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User experience (UX) is a design process that considers the needs of users. It involves understanding what users want from a product and ensuring these requirements are incorporated in a logical way. The goal of UX design is to spark a positive user experience based on meeting needs and expectations.
A product's user interface (UI) consists of the physical components someone interacts with when using a product. This includes touchscreens, buttons, drop-down menus, forms, and other features used to accomplish tasks. The UI is a link between the user and the back-end systems that carry out specific processes.
A UX designer identifies the expectations and behaviors of users to ensure these are reflected in a product's design. UX design involves developing user personas, conducting research, creating wireframes and prototypes, and testing solutions. UX designers often continue testing after a product launch to improve future iterations of the software or device.
Once a UX designer develops a preliminary solution they believe meets the user's needs, the design is tested for problems. Users are asked to interact with the design to reveal how they expect to use the product. This often reveals gaps between what the designers intended and how users behave. These findings help to refine the product design.
User experience ensures products meet the user's needs. Your target market is more likely to see the value in a product if it offers a positive user experience and successfully solves their problems. This helps convert customers, encourages loyalty, and builds long-term credibility and trust.
Good UX designers have strong research and analytic skills and problem-solving abilities. They require good communication and listening skills to work with users during testing, and are usually curious and open-minded. UX designers must be flexible and willing to adapt their designs based on what they learn through research.
A bad UI design is one that's difficult to use. This can be due to low-contrast colors, typography that's hard to read, inconsistent design elements, confusing icons and symbols, and a lack of hierarchy to distinguish between important actions and less frequently used buttons.
Coding isn't required for UX and UI design. UX design involves conducting research, analysis, and usability tests, and working with prototyping software. UI design involves a knowledge of design principles including branding, color, typography, spacing, and patterns. Coding is typically done by programmers and developers when the UX and UI designs are complete.
Generative research takes place early in the design process. It's exploratory, with the goal of understanding users and problems that should be solved. This involves gaining insight into user behaviors, why and how they do things, and their perceptions and opinions. By starting with generative research, a company can ensure it's creating a product that fills a need.
Evaluative research puts concepts and designs in front of a test group to see how well they're meeting the needs of users. Researchers collect data by observing how users interact with the designs and noting any confusion or problems that arise. Subjects are often asked to discuss their thinking process as they navigate the design.
UX designers must know how to develop user personas, conduct usability testing, and create wireframes and prototypes using tools such as Sketch, InVision Studio, and Adobe XD. They should understand visual design principles, have excellent communication and listening skills, and a natural curiosity about people. The ability to collaborate is essential.
Because UX is relatively new, there aren't many degree programs available. Some institutions offer short certificate programs in UX and interaction design. Many UX researchers come from related backgrounds, such as psychology, marketing, design, and computer science. Aspiring UX researchers should make use of online resources and stay up to date on trends, and network with those working in the field.
According to PayScale, UX designers earn between $51,000 and $109,00 per year, with an average annual salary of $75,000. Those with one to four years of experience average $72,000 per year. Designers with five to nine years of experience average $84,300, and those with 10 to 19 years of experience earn an average of $95,600.
To build a career in UI design, you should be creative and have a strong grounding in visual communication and design. You can supplement this knowledge by earning an interaction design certificate from a respected provider. Practice your design skills and build a portfolio to show prospective employers, and reach out to industry professionals to start building a network of contacts.
While there isn't an official body that certifies UX professionals, many organizations and institutions offer online and in-person programs specializing in user experience. Participants earn a certificate after completion of a series of courses, which can range from short, week-long boot camps to year-long programs on a full- or part-time basis. Be sure to select a respected, reputable provider.