Starting a UX career can be exciting because this industry has a lot to offer. However, some UX roles can be quite confusing. You may have an idea of what the UX researcher or a UX designer does, but for some roles such as visual designer and product manager, you may wonder what exactly they do in the industry.
In today's article, Guide to UX Roles: Which one to choose? we’ll put an end to any confusion you may have.
This article will discuss the following topics:
Probably almost every year there are new UX designer job description that is quite confusing because they are overlapping roles. Thus, it is no surprise that we get confused with these roles!
If you are new to the UX industry, you are in the right place because today we will be discussing and identifying the different kinds of roles in UX. for those who are starting their careers in UX, this article is perfect for you, giving you a good idea on which career path to take.
After all, if you’re unclear about your destination, then you cannot take steps to get there. For example, you cannot create your UX portfolio without knowing which job title to take in UX. Similarly, you need to know which job description role you’re aiming for in order to sign up for courses that can teach you those exact skills and knowledge.
Why familiarize yourself with different UX titles?
Why do we have to go through a seemingly roundabout way to familiarize ourselves and understand the many existing UX roles? The importance here is to get a better view of the big picture. Like what we have explained previously in this article when a new job position pops up, we will be able to understand in context this open tole in the whole design process.
In addition, there are companies that might define UX roles a lot differently. Once you understand these different UX roles and how they contribute to the design process, you will be less confused when it comes to job hunting and even portfolio building.
Commonly recognized UX roles
If you are confused about the many different, existing UX roles you are not alone.
do not worry because we are here to help you clear out your confusion by differentiating and identifying the existing UX roles that people are commonly confused with.
Let us start with the six common UX rules that we often hear a lot:
- UX designer;
- Product designer;
- Visual designer;
- UX researcher;
- Content strategist; and
- UX unicorn
With each role, we will describe the common tasks and deliverables, including a rough idea of whether you’ll like the role.
Are you ready to make sense of UX roles? Let’s start then.
UX Roles in the design process
When it comes to identifying the different existing UX job titles the first step would always be to realize that all UX rules exist because they are needed to serve the design process.
to better understand, we must check and properly examine how they contribute to the design stages, where we perform a whole slew of UX tasks throughout the design process to create a final design.
Like for example, design usually starts by gaining a deeper understanding of users before digging into creating product UX design and conducting user tests. And because of this, different UX roles simply take charge of different subsets of these UX title tasks.
Another factor you need to know is that all senior UX design processes, even if the job title differ slightly from one another, share the same phases. We will use the design thinking process to illustrate our points.
According to Teo Yu Siang of the Interaction Design Foundation, UX roles are created to fill different parts of the design process. The above illustration shows stages that are closely connected. You may also see that they overlap and are iterative by nature. And this is why the UX job titles are often so difficult to define and separate completely.
The most common design stages are made of 5 phases that feed into one another.
The design thinking methodology of EDIPT (empathize-define-ideate-prototype-test) is 5 stages that work across user experience design. By understanding those you can see where each role's outputs and activity sit.
Empathize (identify and learn about your users)
This phase is about the need to understand the users, their pain points, and what they need. More than that how they live their lives, you will need to figure out how they think, feel, say, and do. This stage will be the learning stage where you can get a better grip on user interviews and user testing.
Define (identify user problems and user needs)
This phase is where we define the problem we need to solve and the target users that we are trying to solve it for.
Ideate (generate design ideas to solve the problems)
In this stage, there will be a lot of ideas needed to execute the design and eventually solve the problem. This stage is where you ideate through sketching and playing with different designs in order to come up with what feels to be the best solution based on the gathered user data from user testing and from the stakeholders.
Prototype (create mock-ups and, eventually, the final product)
Now that the design is ready and we know have the problem we are trying to solve, the next step is to go test it with real users to get feedback.
We can do this with working prototypes. Once know what works, then we proceed to create a high-fidelity version that is ready to undergo the test.
Test (test the designs with the users to improve them)
We should already have a working product or working feature in this stage, which should be ready to go live and be tested.
We recommend that you have metrics and KPIs in place to have a higher chance of success. Of course, user feedback is another important key aspect in this stage.
Each UX role we’ll examine below will perform a slightly different range of these key UX tasks. For instance, a UX designer is a generalist who takes charge of all the UX tasks, while a visual designer focuses on the prototype phase and creates pleasing and useful interfaces.
Let us check at some of the key UX tasks we perform in each of the phases:
The different UX roles
We can break down this job into 6 core roles: UX Researcher, UX writer, UX designer, UI designer, UX manager, and UX strategist. Also, we have the 7th role which is what we call the UX unicorn!
The main role of a UX researcher or also known as a user researcher is to listen to the users, gather data from them, and translate it into valuable information for the design team to utilize or information architect.
In the design process, the tasks of a UX researcher include defining goals, setting scope, making a plan, choosing the right research methods, recruiting users, communicating with them, writing research scripts, and conducting the research itself (interviews, usability testing, card sorting, and so on), organizing and analyzing the results, presenting reports.
The role of the UX researcher in the design process also requires working jointly with UI designer UX designers in terms of suggesting changes and new solutions based on the findings of user research.
The main role of a UX designer is to make a product or service usable, enjoyable, and accessible.
While many companies design user experiences, the term is most often associated with digital design for websites and apps. And as we have explained, the design process varies from product to product and company to company, however, the general phases of design tend to stay the same.
The UX designer is responsible for the users’ overall satisfaction with the product. The UX designer creates site maps, wireframes, or prototypes to give your team a better idea of what the final product will look like.
