How to Become a UX Designer in 2023

In 1993, an Apple employee named Dan Norman coined the phrase “user experience (UX)” to describe a user-focused design process that was commonly employed by Bell Labs, the Walt Disney Company, and other creative powerhouses of the time. Since then, growth in the UX design field has been exponential, expanding from just 1,000 UX designers in 1983 to roughly 1 million by 2017, according to The Nielsen Norman Group. This rate of growth is anticipated to continue, as The Global User Experience (UX) market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.40% through 2028 alone.

As a result of the incredible growth of this profession, many of us interact with excellent UX design multiple times a day but don’t even realize it. That’s because well-designed UX puts the user’s focus on the product or service rather than the seamlessness of the experience. On the other hand, many of us can recall the frustration experienced when trying to navigate a website and being unable to perform desired tasks. This, of course, is the product of bad UX design, which can hobble a company and alienate consumers. As a result, almost all organizations are now interested in optimizing their user experience.

If you’re thinking about where to start your career, or you’re considering making a career switch, UX design is an excellent option. In this article, we’ll explain what UX design is, how to become a UX designer, the UX design process, and the standard UX designer career path and job prospects.

What Is UX Design?

Perhaps the best way to answer the question What is UX design? is to understand that it’s more than just a field or career path. Rather, UX design is a process that organizations implement to provide users with a smooth and satisfying experience with their products and services.

The UX design discipline consists of four main subfields:

An image that highlights the most common UX design subfields.

Interaction design (IxD) refers to how a user interacts with a product or service — whether the interaction be physical or digital. The focus in IxD is the interface design and resulting user experience, which should be intuitive and engaging.

Information architecture (IA) involves the organization and structure of data and content for websites, mobile applications, and social media platforms.

User research is the study of what potential users want and how they intend to use a product or service. These insights are then used to augment the design process, better aligning the finished product or service with user expectations and use cases.

Experience strategy aligns UX objectives with those of the broader organization by considering corporate strategy, overall product strategy, and user needs simultaneously in UX design.

Each of these subfields has numerous opportunities in a variety of industries, so finding a role that aligns with specific interests is certainly possible. Read on to learn more about how to pursue your UX design career in four steps.

Become a UX Designer in Four Steps

Those interested in getting into UX in order to become a UX designer often wonder how to begin, but following this four-step process can help simplify the journey.

1. Pursue a UX Design Education

As part of your journey, you’ll have to decide which UX design education path is right for you. Typically, there are three options: self-study, a traditional degree, or a boot camp.

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Self-study can be a good option for those who already have some background in the field and have strong internal motivation. And, from a cost perspective, this is the least expensive option. However, the lack of a formal curriculum can leave gaps in a learner’s UX education and the lack of a diploma or certificate to provide potential employers can be problematic.

Traditional degrees certainly provide a well-rounded education and enable students to explore additional topics of interest beyond their core focus. However, many universities do not offer a UX design degree. Instead, computer science, human computer interaction (HCI), information technology, and graphic design degrees may offer classes that cover UX design within the overall program of study. It’s also important to note that for many students, the financial and time requirements of a traditional degree can be significant.

Boot camps are traditionally three- to six-month courses which focus on learning practical skills in a project-oriented environment. In a UX design boot camp, participants learn skills required for real-world UX employment, and practice those skills through team-based projects that will later populate their professional portfolios. While more expensive than self study, boot camps are significantly less expensive than traditional degrees and can be completed in much less time.

2. Develop UX Designer Skills

People from various backgrounds can become UX designers and enjoy successful careers. With that said, possessing certain UX designer skills is necessary to enter the field.

Regarding soft skills, success usually requires a creative person who is able to effectively navigate between the big picture and fine details. Empathy — the ability to see a product or service from the user’s perspective — is another important soft skill. Additional soft skill requirements include






Critical thinking

Conflict resolution

Hard skills required in UX design are numerous and span technical and process knowledge, including

UX design thinking

User-centered design research

User persona creation

User interface design

Decision flow diagramming

Visual prototyping


Graphic design tool knowledge

Design theory (e.g., color theory, iconography)

Accessibility design standards

User testing



UX design programs, such as Northwestern UX/UI Boot Camp, can provide the UX designer training and skill set you’ll need to succeed.

3. Know the UX Design Process

The UX design process itself breaks down into five steps: define, research, analyze, design, and test. This process is central to UX design and requires a strong understanding of UX designer tools to move through each step successfully.

In the first phase, UX designers brainstorm to determine the context, definition, and specific elements of the UX they plan to build. Key elements of this phase include value proposition definition, requirements gathering, and an early sketch of the desired user experience. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are also defined at this stage to assist in measuring the UX’s success.

