Take the 2-minute tour ×
User Experience Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for user experience researchers and experts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Well, here's the deal, I'm trying to figure out what I want to as a career in the future. I'm nearing the end of my 2nd year of college so it's kind of something I need to think about.

For awhile, I thought I wanted to be a UX Designer because I think designing with the user in mind is pretty important. But, now I'm thinking that's not exactly what I want to do. I've read about what UX Designer actually do and I noticed that alot of people said that most only go up to the wire framing and prototyping phase and never actually touch the final product (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong). Finishing the product is the part that I actually like.

So, I've come to the conclusion that I'd rather be a Web or Visual Designer. But, I do like some of the aspects of UX Design so can you be a Web or Visual Designer with UX skills.

share|improve this question
4  
In a small enough shop everyone touches everything and your role changes as the project iterates. Being the UX Designer for two weeks, a developer the following two weeks, and going back to UX is something that many of us in a small team do regularly. –  Charles Wesley Apr 7 at 15:11

9 Answers 9

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I did the exact thing you are looking to do. I worked for years as a web designer and started adding the UX skills as it went along, seeing that this field was really opening up. I now work for a company that builds pretty complex software for the commercial insurance industry and find myself involved in listening to the business development people talk about what it has to do, solidifying personas for users, concept drawings/sketches with the team to workout an initial workflow, building out wireframes and prototypes (I use IndigoStudio by infragistics) to test the interaction design, etc. Being a frontend designer for a longtime had it's benefits because there is a lot of crossover. One of the charts I loved was this one showing how and where UX crosses over and what it covers.

enter image description here

Because of my visual design skills, I'm also very heavily involved in modernizing the skins and interface that we use in the UI, bringing it up to current trends, making it shine, etc. Does that mean you have to do all of that? No. Some UX people I know are not very good designers but work heavily on the other side with the requirements, use cases, testing, etc. While I think your hand is going to be in all of it, and you should have a grasp of everything in that chart, you will most likely start to float towards a side you're stronger on. For me, it's the interaction and visual design side.

Another great article I saw on "What is UX" is really breaks down what is UX: What are really the differences between a UI and a UX designer or how to forget vanity titles and use logic instead. I love his description with the food and the plates. Content being the food, plates being the design, UX being the two coming together.

share|improve this answer
    
Great answer! I would like to focus more on the visual side as well. That's the part that I'm the most interested in. But, I like to do the frontend coding too. Also, nice article, by the way. I really liked how it broke it down. It was interesting. I liked the chart too. –  Taylor Apr 7 at 19:20
    
Glad it helped. Yeah, I found myself hovering to the top 3/5ths of the chart as well because of my design background and we have a lot of people at the company that were already writing use cases and requirements docs. Plus the company has been around for about 30 years so most of the new stuff had to do with new visual and interaction designs, modernizing things, etc. Yeah, his idea with the bowl and the food and all of it together really drove it home too. –  Charles Apr 7 at 19:25

Can you be a Web and UX Designer or a Web Designer with UX skills?

Yes.

(Seems like I should elaborate. In general, there is no one definition for 'UX' designer. Yes, some do only wireframes. Some do wireframes and JS. Some do JS and icon design. Some do branding and user testing. Some do research and interviews. There's a large range of skills that overlap UX. Believe it or not, there was a time in the web industry where we didn't even have what we call 'UX designers'--that's just what we all did without calling it that.)

share|improve this answer
1  
That's true. The term UX design has mostly become prominent in the last decade. It was never official but clients expected all these skills in us. –  Pdxd Apr 8 at 11:49

Lots of great answers here. I'd like to add-

Many people who go into UX Design come from tons of different backgrounds. I've seen people switch into it from Psychology, Marketing, Copywriting, Development, and even engineering. Anyone who thinks they know how to empathize with the user. I myself came from a Graphic Design background.

The role of UX Designer is a combination of skills. First and foremost you need to know how to communicate clearly. You'll need to negotiate and navigate between design, development, user needs and business needs.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

You need to know how to justify all your choices. Especially if you go down the visual path of UX, as you'll be tested constantly on how you handle constructive criticism. It's all about

Another concept to be aware of is a lot of job descriptions combine UX/UI design, or UX/UI development. Many companies may not have enough work for just the one role. The companies may not always be small, but if your team is small, be prepared to step up.

