What is UX Design?
UX stands for User Experience, which is how a person feels when interfacing with a website, web application, desktop software, or mobile device apps. A UX Designer’s “main goal is to continually measure and improve the usability of a product for its users by leveraging research,” explains Terry Million, Design Product Manager at Thinkful.
How to Become a UX Designer
To become a UX Designer you’ll need to learn the proper skills, thinking patterns, and tools needed to complete the design process from start to finish. You’ll need to hone the soft skills from your past experiences. You’ll also need to build a convincing portfolio to get a UX job.
A UX/UI bootcamp is the quickest way to move into a UX design career. If you’re not sure about spending thousands of dollars on a career change, consider dipping your toes in with an online program. The possibilities are nearly endless for this growing field!
UX Design Bootcamp
A UX bootcamp is most likely the fastest, most secure way to get a UX Designer job. Whether you want to take a user experience course online or attend a comprehensive bootcamp immersive in person, you’ve got options. Most bootcamps offer career counseling, mentoring, or even a job guarantee so that you can get a job once you’ve graduated. Some bootcamps like Designation strictly teach only user interface and user experience while others like CareerFoundry and General Assembly teach a wide variety of courses from Full Stack Development to UX Immersives.
UX bootcamps range in duration from 9-28 weeks. Some bootcamps are self-paced and can take as much time as you decide. UX Design bootcamps cost anywhere from $3,000-$13,000. You can attend a UX/UI combined immersive bootcamp on campus at Flatiron School for $16,400.
How to Choose a UX Design Bootcamp
The best design course for you depends on your own learning style, career goals, availability, etc. Here's our advice for choosing the best user experience design bootcamp:
Narrow down your options – you can rule out some bootcamps based on location, cost, and time commitment.
Examine the curriculum – does the bootcamp teach the most modern UX tools like Figma, Sketch, and AdobeXD? You want to learn the design software that you'll use on Day One of your new job.
Ask About Projects – in the world of design, your portfolio can be more valuable than a resume. At a good UX design bootcamp, you'll build at least 2-3 projects to add to your design portfolio!
Meet the Instructors – do the bootcamp instructors have real-world design experience? Pro-Tip: Take an intro course or free workshop hosted by the bootcamp to really understand the teaching style.
Ask About Outcomes – do past bootcamp graduates get jobs in design? Ask the school directly for their CIRR report or job outcomes report, read UX bootcamp reviews, and even reach out to alumni on LinkedIn to ask questions.
Red Flags – the bootcamp doesn't offer any access to live mentorship or project feedback and review, can't tell you about past student career success, or teaches an outdated curriculum.
The 16 Best UX Design Bootcamps of 2022
In 2022, there are now more than 100 UX design bootcamps around the world, and we've curated a list of the Best 16 UX Design Bootcamps. Put simply, these are the UX design schools we would recommend to our own family and friends. No matter how many accolades a school has, make sure you do your research: read reviews, talk to alumni, take an intro course, and ask about job outcomes data.
College vs UX Bootcamp
UX Design is a relatively new field and most UX Designers have entered the profession from an entirely different career. Because of this, there is no one right way to learn UX design. Most UX Design positions currently don’t require a degree but do prefer at least a two-year degree.
UX bootcamps are known for being the quickest gateway to a career in UX design. They’re streamlined, short, and focus on the practical skills and knowledge you’ll need to break into the field. Some bootcamps even offer a UX design certification like Udacity’s Nanodegree or Treehouse’s Techdegree. And if the university association is important to you, there are also University UX Bootcamps like University of California at Berkeley or University of Texas at Austin.
Most also offer career counseling which makes getting a job faster and easier than a college graduate. Some bootcamps even provide real world experience at local companies. While bootcamp will give you the skills and job search assistance you need, expect to work your way up from entry-level just like any other career.
If you already have some design experience or a degree, a bootcamp is definitely the route for you. A bootcamp is less expensive, faster, and more tailored to your needs than a college degree. You’ll be hard pressed to find a degree program specifically for UX design. As of 2020 there is one Master’s program specifically for UX Design at the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Online UX Design Resources
Online resources are great for getting your toes wet, but won’t necessarily teach you the skills you’ll need to succeed as a self-taught UX Designer if you’re a complete beginner. You can consult:
- UX Design Industry Blogs
Nielson Norman group - This consulting firm shares methods, articles, and videos on their blog.
UX Collective - This blog curates stories on user experience, visual, and product design.
