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User-Experience Designer: Job Description and Requirements

User-experience designers require significant formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and skill requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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User-experience designers use their knowledge and expertise of how users interact with computers to design the user interface of computer programs and applications. These professionals usually require a bachelor's degree in a related field or one specific to the position they are looking to enter. The growth outlook for jobs in this profession is slower than average.

Essential Information

User-experience designers are responsible for creating the look and feel of computer interfaces. Their primary goal is to maximize the potential of the human-computer interaction so the user can easily navigate and understand the computer's functionality. Most employers require those in this field to have a bachelor's degree in psychology, visual design, communications, computer science, or a similar field. In addition, someone in this field should be familiar with coding languages (such as Java, Perl, HTML, CSS, and XML/XSL), and have knowledge of programs like Flash, Photoshop, and Dreamweaver.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in psychology, visual design, communications, computer science, or related field.
Other Requirements Familiarity with coding languages and specialized software programs
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 2% (for industrial designers)
Median Salary (2015)* $67,130 (for industrial designers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Job Description

User-experience designers are responsible for creating the look and feel of a specific computer interface. This allows them to navigate the functionality of that interface and produce a certain type of human-computer interaction. These designers generally work on teams, applying their skills to a website or computer product, such as a piece of software. These teams can include different types of designers.

Interaction designers work primarily with navigation structures and interface functions. Their work is foundational to the site or product being created; every other aspect of the design experience goes on top of their storyboards and mockups for how the design will actually work. The interaction designer is the member of the team that spends the most time with user research, testing and psychology. The information designer deals mainly with content specific to the site or product, as well as working up user assistance tools. The visual designer is concerned with the aesthetics of the final product.

Despite these differences, user-experience design boils down to the task of translating the requirements for a product's optimal functionality into interactive solutions. This entails the incorporation of market research and psychology, design of the human-computer interface for optimal effectiveness, inclusion of easily navigable content, and graphic design and finishing for maximum aesthetic appeal.

Requirements

This multifaceted career draws from elements of psychology, visual design, communications and computer science. As a result, degrees in these areas can all be used as a stepping-stone toward becoming a user-experience designer. Many employers require a member of their design team to have a bachelor's degree, and a graduate degree can increase the chances of employment. Depending on the team function an employer is trying to fill, a degree in a specific field may be preferred; a visual designer, for example, is usually required to have a degree in visual or graphic design.

The primary skill requirement is a familiarity and expertise with systems and coding languages. Depending on the specifics, these can include Java, Perl, HTML, CSS and XML/XSL. Knowledge of programs like Flash, Photoshop, Dreamweaver and others is also extremely important. It should also be emphasized that this career is a creative endeavor. Creativity, problem-solving, passion and attention to detail are important aspects of this profession.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs for industrial designers, such as user-experience designers, will increase 2% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). The agency reported that jobs in this field paid a median salary of $67,130 in 2015.

User-experience designers require skills in design software and an understanding of programming languages. They require a bachelor's degree, and some positions may require a master's degree. They can expect a median salary of around $67,000 per year.

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