Content strategist
- UX copywriter
- Usability researcher/specialist/analyst/engineer etc.
Popular skills for UX design are user interface design, user research, graphic design, web design and interaction design with the average pay of AU$69,266 per year4.
Depending on the company, UX designers can have different sets of responsibility. Big companies tend to have more division of labour, which means roles that are more specific. Also, big companies usually have more seniority levels that range from junior UX designer to VP.
Smaller companies, such as start-up companies often require their UX professionals to be able to handle different roles as the environment is faster and has less resources, they look for people who can take up any role.
Agencies are different as they hire based on the needs of a client. If a client asks for someone in a certain UX division, the agency will hire that person that meets those needs. Though, despite the type of company, most UX Design jobs ask for a combination of UX design, visual design and code.
1 UX Designer, What is a UX designer?, 2015
2 www.fastcodesign.com, UI, UX: Who Does What? A Designer’s Guide to the Tech Industry, 2015
3 UX Beginner, How to Navigate the Ocean of UX Job Titles, 2015
4 PayScale, User Experience Designer Salary (Australia), 2015