UX design has steadily become one of the most in-demand and sought after professions in the creative world.
In 2020, LinkedIn reported UX design as one of the top 5 most in-demand professions.
Also, take note of the “soft skills” that companies are looking for too. These soft skills are synonymous with great designers and the good news is you may already have them.
Excellent UX design is about creating a user experience that is a joy to behold and one that offers users a solution to their problems.
In this guide, we’ll address everything you need to know about UX design, its various design processes and how to go about becoming one yourself.
UX design encompasses every aspect of the design process that takes a product from conception, all the way through to its final form and into the hands of the end-user.
Here’s an example of the general design process broken down into 6 steps:
This could be how a physical product feels to hold and interact with, or a digital experience, like how straightforward it is to sign up for a mailing list or complete an online retailer’s checkout process.
Take this example of a user flow for the Apple Watch:
You’ll see here that Apple is trying to meet its user’s expectations every step of the way. Their focus is on making the user experience flexible, clear and usable.
These types of experiences are shaped by several things, all of which combined, play a part in the design process.
As a designer, you’ll spend time researching the market, compiling data analytics to better understand your target audience’s mindset, and collaborating on visual elements such as graphics and typography.
For a deeper insight read our blog on What Is User Experience Design.
In short, UX or User Experience refers to how we, the consumer, interact with a product or service.
The objective for an impeccable user experience is to meet the precise needs of the user without barriers, confusion or frustration.
These are the fundamentals that epitomise the user experience.
“It’s not enough that we build products that function, are understandable and usable, we also need to build products that bring joy and excitement, pleasure and fun, and yes, beauty to people’s lives.”
Norman’s take on user experience places a finer point on what it means to truly be a UX designer.
Yes, it’s about form and function but deeper than that, UX design should stir our emotions and facilitate the connection we have to a product.
Closely related, UI or ‘user interface’ and UX or ‘user experience’ - coexist in the design process.
UI refers to the visual elements that appear on the interface itself and how the user interacts with them.
Aesthetics such as graphics, colour palettes, branding, and typography like font and style are all components of UI.
The interactive elements would be things like navigation between menus and pages, landing pages, clickable buttons or CTA’s and responsiveness (how it appears on different size screens).
UX on the other hand focuses on the entire customer journey.
The objective for UX is to lead the user from the point of enquiry to the point of completion, intuitively and hassle-free.
Read our full breakdown for the differences between UI and UX design here. Also, take a look at this article explaining 47 key lessons on UI/UX designers and debunk some of those UX myths floating around.
And if you’re curious what a day in the life of a UX/UI designer looks like; check out this breakdown from one of Google’s very own.
Now we’re getting down to business.
If you’re wondering what a UX designer gets paid we’ll break down the average salary and the associated roles and responsibilities.
Like many creative professions, there are multiple levels of experience with each level bearing a higher salary.
Spoiler alert - UX design is highly in-demand, well-compensated and provides plenty of opportunities for career progression.
What a UX designer job description looks like
Taken from Indeed, here are some typical job descriptions for UX designers.
Junior UX Designer:
Jumping up the ladder to a mid-senior level designer, the roles and responsibilities might look like this:
So what does this tell us?
As mentioned in the previous chapters, there’s an emphasis on these key skills:
UX designers at any level will develop and implement the same fundamental knowledge and skillsets for effective design.
UX design salaries by country
The graphic below gives an overview of what you can expect to earn as a UX designer dependent on location.
The countries shown here represent the largest demand for UX designers and we think you’ll agree, the pay is decidedly competitive across the board.
Countries like the USA have a naturally higher demand being home to technological hubs like Seattle, California and New York with companies such as Amazon, IBM and Google pioneering the way in which we interact with technology.
One of the many positive attributes of UX design is the ability to work from anywhere, remotely.
Since Covid-19 there’s a vast array of companies supporting remote work which means you can apply for UX positions regardless of where you’re based.
Depending on the type of product you’re tasked with building, the design process will vary slightly but as a general rule, there is a universal structure for how a design process looks.
The University of Illinois explains the general design process in this graphic:
When we apply this thinking to product design, the process can be broken down into 5 phases:
The beginning of the process is concerned with pinpointing why your product should exist in the first place. What is the problem you are solving? Will people want to use it? Will they enjoy using it?
