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User Experience Careers Nielsen Norman Group
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About This Free Report, This report is a gift for our loyal audience of UX enthusiasts Thank you for your. support over the years We hope this information will aid your efforts to improve. user experiences for everyone, The research for this report was done in 2013 but the majority of the advice. may still be applicable today because people and principles of good design change. much more slowly than computer technology does We sometimes make older report. editions available to our audience at no cost because they still provide interesting. insights Even though these reports discuss older designs it s still worth. remembering the lessons from mistakes made in the past If you don t remember. history you ll be doomed to repeat it, We regularly publish new research reports that span a variety of web and UX related. topics These reports include thousands of actionable illustrated user experience. guidelines for creating and improving your web mobile and intranet sites We sell. our new reports to fund independent unbiased usability research we do not have. investors government funding or research grants that pay for this work Visit our. reports page at https www nngroup com reports to see a complete list of these. HOW TO SHARE, Do not link directly to the PDF file the hosted address could change Instead we. encourage you to distribute the following link to the report s page on our website to. allow people to decide whether to download it themselves. http www nngroup com reports user experience careers. REPORT AUTHORS,Susan Farrell and Jakob Nielsen,2 INFO NNGROUP COM About This Free Report.
Copyright Notice, Please do not post this document to the internet or to publicly. available file sharing services, This report is free but it is still copyrighted information that may be updated from. time to time so please don t distribute this file or host it elsewhere. Even when people post documents with a private URL to share only with a few. colleagues or clients search engines often index the copy anyway Indexing means. that thousands of people will find the secret copy through searches. NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW NNGROUP COM 3,Executive Summary 6. Overview 10,What is User Experience 16,Overview of User Experience Disciplines 20. What do Usability Professionals Work On 26,Job Satisfaction 29.
What Kind of People Do Well in UX Positions 31,Roles Activities and Skills 34. Formal Education 41,Informal Education 58,How to Get Ready to Do the Work 66. Digital Tools for UX Activities 73,Where the Jobs Are and How to Get One 78. Lessons Learned from Your First Year in UX 91, Job Titles of People Who Have UX Responsibilities 97. Learn More 100,Appendix A Job Satisfaction Quotes 101.
Appendix B UX Activities by Frequency 123,Appendix C Education 124. Appendix D Advice on Getting Started in UX 137,Appendix E Design Tools 147. Appendix F Analysis Tools 152,Appendix G What Interviewers Look For 156. Appendix H Questions That Interviewers Ask 163,4 INFO NNGROUP COM Contents. Appendix I What Helped Most in Your First Year 172. Acknowledgements 190,About the Authors 191,NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW NNGROUP COM 5.
Executive Summary, When we teach our training courses one of the most frequently asked questions is. how do I get a user experience career Obviously getting some training is a good. start in any field But there s much more to it And although some advice can be. gained from the myriad of existing careers books the UX field is sufficiently unusual. that general purpose books can t tell you all you need to know. So how do we find out what it takes to have a strong career in the user experience. field By turning to our love of empirical data and finding out from people who. actually work in the field,SURVEY DATA, Some 963 user experience professionals completed our survey hosted by. SurveyMonkey 1 Additional respondents helped us improve the questionnaire through. several rounds of pilot testing and we also collected responses with a paper survey. from 47 of our conference participants and 5 of our beta testers. Our respondents were divided almost equally between people in the beginning of. their career 6 or fewer years in a UX related job and more experienced staff 7. years as a UX pro This mix gives us a good view into the full range of careers. 70 of respondents live in the United States the U K Canada or Australia It is. true that these countries are some of the world s most advanced in terms of UX. maturity and therefore have disproportionally many UX jobs We would always. expect them to be well represented in any project to assess UX careers Even so the. proportion of our respondents from these four countries is too high and represents a. bias caused by the fact that our survey instrument was in English. PEOPLE LIKE IT, Before you read further let s get to the bottom line Is it even worth considering a. UX career Yes according to the people who have one Respondents rated their. career satisfaction as 5 4 on a 1 7 scale Sure all is not perfect in UX land but this. is still pretty good Also the satisfaction responses are heavily skewed toward the. happy end with 17 giving the perfect score of 7 and only 1 giving the terrible. score of 1, Some questions had fewer responses because survey respondents tend to drop off. during longer surveys like this one and some questions were optional. We don t advocate the use of surveys very often in UX because surveys are a poor. method for evaluating the usability of a user interface design we prefer direct. observation of how people interact with each screen one person at a time But. careers stretch across decades so it s impossible to perform direct observation of. workers one person at a time as they progress through their careers Also for the. kinds of things we were interested in for this project the self reported nature of. survey responses is not as problematic as it is for resolving design questions When. we ask for example whether people have a master s degree most respondents can. provide an accurate answer even though we re asking them to recall something that. might have happened many years before Thus we feel that a survey was a good. way to get data about UX careers,6 INFO NNGROUP COM Executive Summary.
Satisfaction with pay and benefits was slightly lower at 5 2 People always want. more money But even here many more respondents were satisfied than. dissatisfied, Interestingly the main causes of dissatisfaction all indicate that the respondents do. like the field of user experience in itself but just aren t getting enough of it. They want to get more education and training so they can feel more. confident in their skills and roles, They like UX a lot and want to do more usability activities or steer. their job responsibilities more firmly into UX, Their current position or company doesn t support them or UX enough. so they probably need a new job,EXTREME DIVERSITY, The strongest finding from this research is that there is no single defining. characteristic of user experience careers For each of the main points we considered. our respondents provided an immense diversity of answers. One partial exception to this conclusion is the type of product people work on 94. of respondents have worked on websites and web apps so this one platform is. something most people have in common and which you should expect to know if you. want a UX job, But even platforms have extreme diversity 67 of respondents had worked on.
mobile apps 60 on enterprise applications and 54 on traditional desktop. software So there are four different platforms that are common enough that more. than half of user experience professionals work on them But wait there s more. respondents had worked on 78 different categories of products from medical devices. to home theaters and power grid systems All of these products need usability and all. of these fields employ at least some user experience professionals. Clearly these percentages sum to much more than 100 The reason is that most. user experience professionals have worked on more than one platform in their. career The average respondent had worked on 5 platforms So there s not just. diversity between people there s also diversity within each individual s projects. during a career UX is not a field where you learn one thing and keep doing that all. your life As one of our respondents said I grew up in the country I had to learn. how to do anything I was presented with Because of this learning the tools and. trade of UX has been a fun and exciting journey I have picked up most of my. knowledge from sitting down and doing making mistakes. We asked people about their job roles The most common were user research. interaction design and information architecture IA While these roles are not. exactly surprising it was striking to note that 43 of respondents performed all. three of these main UX roles indicating a high level of diversity of work activity even. on a day to day basis, On a more detailed level when we asked about specific activities such as making. wireframes gathering requirements or running usability studies it was also striking. how diverse UX professionals jobs are Fully 75 of respondents said that they. perform at least 16 different UX activities,NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW NNGROUP COM 7. UX professionals work in virtually every industry The largest sector among our. respondents was IT with 23 of respondents followed by finance 11 healthcare. 6 education 6 and advertising marketing 6,BEST BACKGROUND FOR UX WORKERS. When asked what characterizes good user experience professionals one of our. respondents said If you are a lifelong learner in other words if you are paying. attention you will be able to take previous experiences and apply lessons learned. from them to your new situation That is more important to me than specific skills. you might learn in school, While most knowledge workers probably benefit from being lifelong learners the. point that this is more important than a specific education is rare and one of the. defining characteristics of the user experience field. Even though continuous on the job learning is the most important 90 of. respondents also had a university degree There s no single degree to define the. field design psychology and communication were the most common major areas. sharply pursued by English and computer science All of these fields make some. sense as a partial educational background for UX professionals but together those. five disciplines accounted for only 45 of bachelor s degrees The majority of UX. professionals hold degrees from an immense range of other disciplines from history. to chemistry most of which don t have a direct bearing on UX work. The most common educational level was a master s degree 52 had at least one master s degree. some had two which seems like overkill Only 6 of respondents were PhDs Most of the. remaining respondents with university diplomas held bachelor s degrees and 1 had associate s. UX pros with master s degrees follow the same pattern as their colleagues with. undergraduate degrees that is no pattern A broad diversity of topics was just as. characteristic at this level One difference is that the most popular master s degree. discipline was HCI human computer interaction which is highly specialized as. preparation for a UX career Fully 11 of respondents with master s degrees were. HCI graduates This was the only discipline with a two digit percentage Other. directly relevant master s degrees included 5 of degrees in information design 4. human factors graduates 3 in each of digital design and technical communication. and 1 for each of interaction design and information architecture Other top. disciplines at the master s level were MBA psychology and library and information. science which are also all related to UX work even if they re not directly targeted at. It s clearly eminently possible to have a UX career without a degree in the field and. it s definitely not necessary to have a graduate degree Still if you want to get a. graduate degree it would make sense to aim for a specialization that targets user. experience because the percentage of relevant degrees is much higher at this level. among your peers in the field, Digging deeper than the title on the diploma we asked people which of the subjects.
that they studied had actually turned out to be useful Continuing the diversity. theme there were lots of different things that UX pros claim to find useful The top. scores in order of usefulness were web design writing programming psychology. design and research methods Any list where programming and psychology are next. to each other is clearly indicative of an interdisciplinary field. 8 INFO NNGROUP COM Executive Summary, As one respondent said the top items for success are to be technically aware. business focused and an expert in design and usability That s a tall order but this. broad range of skills is nevertheless what s needed for a successful UX career and it. should guide your choice of courses no matter what specific degree you might. pursue make sure to study a broad diversity of topics Even people who will never. write production code benefit from knowing something about programming A good. writing course is essential for everybody considering the importance of. communicating with other team members, We also asked people what courses they wished they had taken The top scores went. to HCI psychology and statistics If you re still in school make sure to take courses. in these topics so that you won t have any regrets later. Ultimately there s no single best recommended background for entering the UX field. If you re interested give it a go One respondent said Everything I needed to know. in UX design I learned by playing Dungeons and Dragons You get to learn how to be. someone else If you re the Dungeon Master you try to design encounters that you. want your players to go through workflows conversion flows. GETTING STARTED, No matter your educational background you can get into user experience as the. previous section shows How to get started The top recommendation from our. respondents was to pursue a mixture of theory and practice Respondents. recommended reading books blogs articles and taking courses But they also. advised newcomers to practice design get an internship and find a mentor. Diversity strikes again No single thing to do but a range. Along the same lines it is best to get a first job where you will be doing a lot of. different things rather than a narrowly defined job Assuming you have a choice of. jobs of course Our respondents also strongly recommend starting out in a. company where usability has some amount of recognition budget and management. support Later when you re stronger you can survive better in a place with some. adversity but don t start in such a company Look for companies that have workable. processes and UX roles in place so you can be effective from the get go. There s no single job title to aim for our respondents had 210 different job titles. The most popular title was user experience designer but only 6 of respondents. had this title A further 3 were senior user experience designers. It can be hard to get started in a new field but it s worth doing To conclude let s. hear what three of our survey respondents had to say about their careers in user. experience, It s super fun and even if you are working on something trivial like. a pizza ordering app you are making people s lives easier. I feel lucky every day that this is where I ended up I ve always been. both creative and analytical and I get to practice both. I love my job and I get paid a lot of money,NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW NNGROUP COM 9.
THIS REPORT, We produced this report for people interested in User Experience UX careers and. those who hire people for UX roles We hope it will be useful as an education. training and career strategy tool for students career changers and practitioners as. well as a guide for universities job interviewers HR departments and hiring. The Appendix contains in depth information and further details about many of the. topics in the report, The report links to many resources that we don t control so if you encounter a link. problem please report that to farrell nngroup com so we can address it. THE SURVEY, We invited interaction designers information architects user researchers and. managers who hire them to take our 26 question survey in 2013 We deliberately. tried to exclude from the survey those visual designers who don t also work in one of. the 3 core activity areas because many of them do not have any HCI training or. usability testing experience, The main survey gathered responses from 963 people and alpha and beta testers. also contributed education data We asked questions about roles activities. education training mentoring getting started job satisfaction what to look for. when hiring and questions to ask job candidates We also looked at where UX pros. work in industry, Many questions had a write in component so we could invite unanticipated answers.
Originally we thought we would also conduct case studies but our respondents told. us almost everything we had hoped to find out by doing those Instead we combed. through thousands of very helpful suggestions by people working in the UX field and. made a majority of those available to you in this report. TOP FINDINGS, These findings are also among the top takeaways in each section of the report so. if you plan to read the report you can skip this section On the other hand if you. don t have time to read the whole report you can get most of the important. information just by reading this,Who UX professionals tend to be. People come to UX work from every area of study with all kinds of. backgrounds, UX pros seem to have innate characteristics that draw them to the. field and help them excel such as curiosity perceptiveness empathy. and the joy of learning new things, Learned skills play a big role too such as becoming an effective. communicator a careful design critic and a problem solver. 10 INFO NNGROUP COM Overview,What kind of work UX pros do.
Some 94 have worked on websites and web apps 67 on mobile. apps 60 on enterprise applications and 54 on desktop. applications, A pleasant surprise nearly 40 also improve content and. documentation of various kinds, Another welcome surprise 24 reported working on services and. Most 75 said they perform at least 16 UX activities The top 10. o Present solutions concepts,o Persuade others,o Analyze tasks or activities. o Build prototype or wireframes,o Collaborate with subject matter experts. o Gather requirements,o Specify interaction design.
o Conduct in person usability studies,o Make storyboards user journeys flow diagrams. o Perform design reviews or heuristic evaluations, A surprising 20 said they do both UX and software programming. beyond HTML CSS, Most respondents have jobs in the computer financial and healthcare. industries education marketing and government Some 16 5 said. they work as consultants,Job satisfaction, Most people in UX roles are very satisfied with their careers and. compensation because they enjoy the work and feel well rewarded. and highly valued, UX career paths don t go all the way to the top yet in many.
organizations so people wanting to be a vice president or chief. executive need to branch out professionally into business. fundamentals, People who said they were unsatisfied usually mentioned reasons. related to their current company or role not about the work itself In. fact many were unhappy because they didn t get to do enough UX or. they weren t able to be as effective as they would like to be. Skills needed to do a good job, UX pros need business skills as well as design and interpersonal skills. NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW NNGROUP COM 11, People skills especially the ability to persuade others to cooperate in. fixing problems is called out as a key skill area, HTML CSS skills are essential Only 17 said they can do without. those Half already know how to make web pages and the rest want. UX pros might want to pick up useful complementary skills to be more. competitive in the business world such as project management and. data analysis Public speaking and group facilitation are on both the. most used and most wished for skills lists so they seem very. desirable for those entering the field also, About a third of respondents said they wish they did have.
programming skills Another 47 said they don t want or need to. At least 90 of the UX pros in our survey have college degrees. You almost certainly need at least one university degree but it doesn t. have to be in HCI 3 if you have some coursework or training in HCI. topics too, The degree types are incredibly varied at every education level. Some 38 of bachelor s degrees were in the top three traditional UX. focus areas design psychology and communication, Some 35 of respondents have two degrees and 7 have three. The most common educational level was a bachelor s degree Only 6. of respondents were PhDs while 52 had at least one master s. Nearly half of the master s degrees reported by the UX pros surveyed. fit under the big tent of user experience topics Only 40 of the total. 357 master s degrees reported were in HCI itself, Getting a master s degree makes a lot of sense for prospective UX. professionals Many said they regret not having gotten an HCI. education earlier than they did, Only a few people completed certificates or coursework more specific. to HCI after obtaining their degree s, Beyond the typical backgrounds in design communication and.
psychology your background of life and work experience can be. surprisingly useful in UX, There are good arguments both for and against having coding skills in UX practice. On one hand web prototyping skills are required for interaction design but on the. other UX practitioners must try to maintain a user s point of view in order to help. prevent developer centric concepts and terms creeping into user interfaces. JavaScript and JQuery are the most useful coding skills for interaction designers at. present Everyone in UX needs HTML and CSS basics,Human Computer Interaction. 12 INFO NNGROUP COM Overview, Design HCI research methods and web design top the extremely. useful education list,Web design skills are very important to acquire. Best ways to enter the field, Get a mentor Learning from practitioners is a key part of getting.
ready to do the work Only 26 of respondents reported having had. no mentors so far, On the job mentoring is still the most common situation at 51 of. A surprising number of people reported getting mentored by outside. consultants who worked with them on projects, Look for internship opportunities inside and outside where you work. now try UX activities to see if UX is the right kind of work for you and. if so which parts of UX you want to study and develop expertise in. Getting started as a UX professional can be helped along by. networking in professional communities actively pursuing. opportunities to get experience and compiling a portfolio. It takes a combination of formal and informal education as well as on. the job experience in order for most people in UX to become well. rounded It s good that so many combinations seem to work well. Quite a few people said that things went really well in their first year. Many said that was because they had a good academic preparation for. the work and others credited having a mentor for that smooth first. year or transition, Some said they didn t have an identifiable first year because they. transitioned gradually into UX while they were in another role in their. company This emerged as one of the top ways people get into UX. Many said they wish they had listened more asked more questions. and been more aggressive about pushing for opportunities to do UX. activities when they first started in UX, It s important to get a first job where you will be doing a lot of UX. activities, It s best to be in a place where usability has some amount of.
recognition budget and management support, Where you work matters in terms of your opportunity to make a. difference Look for companies that have workable processes and UX. roles in place so you can be effective,NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW NNGROUP COM 13. How to get hired, Potential new hires are evaluated on lots of nonacademic attributes. such as people skills curiosity passion for the work humble attitude. service oriented track record and the ability to be insightful problem. solvers rather than just workers executing methods. Interviewers look for generalists with deep specialized skills who have. a university degree and a portfolio of work samples hands on. experience, Candidates must not only know usability principles and design process. basics they also usually must demonstrate their communication and. soft skills and do well on an interview design challenge. Finding jobs is a matter of fit with the organization s capacity and. focus Some interviewers look for beginners with the right qualities. while others look for people with deep experience, Some managers want psychologists others want designers while.
others lean more toward those with hard science or broader liberal. arts and humanities educations,SURVEY PARTICIPANTS. Participants years of experience in user experience UX. For how many years have you been employed,in a usability related UX HCI position. Percentage of Respondents,1 3 years 22,4 6 years 27. 7 10 years 19,11 15 years 17,16 years 11, About half of survey respondents had 7 or more years of experience in the field. 14 INFO NNGROUP COM Overview,Respondent locations,Which country do you live in.
United States 62,United Kingdom 7,Australia 4,The Netherlands 2. New Zealand 1 1,Sweden 1 1,Belgium 0 9,Denmark 0 7. South Africa 0 7, People from 38 countries responded Most were from the USA which is no. surprise The survey was advertised in English on US based websites and. mailing lists but also much of the UX work is still in the US The top 14. countries shown above represent 93 of all responses. Countries with 1 3 respondents were,Belarus Norway. Brazil Philippines,China Poland,Colombia Portugal,Costa Rica Russia.
Czech Republic Singapore,Finland Spain,Greece Switzerland. Israel Thailand,Luxembourg Turkey,Malta Ukraine,M xico United Arab Emirates. This is not a list of nationalities but of residences We wanted to find out where. people work because so many people change countries these days often for work. When you ask UX practitioners where they work however the answer may be. everywhere,NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW NNGROUP COM 15.

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