UX Planet - This Medium Blog posts about anything and everything relating to user experience including articles for beginners and career tips.
Inside Design - This blog by InVision shares tools for design.
Course Report - The Course Report blog shares interviews with UX bootcamp founders, instructors, students, and alumni!
Online Learning Platforms - You can use online learning platforms to guide your self-teaching. They don’t provide career services, but they will help you develop the skills you need. These range in price from free-$30/month.
Treehouse - Treehouse offers a monthly subscription program with a full UX Design track. They partner directly with Adobe to offer the perfect classes on tools and the UX career.
Udemy - Udemy offers one time classes at a range of prices on design thinking, the app design process, and the software tools designers use.
Udacity - Udacity offers Nanodegrees which are full or part-time programs that offer a complete UX curriculum.
Uxcel - Uxcel is a resource for those who want to teach themselves UX/UI design fundamentals through interactive micro teachings.
UX Design vs UI Design
There is a fine line between UX Design and UI Design and some people learn both! Where their roles overlap, UX and UI Designers may share some responsibilities, including wireframing, prototyping, testing, gathering feedback, and implementing feedback. Although they share some tasks, their overall missions are different.
On a basic level, UI Designers are concerned with how an application will look. UI Designers use Sketch and other design applications to create the visual assets of a digital product, create prototypes, and test products. They hand off their designs to developers with a guide they create, and ensure aspect ratios will be correct when their designs scale on different devices.
The UX Designer is concerned with how the user feels. They conduct research and wireframes to create a journey for the user. A UX Designer decides how the user will interact with a product. Their main responsibility is to empathize with and advocate for the user to make sure the application is usable.
UX Designer Jobs
The demand for UX Designers has never been greater as users and search engines expect more and better applications across all devices. UX design is reported to be one of the most difficult roles to fill in the tech world. SaaS UX Designers are particularly in demand right now – which means higher salaries for UX Designers. A bachelor’s degree in design or computer science is usually desired but not always required to get a job as a UX Designer.
UX design bootcamp graduates can expect to get jobs like:
- User Researcher
- User Experience Researcher
- User Experience and Web Content Strategy Coordinator
- User Experience Lead
- UX Project Manager
- Information Architect
- UX Architect
- UX Strategist
- UX Engineer
- User Experience Specialist
- UX Consultant
- Digital Experience Architect
- UX Writer or Content Strategist
- Interaction Design
- Front End Designer
- Product Designer
UX Designer Job Description
Depending on the role and the company, the UX Designer will be involved in or managing the process of making a product, service, or website useful and delightful to a defined user group. UX Designers will conduct user interviews and surveys; develop user-profiles and personas; create an information architecture; and use card sorting, wireframing, prototyping, and usability tests to create the best possible product for their users. The UX Designer uses design thinking and is expected to understand the lifecycle of an application and how to develop and test prototypes.
What Does a UX Designer Do?
User Experience Design encompasses every part of the design that involves how the user will interact with a product. UX Designers execute tasks like user research, card sorting, wireframing, usability tests, present design concepts, meet with clients, and find solutions. When working on a team, some UX Designers specialize on only one portion of the process.
Here’s what real UX Designers have to say about their jobs:
Jimmy is a UX Designer and Lead Instructor at Flatiron School. He says, “In the field, I continue to learn about user’s commonalities and differences and the role of technology in their lives in every project that I work on. Those discoveries have a profound impact on how I actually design and research. I’ve come to see the client as an expert I’m collaborating with instead of a detached source of requirements. I use agile and lean methodology to include stakeholders, decision makers, and users in the entire process to build a better and more cost effective product.”
Anja Lena is a graduate of CareerFoundry who now works at Dept. She says, “I do workshops and wireframes with our clients. The most important part of my job is being an advocate for the client. It’s a lot of communication. We work with e-commerce and B2B clients. My job is about finding the best tools to achieve what we want to do. I am constantly learning and improving through collaboration. It’s all about problem solving!”
Megan is the Creative Director at Designation and advises: “Being a good designer is about understanding people. Being a great designer is about empowering people. Design with the client, not for the client.”
User Experience Researcher
A User Experience Researcher focuses on understanding user behaviors, needs and motivations by observation, interviews, surveys, and task analysis. The UX Researcher’s investigations inform the process of designing the user experience and sometimes the user interface.
