With so many UX job titles out there, how do you shine? We’re discussing the state of UX job titles in today’s web design industry.
User experience (UX) has come a long way since the design term was coined by Don Norman in the ’90s. UX is trending, massively, and we all want a piece of the pie. The number of people who are currently riding the UX wave is staggering—and it’s only going to get bigger from here on out. But with so many of us along for the ride, it does raise the question: are we actually creating great user experiences? What do our job titles say about us? It has taken us long enough to get to a position where design plays an important role in a creating solutions that users love. Let’s take a look at the state of UX jobs in today’s tech industry.
Navigating the ocean of UX
For most aspiring individuals, we display our job titles proudly on LinkedIn and other social media sites as a signifier of our distinction, and to imply our competence and experience in our given field. Yet more and more, our job titles require further explanation to communicate what it is we actually do. UX design in the online technology industry is one of the worst offenders, with UX job titles going in and out of style faster than internet memes. As stated by Sohan Murthy in his “Top 10 Job Titles That Didn’t Exist 5 Years Ago” infographic, ‘UX Designer’ is one of the “10 most popular job titles, having barely existed 5 years ago”, by has been on the up, explosively, the past few of years. With the increasing demand for UX Designers, the tech industry requires us to have UI/UX behavior down pat before we’ve spoken our first words. But despite this, it seems that we’re still lacking adequate labels to define our ever-increasing skillsets.
Let’s see, so far, we’ve got our UX Designers, UX Researchers, UX Architects, Usability/UX Analysts, Product Designers, UX Product Managers, Visual Designers, Experience Designers, UI Designers, UI Artists—the list truly goes on and on. On top of this, the roles that define each of these job titles can vary extensively between startups and large corporations, or depending on the knowledge that your employer has in this – comparatively new – field.
“A designer is a planner with an aesthetic sense.” — Bruno Munari, Design as Art
The UX-UI spectrum: what do you actually do?
The problem with UX being so new is that it’s totally up for discussion, and we tend to have those discussions a lot. Being a rather broad term, User Experience can be root cause of confusion in the profession: encompassing several different types of profile. In fact, some see UX design as more of an umbrella terms that covers a broad range of specializations, and not just one discipline. If the role is more design oriented, Experience Designer may fit better. If it’s more technical, Experience Architect. Add to this the fact that any UX practitioner can possess anywhere from a few to the full stack of ‘UX skills’, and be able to take something from concept through design, creative execution and technical delivery. The fact of the matter is that UX envelops many disciplines and skill sets, so the generic job title ‘UX’ can feel quite ambiguous.
The world of technology is so expansive that in today’s culture we expect most people to be tech savvy, yet in reality, the number of people who permeate the tech industry is actually still quite small in comparison with other professions. Depending on our background, age, interests, social status, (among other factors), the people we interact with may or may not understand the term “web developer” or “graphic designer”. But if they do, it is the result of decades of education and familiarity with a world saturated with all things internet. Saying we work in UX is a great opener – personal as well as professional – but unless we elaborate, the majority of people we talk to are probably not going to truly understand what we do. So often, we see the User Interface (UI) and UX combined with “designer” or “developer”, so what does that entail? Do we code, design, analyze, test, build? Morten Christoffersen opens up the following question: “if the actual interface and interactions of a digital product is not pivotal for the user experience, then what is?” …It takes two to tango!
“A solid process lays the foundation for a healthy culture, one where ideas are evaluated by merit and not by job title.” — Eric Ries
UX design: back to the drawing board
Are we simply reproducing the same definition of UX across multiple job titles? UX design is a multidisciplinary approach to designing digital products with the user always at the center. It envelopes a number of disciplines: essentially, any discipline that relates to “shaping a user’s experience of a given digital product falls within the boundaries of UX design“. So, should we ignore job titles altogether and live in a sort of free-for-all UX utopia? OR, should we embrace the broad range of specializations that fall under UX and actually tell people what it is that we really do? With all of these creative technologists and digital prophets out there at the moment, what are we to do! Only one thing is for certain: we need to facilitate great interactions and experiences for users. At the end of the day, we should be thinking of UX design as a mindset, not just as a job title.
If you’ve read our recent piece on UI/UX, you will know that our resident UI and UX Designers view user experience as a way of life, and not something that you hang up when you turn off your PC/MAC at 6pm Monday through Friday. Fortunately, most designers are focused on what’s important – the user and their experience – rather than roles and titles.