When I started my career, I decided to diversify as a Web Designer. That meant design and front end development. It got me a lot of experience because I could fill a lot of roles at once but I did not enjoy development. The moral is to go with what you enjoy. Strive to do what you love to do. There is always a way to get the most happiness in your career and get paid for it too.

For me, now that I know more about my role with experience, I can afford to choose the type of role I grow my career in. I chose to drop development and only do ux and design. But knowing development has helped me design feasibly.

Some people choose to specialize in UX. Some in development. You don't have to do development, you could just stick with visual.

Definitely be prepared to multitask. That tends to be the expected thing.

Here's a Venn diagram I made for my blog:

venn diagram

You can read the article I wrote last November on the topic:

http://pdx.ca/demystifying-digital-roles-with-a-nifty-venn-diagram/

Hope this helps you with your career choice.

share|improve this answer

I think it sounds like you want to be a Web Designer with great UX skills. A web designer who is able to reinforce his designs with reasons behind the layout and implementation. Certainly something which would land you a rad job in an agency, and in an ideal world you would have big involvement with a dedicated UX team, certainly in concept stage, and would then be able to design the frames into the shiny designs, whilst keeping UX in mind.

share|improve this answer
    
That is exactly what I want to do: design sites while also thinking about the UX. I think designs should have some kind of meaning behind them. –  Taylor Apr 7 at 19:23

Straight out of college you are more likely to get a visual design job than a ux job. Better to go with what you are planning: web designer with ux skills.

The upside: Having a web/visual focus will give you an impressive portfolio, which will speak louder than any concepting or write up.

Keep learning ux - it will pay off in the field, and in time will garner you a more senior level position.

Play the long game: while web and app design is a strong field, the market is still very volatile. You will likely work for several companies in just a few years. Everything you do should up your value when you find yourself back on the market, and a great visual portfolio will will get you more interviews.

All this points to the fact that UX is a Senior-level or even director-level position that no college graduate will qualify for, unless perhaps you work for a fledgling startup (not a bad idea, by the way).

There is enough work to divide amongst a ux designer, visual designer, and front end developer. The reality is that you will be asked to wear more than one hat no matter what your title says.

share|improve this answer

I think you'd want to be a web developer with UX skills. I think by default a web designer would have UX skills (although several don't :-P) because good web design is often and rightfully judged by usability. The design portion is where the UX starts, but don't discount UX in terms of development. Learning how to correctly serve content through code to minimize load times is a HUGE part of the user experience.

I started out with web and graphic design where I learned visual usability cues, but I majored in Computer Science since I liked digging deep into code. Now I'm the UX Architect where I work, both in terms of visual styling and code optimization. My biggest pieces of advice to you would be not to worry about titles, cross-over wherever you feel comfortable and if you find out you hate coding don't force yourself to do it. I love building things. The fact that I get to build things that enhance my users' experiences is the icing on the cake for me.

share|improve this answer
    
I always thought a web developer was strictly coding and more on the technical side? Like, they don't focus too much on the visual aspect of it. I was a Computer Science major in the beginning before I switched it so I do like coding a little bit but not enough to be a programmer haha. Like, I like HTML, CSS and that kind of stuff but I don't want to do something that's super technical. I want to work with the visual design stuff too. –  Taylor Apr 8 at 2:46
    
These days the line between web developer and designer is rapidly converging. Front-end (i.e., web) developers are often asked to have some kind of design skill. This doesn't mean they need to be a CS suite expert since frameworks like bootstrap came onto the scene. Hell, I have a branding guide up on my GitHub that all you'd need to do is change the fonts and colors and your web app branding is done. I guess my point is, a developer these days doesn't always need a designer to push a pretty and well functioning (the core of UX) product out the door. –  EHorodyski Apr 8 at 12:02

If you choose to be a "web designer", who do you think will use the websites you design? Users? And wouldn't their interaction with your web site be their experience. So isn't being a "web designer" really, fundamentally being a User Experience designer?

