Being a UX Designer

Life as a UX Designer: ViewVo Expert Laura Hasting explains what it’s like being a UX Designer

Have you ever thought about becoming a UX Designer?  Our interview below with Laura Hasting gives a great insight into what life is like being a UX Designer.

We interviewed one of our ViewVo Experts, Laura Hasting, about what it’s like to be a UX Designer.  Not only is Laura a UX designer by background, she’s also the Community Manager at Red Badger (one of the Times top 100 employers to work for), so she has her ear to the ground on all things happening in this space.

This interview answers some of the key questions you might have if you’re thinking about becoming a UX Designer.

  • What is life as a UX Designer like?
  • What does a typical week look like?
  • What are the main skills you need to have?
  • What can the income be like?   

 

Laura’s Background

Laura Hasting UX DesignerLaura began her career as an Industrial Designer, and then moved into Graphic and Digital Design.  Whilst working on digital design content, her role began to incorporate more UX Design.

Laura then moved on to a company called General Assembly, that offers workshops in 21st Century skills, where she produced a User Experience Design course.  

She now works for a Digital Consultancy, looking after the design and UX side of the business.

 

 

What does a typical week look like as a UX Designer?

UX design is really varied.  If you’re working for a consultancy, every day will be very different.  There is a rough process every UX Designer will follow but it varies greatly, depending on the type of work you do.

Generally, you’ll start out with a brief, talk through that with your clients, work out what the requirements are for that project.  You’ll then carry out research, develop some hypotheses, put together user personas, and work on idea generation.

These are all big concepts and, within them, are a huge set of tools you might use.  For ideation and concept generation, you might, for example, use something like Crazy Eights, where you come up with eight ideas in eight minutes, or the magic wand technique, where you wave a magic wand and you have one easy to achieve idea and one really hard to achieve idea.  You then come up with something in the middle that’s practical but also desirable.

Another aspect of the role is usability testing, where you make sure that anyone can use the product (digital or otherwise), that your user journeys work.  You might do some user group feedback, where you get everyone in a room and talk about goals for using the app/product.

Ultimately you’d finish off with the product, working with engineers to come up with a really beautiful design.  So, you go through a cyclical process before you come up with anything that’s even close to finished.

A typical day or week is therefore very varied, depending on where you’re working, what product you’re working on and what stage you’re at in the process.

 

 

What are the main skills you need to be a UX Designer?

There’s a big buzzword at the moment about ‘T shaped’ people.  UX is so wide and uses both hard and soft skills.

Soft skills could be stakeholder management, public presenting, speaking in a large group of people, mediating sessions.  

At Red Badger, we look at people who have a generalist skill set, which is the horizontal part of the T, and the vertical part is the deep skill set, so maybe you’re really thorough and very good at synthesizing results and relaying them back to stakeholders.  

Being able to convey your ideas succinctly is a really important skill to have for this role.  Also being good at ideas, coming up with wire frames, knowing exactly what the accessibility requirements are.  Or maybe you’re more skilled at product design or you have a graphic design background. Those could also be one one of your vertical skill sets.  

The thing is not to be too worried about being good at everything but instead choosing the thing you’re good at and having a general mindset to be able to learn.

When we hire UX Designers at Red Badger, we don’t look for someone with a specific skill.  We try to find someone with great soft skills first, as the hard skills are more learnable, and a lot of them have quite a low barrier to entry in terms of learning them.  

So, someone who’s willing to learn but has great soft skills to start off with.  It’s great if they’ve got, for example, animation skills or if they’re a brilliant products designer but the best thing is to have a real interest in UX design and be willing to learn.

 

 

What are the barriers to entry?

You don’t need a design degree, or any degree actually.  The biggest barrier is your mindset. You need to be comfortable recording all the work you do, every phase of your thought process.  

You have to be able to speak through your ideas and projects fairly succinctly.  You can’t just speak without having the supporting evidence. You need the confidence to show your work in its various stages, before it’s complete.  It won’t all be beautiful, finished, slick screens and prototypes. What you need to be able to show is the thought process, which is scrappy, with a lot of scribbles on pieces of papers.  You need to be prepared and willing to show that unfinished work to someone.

 

 

What can the income be like?   

It really varies.  I’ve seen people with loads of experience work for a start-up that isn’t very well funded, and I’ve seen people with no experience work at an agency that offers them loads more money.  

I’d recommend taking a look at these websites to get more of an idea:

Glassdoor

LinkedIn

Angel List

 

If you do want to work for a start-up, you can take a look at Angel List to find out about their funding, and how long their funding is likely to last them.  

So, really it’s such a varied salary scale.  I’ve seen beginners start from about £18,000 per year, working for a start-up and others start on £40,000 per year, usually working at a big agency.  

I wouldn’t recommend anyone pursuing the lower end of the pay scale because I feel it doesn’t show the value of the design process, and they obviously don’t respect your work enough to value you at more than minimum wage.  

If you work for a really reputable company, you should be looking at earning from about £28,000 to £34,000 per year for a starting salary.

After years of experience, you can earn a lot more than that.  A lot of senior level UX designers seem to work on contract, which can be hugely lucrative, earning from around £450 to £700 per day.  That’s people who generally have at least fifteen years experience.  Those in a more permanent role, can be earning anything from about £50,000 up to £100,000 per year, at director level.

 

You can watch the full interview with Laura here…

 

 

 

Laura is one of ViewVo’s experts, offering advice and mentoring opportunities to those wanting to learn what it’s really like being a UX Designer.

 

If you’re thinking about becoming a UX Designer, click here to find out how Laura and ViewVo can help you.

 

Laura donates her fee from ViewVo to the Haller Foundation.

The Haller Foundation helps farmers in Kenya, and other developing countries, to knowledge share.  Red Badger built the first app that allowed farmers who have unusable land to share knowledge about historic farming data and how they can make their land usable again.  

They are currently fundraising to provide more communities with handsets and data.