UX designers rely on several types of research to inform their design and make adjustments to their assumptions. Market research, product research, and user research are important in helping to understand the following questions:

  • What is the UX standard in the marketplace for this product/service?
  • Which UX features in existing competitive products/services are perceived positively or negatively? Why?
  • What will users likely expect from their experience with our product/service?
  • How can this UX solve user problems or help users in their lives?
  • What specific features are most and least important to our target audience users? How is that different from the general user in this space?
  • What new or unique features can this UX provide as a source of differentiation and value?

In this phase, UX designers review and analyze all the information they received through the research phase. It is also during this phase that their assumptions from the define phase are confirmed or adjusted based on their research findings. Sometimes additional rounds of research are required if key assumptions are proven inaccurate, in which case UX designers must ideate and then research their revised assumptions again.

Once all assumptions are validated, UX designers perform key activities to prepare for the design phase, including user persona creation, user story development, and storyboarding. These activities help provide user context and help keep user needs top of mind in the UX design process.

It is during the design phase that the first version of the user experience is created. This is where everything comes together, from wireframing and prototyping, to creating the design specifications making sure all UX team members are working toward a consistent look and feel. The user interface (UI) work is also completed, and UX design tools such as Adobe XD, Figma, and InVision, among others, are employed.

In the testing phase, intended users and stakeholders interact with the UX and provide feedback. Specifically, user testing sessions (where target audience members interact with the UX) provide both quantitative and qualitative information regarding user acceptance and overall experience. In addition, stakeholder feedback helps validate that all defined requirements have been successfully met.

Occasionally, during testing, it’s determined that the UX isn’t performing as hoped with users, and changes are required. If so, recommended changes are undertaken, and then testing is repeated.

4. Explore UX Design Jobs

The UX design job outlook is bright, with an anticipated 8.4% annual growth rate through 2030, according to LightcastTM (2022). UX design jobs salaries are also quite competitive, with a median U.S. salary of $78,926, according to LightcastTM.

While you may begin your career as a junior UX designer, there are a variety of opportunities and career paths available in this field.

If you choose the UX management path, you’ll manage a team of designers, create team strategy, develop your talent, and hire new designers into your organization. You’ll likely also be responsible for team deadlines and working cross-functionally on a variety of projects.

In addition to having excellent UX skills, this career path requires strong communication, teambuilding, and teaching skills. It is also necessary to have familiarity with budgets, management best practices, and HR policy.

Some of the potential job titles in this career path include:

  • UX team manager
  • Director of UX
  • Vice president of customer experience
  • Chief design officer

For those who really want to focus on their craft and aren’t interested in managing a team, there are many individual contributor roles to consider. These roles enable UX professionals to continue designing and primarily working on projects, rather than overseeing projects and focusing on resolving team issues.

Some of the potential job titles in this career path include:

  • Principal designer
  • Freelance designer
  • UX subject matter expert

Learn UX Design Today

Learning UX design is a lucrative way to apply innate creativity with design thinking and technology. For many who choose to learn UX design, UX/UI boot camps are a schedule-friendly way to gain the practical, in-demand skills they need while gaining the hands-on experience of real-world projects to populate their professional portfolios.

Are you ready to take the next step in your future? Northwestern UX/UI Boot Camp is a 24-week, flexible program with classes held three evenings a week. Learners gain skills and experience in user-centric design research, wireframing, UI development, prototyping, and more. In addition, you’ll work on a final project that will showcase your skills and highlight your value to potential employers. Invest in yourself and change your career trajectory today!

How to Become a UX Designer FAQs

A UX designer is responsible for curating the interaction a customer has with a product or service while helping to achieve organizational KPIs. Whether visiting your favorite website or using the Starbucks app, you are encountering the work of a UX designer.

UX/UI design is a field that applies user-centric design theory to develop products and service interaction and experiences for customers. To achieve this, UX and UI designers employ a variety of tools, including user research, wireframing, persona development, storyboarding, UI development, prototyping, and more.

For those with the right skill set and training, they would likely say that UX design is fulfilling when asked Is UX design hard? While UX designers might face challenges on a day-to-day basis, most find dealing with these challenges rewarding and interesting. Ultimately, UX design allows its practitioners to apply their curiosity, creativity, and dedication in completing their daily tasks.

Many UX design roles do not involve coding in the strictest sense. However, UX designers should be familiar with the basics of programming languages — especially HTML/CSS and JavaScript. Further, prior coding experience does help designers take on more difficult tasks, advancing their careers with additional opportunities.

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