A UX writer creates copy for apps, websites, and other digital products that help users navigate the product. A UX writer might find the right words for menus, definitions, buttons, labels, chatbots, and error messages, or the instructions to guide first-time users through a product. These words are what we call the small pieces of writing which are collectively known as “microcopy.”
An effective UX writer will create a microcopy that is intuitive to users, in keeping with the product’s brand voice, and easily understood by almost anybody, including people of different abilities, ages, gender identities, and backgrounds.
You can think of UX writing as a subset of UX design. user research writers focus on the written bits that overlap with the whole design process.
Just like a UX designer, the UX writer may also conduct several test versions of the work, conduct user research, and interact heavily with product teams as they find the best ways to create a useful copy.
A UI designer is a crucial role in user experience. Just like the previous UX roles, the end goal of a UI designer is to provide a positive experience for the user. However, compared to the UX designer, a UI designer has an entirely separate leg of the journey.
Simply put, the UI designer's role is more focused on the user interaction with the product. On the other hand, the UX designers role concern is on the overall interaction feels.
It is the UI designer’s user research job description is to bring the UX designer’s vision to life. But how do they go about this?
A UI designer job titles is expected to design products, with which the user will interact, considers how the app looks on various screen sizes, UX design elements (buttons, icons, slides, etc), and takes charge of choosing the right color palette based on the comprehensive understanding of the color theory, establishing style guide to be used throughout the product journey, and designing the interactivity of each UI element.
Is a visual designer different?
There are times that a senior UI designer and a visual designer are grouped together, and there are times they are the same roles.
Probably, the main difference is a visual designer might be doing web pages and digital designs like banners and ads, while the UI designer might only do user interfaces in products and is usually very mobile-first led.
Most UI designers do the design needed for websites and other digital media, which means the role of the UI product designer normally encompasses visual design skills too.
UX strategist and manager
The UX strategist and UX manager can be the same person or 2 different roles.
A UX manager is usually in charge of the user experience team and is responsible for the structure of the team, and how it fits into the wider business and professional development of the team members.
The UX strategist, on the other hand, is more concerned with how user experience and customer experience are used within the organization and various business units. It is concerned with having a solid UX foundation in each digital product and best practices and guides in all aspects and stages of the design thinking process as well as a solid UX methodology like the double diamond approach.
The role of a UX strategist and manager involves a combination of responsibilities from both the business side and the UX designers side of the product designer and development.
By adopting both of these perspectives, it is easier to find alignment between the user’s needs and your product’s needs to help guide decisions and prioritize feature requests.
This rare generalist can also be considered a UX designer with knowledge and skills in front-end development skills. This role does the full spectrum of design thinking, creating the code and bringing it to life.
A UX unicorn is expected to be good at all aspects of the UX design work: graphic design and coding, which makes the UX unicorn a highly sought-after role in user experience.
Additionally, a UX unicorn makes for excellent UX team leader and manager because of the wide range of skill sets that they have, enabling them to work on any UX project and lead others to deliver the best possible work.
There is a scarcity of UX unicorns, which makes it hard for employers to find them.
Which UX role to go for?
You should have more clarity on the different UX roles and which role appeals the most to you after learning about the different existing UX job description in the user experience industry.
However, if you’re still unsure, you may check out and go first for the UX designer role. This way, you can experience the different specializations and build your skill set from there. If you come to like one of them especially, you can then dive into that one.
Constantly changing UX roles
UX roles are in flux, and it is predicted that these roles will always be. UX designers seem to have a limitless amount of creativity that makes the different UX roles reinvent and redefine each role every time.
This article is a good basis to navigate the ever-growing and changing UX roles. When you know how UX roles exist to fill gaps in the UX design process, you’ll emerge clear-headed no matter how chaotic the field seems.
When it comes to looking for a user research job or senior UX job, always remember that companies may define a UX role differently. For example, bigger companies usually hire specialist UX designers, so they often have specific roles as UX researchers and Visual designer
On the other hand, small and medium-sized companies tend to prefer generalists that encompass roles like a UX researcher, user research UX designer, and even developer.
A simple tip is to always read the UX job description of an opening carefully before applying. Also, make sure it’s a role that fits you and that you are willing to perform.
It may be difficult and confusing at first to define the various UX roles as they tend to overlap in several ways. However, all these roles function to serve different parts of the UX design process.
A helpful way to fully understand these UX roles is to identify and specify the different phases of the UX design process these roles contribute toward.
Below are the 6 UX roles that we commonly see:
- UX Researcher: focus on understanding and advocating for users, and take part in the empathize, define and test phases;
- UX writer: are all about crafting pieces of copy that are persuasive, clear, and consistent, and contribute towards the prototype phase;
- UX designer: take charge of the whole UX design process and work on all 5 phases of the design thinking process;
- UI designer: focus on the user interaction of the product. specialize in the prototype phase and create pleasant, useful, and usable interfaces and visuals;
- UX manager: A UX manager in charge of the UX team and is responsible for the structure of the team, how it fits into the wider business, and the professional development of the team members.
- UX strategist: concerned with how UX and CX are used within the organization and various business units.
Then we have the 7th UX role, which is the UX Unicorn, who are rare people who handle both UX design and frontend development.
We recommend that you aim for a design UX job title that matches your passion and skills. If that’s hard to determine just yet, we advise you to go for the broad UX designer role and then narrow down your focus as you find out what you love doing.