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What Does A UX Designer Actually Do?

May 10, 2021

If you are considering a career in UX design, you are probably wondering what does a UX designer do? Well, a big part of UX design is asking questions. Of course, simply asking questions is not all a UX designer does day to day, but as a UX designer, you need to ask the right questions in order to identify the user's needs so you can design the right interactions. 

There are 6 basic questions that UX designers must answer to understand user interactions with a product: What, when, where, why, and how a person uses a product; and who is using the product.

UX designers play different roles in which they try to find an answer to these questions. UX design is a broad term, and the roles that a UX designer plays can vary from company to company. It is important to remember what a UX designer actually does varies depending on the company you work for.

UX design is a diverse discipline, but regardless of the company you are working for or what product you are designing, whether it is a music app, a business website, or even a kitchen blender, UX design is a continuous process of improvement. It takes a lot of time and skill to grasp the user journey and develop that journey into a product.

So, without further ado, the Guac is here to help break down what a UX designer actually does. Grab your chips and let’s dig in!

1. Product Research and User Research

Before the UX design process begins, UX research must be conducted. As we already mentioned, a big part of UX Design is asking questions. When it comes to UX research you will be asking questions that will help you identify user needs. A UX researcher’s goal is to understand the problem that users are facing so when it comes time to begin the UX design process, you can readily define how the solution to the users’ problem will work.

A UX designer will need to conduct research in order to learn more about the user because it is important to understand who you are designing for. UX designers use primary research and secondary research to determine user needs, goals, and motivations when it comes to the product. Designers do primary research by conducting surveys, interviews, or focus groups. Secondary research is done by using existing research material to support their design ideas.

UX designers also need to conduct market research to understand industry standards and the potential of the product. As a designer, it is important to know what is already out there on the market. You want to be able to differentiate your product from those of your competitors.

UX designers use data collection methods such as surveys, focus groups, personal interviews, and competitive analysis. The data collected will be analyzed and used to make design decisions.

UX research is so essential that some companies even hire UX research specialists whose sole focus is understanding user needs.


2. Create User Personas 

After gathering data from the product and user research, UX designers create user personas.

This is the point in the research process where UX researchers take a closer look into understanding what tasks each user wants to perform and why they want to perform them.

User personas are fictional users whose needs or characteristics represent those of a larger group of users. Even though the personas are not real people, they should reflect the behaviors of real prospective users for their product. 

A UX designer will use user research information to identify key user groups and develop different personas for each group. Scenarios can then be created for each persona that illustrates the day-to-day life of a typical user.

Creating user personas is all about empathy. This step of the process helps designers identify with the user they are designing for. Empathizing with the user can help the UX designer design a better product.


3. Defining Information Architecture (IA)

Once the research has been done and personas have been created, the UX designer has a good understanding of the problem they are trying to solve with their product. It is now time to figure out how the solution to the problem will work. This is when UX design comes into the process.

Defining information architecture, or IA, includes identifying what kind of content is needed and what is the most logical way to organize and lay out the content across the app, website, or product.

As a UX designer, you want the user to be able to find what they are looking for, right where they expect it to be. UX designers organize content effectively and intuitively so the user has a good experience when interacting with the product. UX designers create sitemaps to see how different pages of the website or app will fit together. UX designers also need to think about labeling and structuring navigational elements such as the top menu, sidebar, and footer.


4. Wireframing

A wireframe is a visual way to map out your product’s content. You can think of a wireframe as a kind of blueprint; a detailed plan of a product to be made. A wireframe should include a representation of every step a user might take when interacting with the product.

Wireframing is not the same thing as prototyping. A wireframe is more complex than just a sketch, but they are not used in the user testing stage. Wireframes help create a foundation for the final design while leaving room for flexibility and innovation.

You do not have to be an artist to create wireframes. There are many design platforms such as Sketch, Figma or Adobe XD that can help with visualizing your ideas.

5. Prototyping

A prototype is a representation of the final product and allows UX designers to interact with their designs. 

Because high-fidelity prototypes represent the functionality of the finished product, designers use them to pitch ideas to teammates or stakeholders. 

Prototypes are also great for user testing and understanding the target audience. UX designers can even build a lower fidelity prototype that highlights a specific feature that they want to test out with users. Prototypes can help UX designers determine what features will resonate with the users as the product design evolves.


6. User Testing 

One of the most common ways UX designers evaluate the functionality of their designs is through user testing. Usability testing helps UX designers gauge any problems users may encounter when interacting with the product as well as their satisfaction level with the product. 

Both moderated and unmoderated user tests are used by UX designers to gather feedback from the user. In moderated tests, the UX designer must recruit participants and schedule a session so they can observe the user interacting with a prototype. In unmoderated tests, the user typically just sends a recording of them interacting with the prototype.

What Does a UX Designer Do?

A UX designer can play different roles from company to company. There are careers in UX design that stem from generalists to specialists in the design process.

UX designers perform product research, create user personas, design information architecture, and build wireframes and prototypes so their products can be tested with users.

When talking about the roles of a UX designer, it is important to mention the duties and skills they must perform outside of the design process. UX designers need to be top tier communicators. You will present your designs to teammates and stakeholders. UX designers will often need to be able to negotiate ideas and work with graphic designers and coders. These soft skills, along with design skills, are necessary in order to design a good user experience.

UX design has a variety of career paths for you to consider, so it can all be a bit overwhelming to navigate on your own. Having a mentor who can guide you through your UX design journey is an advantage when it comes to the UX design industry. 

Schedule a free mentoring session with a UX designer today! 

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