To gain a better understanding of your product’s potential in the real world, you’ll brainstorm with fellow designers and key stakeholders to assess the business objectives your product is designed to meet.
You’ll think about the value proposition of your product: who will use it and why they will use it. This helps to define exactly how your product will satisfy both users and the business.
The final phase will be to sketch a low-fidelity wireframe of the final product which will then lead into a kick-off meeting where you can present your strategy.
The kick-off allows you to manage the expectations for the entire process. You’ll decide who will collaborate, how they’ll communicate, and how you’ll meet the business’s needs such as KPI’s.
This initial phase of exploration lays the foundation for the next stages in the design process.
Investing in research early on will save stacks of time later down the road and much to the boss’s delight, money too.
Properly utilising this phase of the design process promotes empathy with the users. User empathy allows UX designers to develop a deep understanding of their target audience and subsequently, how their product will fit into the market.
Typically, research methods consist of:
As tempting as it can be to just jump on Google and fire up a search, you’ll bear greater (and more accurate) results by actively engaging your audience.
At this stage, you’ll take all of the information collected from research and dig into why the user has a want or a need for your product.
Drawing on elements of behavioural psychology, an idea will start to form for what your ideal user will look like, their personality traits, goals and motivations and finally, their frustrations.
This profile manifests in the form of a “user persona”. You might hear it being referred to as a “customer persona” or “buyer persona” too, but fear not, it’s all the same thing.
What the user persona allows us to do is create a fictionalized character that best represents a product’s target audience.
Here’s an example from Xtensio:
This user persona brings our character to life with intimate details about their characteristics and what they are trying to achieve.
Potential customers can now visualise this person interacting with our product. It helps to tell a story and attract similar users.
Now we can start to ideate designs that embody all of the research and data that came before.
This usually begins with IA (information architecture) which essentially labels the different points of navigation on a digital product (like pages and menus) and where content will be placed. IA will be your skeleton for the product design.
Next, grab yourself a pencil and a pad and get creating!
Seriously though, the design phase is gold because you can go old-school and sketch down ideas on a pad or use software tools to draw up designs. Sure, there are suggested principles to follow but there are no bad ideas!
Getting your designs down and sharing amongst the team gives way to a creative synergy where the real magic happens.
With said magic in hand, you’ll then create a wireframe that will act as the backbone for your product.
UX Wireframes allow the whole team to determine what works and what doesn’t, eventually deciding on the structure, visual hierarchy and which elements will remain.
The image below illustrates the change from low-fidelity to high-fidelity wireframe.
Following this will be the prototype phase. Usually, after the structure is in place, this is when the UI designer will come in and add visual elements such as typography, buttons and colour palettes.
Prototypes provide a simulation for how the end-user will interact with your product and when ready can be deployed to users and management for feedback.
This is where your team discovers if all of their hard work has paid off.
You’ll present your product for feedback amongst different users and validate the findings.
The first port of call will be your team. Run wild with the product and stress test it for flaws.
Next, you can put the product in the hands of real users otherwise known as usability testing. With people who represent your target audience and measure their feedback. This might be moderated sessions or with focus groups and be sure to include split or A/B testing for broader results.
Finally, you’ll analyse quantitative data like clicks and navigation speeds to determine how users are interacting with your product.
Following this entire design process provides all of the data you’ll need to revise your product, get to the point of completion and deployed in the market.
If you’re wondering what Lean UX is, read on for a brief overview of how it came to be and why it’s now synonymous with intelligent design teams across the globe.
After a number of years spent in the UX design field, Gothelf recognised a pattern of frustration and inefficiency among design teams in how the common UX process was being implemented.
After a few years of working and ironing out the kinks within his team, Gothelf took his Lean UX management system to a wider audience. And it’s been catching on ever since.
Check out this diagram showing the Lean UX cycle:
As stated by Gothelf, Lean UX is really a mindset.
It’s about removing unnecessary processes that slow design teams down and increasing frequent collaboration and communication between ALL parties. Total transparency.
And the whole gang needs to get on board for it to work.
When they do, you’ll see greatly improved efficiency as potential issues that may have crept up later down the road are nipped in the bud early on.
Dramatic pushes at the experimentation stage mean that ideas can be trialled, tested and the data fed back to design teams to be reviewed and altered if needs be.
It’s a beautiful marriage of communication, collaboration, creativity, analysis and efficiency.