A UX Researcher will develop a research plan with objectives, write usability surveys and discussion guides, recruit target users for specific research studies, collect data during usability sessions, analyze surveys, conduct stakeholder and client interviews, extract insights about user behaviors, and translate user insights into actionable recommendations for the production team. A UX Researcher also needs to be able to communicate their insights clearly and objectively to stakeholders, clients, designers, and developers.
UX Researcher Salary
The average salary for a User Experience Researcher is $83,000. The average Design Researcher salary is $71,000. A User Researcher’s average salary is $70,000.
UX Designer Salary
UX Design Skills
UX Design skills overlap with many positions in the tech industry. You’ll find shared or similar responsibilities with UI Designers and Product Managers. UX recruiters want to see prototypes, wireframes, and how you think. They want to be able to assume from your portfolio that you know the technologies necessary to do your job. They’ll also want to see that you have the soft skills to be empathetic with a user, collaborate with your team, and run user testing sessions.
Here are some of the skills you will learn at UX design bootcamp:
Adobe Suite - The Adobe Suite is a design software suite that includes tools for graphic design, photo-editing, video editing, and web development. (Quick tip: There is a discount version for students!)
Photoshop - Photoshop is a software application for image editing, manipulation, and retouching.
Illustrator - Illustrator is a software application for creating drawings, illustrations, graphic design, and other artwork.
InDesign - InDesign is a publishing and typesetting software application.
HTML - HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language. It is a standardized markup language used for creating a webpage. These pages can include writing, links, pictures, sound, and video. HTML is used to denote these elements so that the web browser can display them correctly.
CAD - CAD stands for Computer-Aided Design. It is the use of computers or workstations for modification, analysis or optimization of a design.
Wireframing - Wireframing is a way to design a website or application on a structural level. A wireframe is used to lay out content on a page as well as empathic functionality.
Usability Testing - Usability Testing involves evaluating an application, website, service or product based on how real people interact with it.
Research - Research, user interviews, and client interaction are a huge part of the day to day job of a UX Designer. As a UX Designer, you’ll be conducting user interviews, client interviews, and surveys often. This requires strong communication skills.
- Prototyping Tools
Pen and Paper - Many Designers simply use a pen and paper to draw and wireframe their designs! Some say it’s less distracting than going straight for the computers while others merely think it’s easier.
Balsamiq - Balsamiq is a rapid low-fidelity wireframing software.
InVision - InVision is a digital product design platform used for creating interactive prototypes.
- Marvel - Marvel is a design platform for digital products that offers remote user testing. It’s used for prototyping as well as testing.
Figma - Figma is a browser-based UI and UX Design app. It’s used for prototyping, code generation, and design.
Sketch - Sketch is a vector graphics editor for Mac. It’s used for user interface, mobile apps, web apps, icon design, user experience design but does not include print design.
Soft Skills - Soft skills are the number one thing employers have stated they’re looking for. They want someone who can communicate effectively, how you can learn from your team, and how you’ll take the initiative to keep learning. Here are the top soft skills recruiters want to see:
Curiosity - The desire to put aside your own understanding and seek out new perspectives to understand the problems they’re solving.
Empathy - UX design is human-centered work. You’ll only be able to see true pain points if you have empathy for the user.
- Humility - UX Design requires exploring unknowns you might not even expect. This constant uncertainty requires understanding that you or won’t always know the answer.
Collaboration - UX Design is often a team effort and involves working with multiple stakeholders. You’ll have to be able to set aside your ego and welcome input from others for your designs to be effective.
Critical Thinking - A UX Designer will need to analyze and evaluate all potential solutions to a design challenge.
Communication - Design is a conversation in each of its forms. You’ll need to be able to clearly articulate your design and its effectiveness to others in order to show their value.
Should I learn to code?
UX Design Portfolio
A sufficient UX Designer portfolio should be well designed and have a good user experience. Some employers will look for interactive prototypes they can engage with so be sure to include those if you have them. Most recruiters agree that one solid project like a mobile app or web app is enough for them to get excited about you as a junior candidate. Some interviewers also like to see creative work from the candidate’s previous field to see how their experiences might be transferable.
While having at least one project in your portfolio is necessary, being able to explain how you got from start to finish on your way to a complete product is even more valuable to employers. They want to see what problems you struggled with and how you solved them along the way. They also want to see your thought process.
“In UX, there’s no time or use for perfectionism. In order to get a job, your portfolio should show your process, failures, pivots, and how those made you a better designer,” says Mike Joosse, President at Designation.
Here are some examples of UX Design projects you’ll build at bootcamp and add to your portfolio: