If you have ever done a quick job search for “user experience design,” chances are you you’ve seen a number of titles and descriptions that aren’t always as simple as “UX designer.”
User experience has a variety of specializations, and as a job seeker and practitioner, you should know the skills and implications that come with each. Understanding these differences will help you decide which area of UX is right for you and help you find the appropriate job to fit your interests and skill set.
The “UX designer” title tends to be the most holistic and broad of the various positions. This position will span a variety of roles and responsibilities. It is typical that UX design jobs will ask applicants to be a “full-stack designer” in that you should have experience in the design process from research through wireframing and even a bit of visual design or front-end development.
Key skills to know: Research methodologies, wireframing, ideation, prototyping
User researchers are responsible for understanding user needs, behaviors, and motivations. Through empathizing with the user, a researcher is able to inform design decisions and advocate for the user. This role typically works closely with business analysts, data analysts, and marketing teams to help determine product goals. In companies with larger UX teams, researchers may work separately from interaction designers or user interface designers in a more waterflow process.
Information architects are responsible for a product’s organization. They determine how information should be arranged and displayed to make it easy to understand and use. This ultimately helps the user interpret her surroundings, navigate around a product, and easily discover what it is that she’s looking to find or do. IA comes from library sciences and can help define product strategy.
Key skills to know: Card sorting, understanding of cognitive psychology, library sciences, user research analysis
Interaction design is all about how the a product feels and responds to a user. This role is typically very focused on precise user interface details. These details can include anything from designing movement, to animation, to visual aesthetics. If you’re looking to practice your research skills or dive into the nitty gritty of process flows and user journeys, this may not be the role for you. However, if you love interaction and you’re passionate about how products react and respond to users, this might be perfect for you.
User Interface Designer
User interface design is under the user experience umbrella but occupies its own distinct niche within the discipline. UI designers are most concerned with the look and feel of page visuals and layout. They ultimately choose where buttons should be placed, what colors are used, and what style the dropdown menu will display. Keep in mind, many companies will combine the role of the user interface designer with UX design responsibilities.
Key skills to know: Visual design, user interface patterns, typography, layout best practices
Product designer is an extremely popular title and one of the most ambiguous as well. You will be hard pressed to get the same definition from any two people because it tends to be used as a catch-all term that varies from company to company. For this reason, the role of product designer tends to include many aspects of all the roles defined above and is often most closely related to UX design because of the range of skill sets it can include.
Key skills to know: Content strategy, sketching, scope defining
Front-End Web Developer
As Nick Schaden told us, “Front-end web development is a mix of programming and layout that powers the visuals and interactions of the web.” Front-end development is very closely tied to user experience because it the physical programming of the designed interface. While this is a separate job, it is not uncommon to see UX designers asked to program or front-end developers asked to possess knowledge of UX.
Which user experience job will you seek out?