Here’s a YouTube video of the man himself, Jeff Gothelf talking all things Lean UX.
Back in 2001, a group of software developers published the “Manifesto for Agile Software Development.”
Yeah, we noticed it too. Graphic design has come a long way since ‘01.
When we deconstruct Agile software development and apply it to UX, we understand these basic principles:
To sum up, Agile is a project management methodology that encourages shorter product cycles to rapidly speed up production and is constantly being revised.
There are numerous Agile methodology frameworks such as Scrum, Kanban, Lean, XP and Crystal - check out this explainer video from Edureka to learn more.
UX research is how designers give context to their product.
Using different methods, UX researchers study their target users to understand their requirements and gain valuable insights, all of which aid the design process.
This research is defined as the following:
Both of these methods rely on the other to deliver the most accurate results. The opinions of a few, without the feedback from the many, will produce inconclusive results.
Try to get familiar with both for maximum effect.
UX research also employs two approaches for how feedback is measured:
As with qualitative and quantitative methods, both attitudinal and behavioural approaches have more effect when applied together.
Here’s a table showing common types of UX research from NNG.
And for the best results? Conduct UX research at every stage of the design process!
Sounds familiar but what is a wireframe?
A wireframe can best be described as the way we design website services at their structural level. Wireframes are created to show the layout of content and functionality on a page before visuals (UI) and content (copy) is added further down the line.
Naturally, a wireframe will be used early in the design process as it helps to visualise what will appear on the webpage and where elements like buttons and menus will go.
Wireframes are excellent when presenting initial design ideas to management teams and clients for review as they can be amended without too much fuss and loss of time.
This plays into the Lean/ Agile methodology is an iterative and incremental design process.
Usability testing is an observational UX research method whereby a facilitator will assign “users” a series of tasks to complete as they listen for feedback and observe the user’s behaviour.
It’s not as creepy as it sounds though. Usability testing helps designers and developers flag up product flaws and shortcomings before coding begins.
This graphic from UX Collective details the steps for Usability testing.
Raising and correcting these issues as early as possible prevents impact on schedule and saves money. It’s a win-win.
Here are a few of the benefits of conducting a usability test:
Plus, the tests can be done either in-person or completely remotely provided both parties have access to a computer and a webcam.
Intuitive, attractive and useful UX design will often be the difference between a user staying or leaving your site.
A survey conducted in 2018 by PWC revealed that 59% of customers would walk away from a brand they loved if they had multiple bad experiences. Not brands they liked, ones they loved.
Intelligent UX design is more potent now than ever before and we think these brands are making the most of it:
We’re huge fans of Airbnb’s booking experience - easy, attractive and flexible.
You can book accommodation virtually anywhere in the world in less than 5 minutes.
Airbnb is a great example of visual hierarchy working to maximum effect. It understands what users want to see and when they want to see it.
Uber manages to nail an extremely difficult UX problem - balancing the personas of both the user and the driver.
By understanding each of its prime users’ needs, Uber fuses the two for a credible and cohesive experience.
Mailchimp is the champion of email marketing campaign builders.
You could walk into their products with zero knowledge and within minutes, their exemplary UI and navigation will guide you through the entire process.
Mailchimp bat user flows out of the park.
Hungry for more? Have a look at these UX design examples that are top of their game.
Before you can even begin to manifest your wild UX design ideas, you’re going to need some UX design tools.
UX design tools are the basis that informs information architecture, user flow and ultimately how that experience will playout for the user.
There are a few around and each offers its own preferred style and compatibility.
We’ve gone through the trouble (honestly, it’s no bother) of picking out a few of the best-known and trusted UX design tools so you don’t have to.
Here we go!
As a browser-based platform Figma allows collaboration from multiple users simultaneously to promote a truly iterative UX design process.
This makes it a great tool for designing and composing wireframes or interfaces on the fly and having multiple people working together at the same time.
Figma offers companion apps for iOS and Android and is compatible with Mac and Windows.
Figma also offers a free plan for users which makes it a very attractive UX design tool for many.
For the ultimate remote user research UX design tool, look no further than UsabilityHub.
UsabilityHub offers a suite of testing tools where teams can test live prototypes, design surveys or preference tests and analyse heatmaps, showing where and when users interact with your product.
UsabilityHub tests with real users to validate your design ideas and prototypes. For more on this popular UX design tool, take a look at these examples.
As stated by the strapline “Start collaborating in 90 seconds”, Miro is the place to be for centralizing communications across your entire design team.
Miro allows teams to come together remotely and ideate, research, design, strategize and even create low-fidelity wireframes all in one place.
It’s also free and if you’re unsure where to start they have a Miroverse packed with projects from the Miro community.
Sketch is a wildly popular UI design platform for Mac users.
Its major advantages are that it allows you to design high-fidelity interfaces and prototypes and instantly view them from different devices.
This is perfect when collaborating with your team and getting shareholder feedback early on before you hand off to developers.
Check out this handy intro video on Sketch.
The only notable drawback with Sketch is that it only works with Mac users. Sorry Windows advocates but we have something for you too.
As part of the Adobe Creative Cloud, Adobe XD lets teams design, build and share user experiences for multiple channels.
Adobe apps have become industry standards in many cases as they offer such a diverse suite of tools.
Adobe XD works on both Mac and Windows and also offers a free trial for their paid plan.
By now you’ve done a ton of research on what it means to be a UX designer and how to navigate the various stages of the UX design process.
And what better way to flaunt that know-how than to dive into a UX design course and solidify your skills!
As well as taking a course (which we believe is the fastest and most efficient method for adopting a new skill), there are things you can do to beef up your UX design knowledge if you’re more of a self-learner:
Really place yourself in the world of UX design and absorb as much information as you can.
Here are a few ways to do exactly that:
Come up with ideas and put pencil to paper!
Exercise your creative muscles by taking inspiration from brands around you and have a go at deconstructing and reconstructing user flows with your own spin.
Things to think about when you’re practising are:
Learn the UX design tools of the trade. We mention a few in Chapter 9, most of which have free plans or free trials like Figma so you can get a feel for the real thing.
Some will be harder to learn than others but remember, there are always supporting articles and tutorial videos available online to lessen the learning curve.
UX design tools will help get your ideas from concept to wireframes and eventually prototypes.
This is a fantastic way to get a glimpse of how design teams collaborate and to share and grow your knowledge.
Plus, it’s all for a good cause and we can get behind that.
For internships, check your local job sites for nearby companies looking to take on UX designers.
Once you have some experience behind you, it’s time to create your very own UX design portfolio!
If you have already enrolled in a course, such as Growth Tribe’s, you will create a portfolio as part of the modules.
Feeling ready? Time to hit the careers pages and find yourself a shiny new UX job.
Whether you’re just starting out or have been a UX designer for a while, you’ll find high demand in everything from junior positions all the way up to lead designer roles.
If you’re curious about how much the salary is for a UX designer, we cover some industry standards in Chapter 5.
Before you show the world what your UX design skills are made of, your UX designer portfolio needs to be up to scratch.
Far from just showcasing projects, the portfolio represents your creative perspective on shaping user experiences.
Here are a few best practice tips to get you started:
It’s not enough to solely rely on pictures (as pretty as they may be). Prospective employers want to know the finer details. When describing a project, keep these questions in mind but don't waffle!
For inspiration take a peek at these superb portfolio examples.
Employers are scanning through dozens of portfolios when searching for the right candidate.
It goes without saying that you’ll want to stand out. To do this, be aware that your designs are the showpiece.
Guide your viewers through a visual journey and try to incorporate your own personality too. Here are a few examples to sink your teeth into.
To know if you’re on the right track, take a look at what other UX designers are doing. Check who’s competing in the same niche and also, what sorts of designs are favoured in different fields.
Dribble has thousands of portfolios to take cues from.
Nobody is perfect. Except maybe Tom Hanks. We mean, he’s pretty special.
But for the rest of us, it’s okay to put our flaws out there and employers will appreciate the honesty.
When talking about your experience on different projects, mention the setbacks, how they impacted the process, and what your response to them was.
This shows resilience, emotional intelligence and that you can articulate thoughtfully. All important skills for UX designers.
Congratulations! If you’ve stuck with us there’s nothing in your way to becoming a top-notch UX designer.
Hopefully, this Ultimate Guide to UX Design has answered some of the burning questions you might have and has lit a fire under your UX design dreams.
Be sure to subscribe to our blog at Growth Tribe for more on UX and other digital skills.