Describe your sector in a nutshell.
I work in a design discipline which is known as User Experience. Imagine the last time you shopped for something online. Sometimes, the websites don’t work how you expect, things are broken, the words don’t really make sense and it’s asking you to sign up before you’ve even seen the products for sale. Our job in UX is to understand the needs of users and create interfaces, designs, and interactions that make experiences better. This can involve writing, researching user behaviour, testing designs, and analysing data to create effective solutions.
What are the different career opportunities/jobs available in your sector?
There are many linked specialist roles which are involved in creating experiences. For example, User Experience Researcher. That’s someone who specialises in collecting data and information from people to figure out what we should build or fix next, what people need and want and how they respond to a new idea. For another example, a Content writer – someone who specialises in writing content for web, can create simple error messages and get information across in a way that people read online. Also, we have roles like a User Interface Designer, who’s responsibility is to create the actual interface and interactions which make using a digital product feel great. This includes making sure that the brand is well communicated through the visual designs, making sure it’s clear for developers to build, keeping it consistent so it looks professional and is a really creative role. Remember the last time you opened or closed an app on your phone and it seemed to shrink away or get bigger to fill the full screen? That’s a nice example of a good User Interface, as it visually tells you that you’ve closed or opened the app.
What’s interesting/fun about your sector/industry? Why should a young person want to work there?
I think design is such a powerful tool. Look around where you are right now, Every chair, table, sweatshirt, pair of trainers or pen has been designed. The chair is the right height to sit on, the table is level so things don’t roll off, the sweatshirt is made of some nice material so it feels good to wear, and your trainers might just have been designed specifically for running or weightlifting to help you perform at your best. People use and make things every day, and playing a part of making it fun and easy to use is really what makes me tick.
What skills/qualities do you look for in someone wanting to join your sector?
Because you’re working with lots of different types of people, the number one thing is communication skills. You need to be able to listen, accept feedback, and stand up for your customers. Obviously, there is quite a lot of knowledge required for the role, but knowledge is learned and there is a load of free resources out there to help budding designers and researchers. Some of my team have PhD’s, and some of them have only been doing what they do for a few years. Tools will come and go, but by having a basis in some popular design tools like Figma, it would set you up well for the future.
What is demand looking like in your sector? How do you think this will change in the future?
There is a real need to help make more products and services that are Human Centred. I believe that as we move into the future, we’ll get help from AI and be able to automate more and more of the things which can be done better by an accurate algorithm, but ultimately, humans are creative beings and I don’t see the need for problem solving slowing down any time soon, we’ll just have more complex problems to solve!
What is the approximate salary range can people earn?
Well it can vary so much depending on where you are, your experience level, the industry, and the company itself. I would say that someone just starting as a junior designer could be looking at £28k, whereas someone in a senior position with lots of experience could be earning upwards of £70k. It really depends – there are some great resources to find salary information by location. One we use is called ZebraPeople for the UK.
What career pathways are available for a young person wanting to join your sector? (University and non-uni routes)
I’ll sound old here, but in my day, it was really limited and you could do Human Computer Interaction or nothing! Now, there are all sorts of degrees available around UX Design, UI Design, Information Architecture – it just depends where you look. Some of our best designers have no formal education at a university, but have either self-taught or used online certifications and courses to focus on particular topics. We use them all the time to help one type of specialist learn about another’s role.
Any advice you would give to a young person wanting to join your sector?
Well, not to turn this into a joke, but go and do your research. It’s an always on career which means you never stop learning new things. So if you’re a great communicator, love working with others, get easily bored, like figuring out how to improve things, or get frustrated when the coffee cup lid doesn’t fit, maybe a career in design is for you!