I'll go one further and say that in order to truly be effective in designing the user experience, you have to understand completely and thoroughly that which the user is using: the technology. Which means that to be an effective UX designer, you need some technical understanding beneath it.

The best designers I've worked with have a deep understanding of the developer tools, frameworks, design patterns, abilities and limitations of the technology. They can integrate all of these into effective designs, creating new software that combines elements in new ways.

If you are visually inclined and have a passion for aesthetics, study software engineering. You will bring all of your experience to bear, and it will make you both an exceptional developer and designer.

Designing web sites is a short-sighted goal. As technology moves to embedded devices, so called 'ubiquitous computing', in the near future we'll look back at "surfing the web" with the same quaintness as "watching what's on tv tonight."

share|improve this answer

I don't think you you should look on the long run right now. You have to test every role to see which one fits you best and after a few years you can pick something to become an expert in.

Try getting a role in an early start-up. You will have the pleasure to do everything from concept and planing to finishing products + maintaining and optimising. After getting a taste of each role you will be able to see what you want to become an expert in.

Don't base your judgement on articles and books right now in the UX field. Every company sees UX in different ways and uses it for different purposes. Try to get as much experience as possible in different fields and go with the wave. You'll find out on the way what you like best.

One last thing, learning UX will help you in all fields. And having experience in more than one field will help you learn UX.

share|improve this answer

As a UX Designer, here's some observations from myself and some of my colleagues in the field.

UI/visual design and UX/IA require very different skillsets you should try working on a project doing both to decide which you enjoy more

I should probably define my terms so there's no confusion

  • UI/visual design: This is your traditional "web design". Dealing with the look and feel of a website, web app. Thinks you look at includes: composition, branding, color usage. You create pixel perfect mockups
  • UX/IA (information/interaction architecture). Dealing with how content is organized on the website, or user flows in a web app. You create site/content maps, wireframes, flow diagram, user journey maps etc.

As you can see, because the output is very very different, the mindset you need for the two tasks are different. I work at a very small company right now where I'm the only designer. So I have to handle both of these roles. And it feels a bit like I have to flip a mental switch every time I switch between the two.

Dealing with UX/IA, you have to be very analytical, left brain. Juggling the pros and cons of different approaches, seeing if you can combine ideas and testing it with users to determine what's "optimal". Whereas with UI/visual design, you need to be expansive and use your right brain. Get inspiration from varies sources, try many ideas to come up with something that stands out.

Because these are two fundamentally different approaches. I think it's usually very clear which one you gravitate towards once you give it a go.

You can give it a try by working in a small company (startup) etc... but the downside of a small company is that you're the only designer. Being a new grad, the best thing you can get is a mentor... which is much easier to find at a larger company. So I would recommend fail fast. Poking around to see if there's any small projects around your neighbour. Hackathons, Startup Weekends etc where developers would love to grab a designer for a weekend or so. Meetup is a great place to check for these.

Once you've figure out your focus, then you can start branching out... because you're right. Having skill sets (or at least the understanding) across the two discipline is super helpful when working in a team. There's plenty of articles out there on why it's good to be a "T-shaped person". Here's one: http://chiefexecutive.net/ideo-ceo-tim-brown-t-shaped-stars-the-backbone-of-ideoae%E2%84%A2s-collaborative-culture

Good luck on your journey!

share|improve this answer
    
thanks for the great advice! I really liked the t-shaped person article! Well, right now, I think I'm leaning more towards the UI/visual design side but, of course, I won't know for sure until I actually try it out. –  Taylor Apr 8 at 2:57
    
"UI/visual design and UX/IA require very different skillsets" = gotta disagree on that. They can be different skillsets but they also can overlap quite a bit. They are also incredibly related--one influences the other. Some of the best UX/UI designers I've worked are adept at wearing both hats simultaneously. To say one is left brain and the other is right brain isn't all that accurate, IMHO. Both require creative and analytical thinking. (All that said, I would agree that not everyone desires to do both, so that's a valid point) –  DA01 Apr 8 at 4:39

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.