“How does this look in real life? What does it mean to be a UX Designer in practice? What will my life be after I’m done with the UX course?”
Interestingly the questions above come from almost every UX student I’ve ever worked with. They have a general idea of what UX is, they heard that it’s the new hot topic everyone is talking about and that it offers a nice work-home balance. They have a passion to study, but the reality is, most of them have very little idea of how it actually works in practice.
I always tell them the stupidest, but most honest answer that I have:
I know it’s incredibly vague, but it’s true. And to be honest this is a fairly hard question. At least in my experience, a job of UX Designer depends on multiple factors. Employment type, size of the company, size of the team, way of work (agile, waterfall, pure chaos), knowledge of what UX is… I could go and on with different factors that affect the job of a UX Designer like, how international the company is, how much structure they have, or how political it is… Everything affects it.
There is no one answer to give to these questions, and yet, there they are. So how can a student imagine their life in a year? Filled with motivation and passion, with dream and hopes, trying to reach for a better life and an amazing career. I cannot just tell students, it depends and finishes there. Sure, it does, but… Let’s look at the big picture.
Wherever you are, your job as a UX Designer will bring you diversity in projects and in your daily work.
Your days will not look the same. People you’ll be working with will change regularly. You will work with almost all the people in the company and will become a bridge-builder between different departments. You will probably work on different projects at the same time and will have to find your own structure in a bit of chaos. You will also learn to accept that in most jobs UX Designers are still just consultants and that hearing NO is not a bad thing. Another thing that you’ll quickly learn is that QAs are your best friends and that bribing people with delicious exotic chocolate goes a long way – even if it just makes them smile.
I’ve worked as a freelancer and have been employed in startups up to 200 people. If I look at my normal day of work, I could hardly notice the difference.
My day usually looks like this:
6:30 – Crawl out of bed to the yoga mat and do yoga
7:00 – Get ready for the day
8:00 – Go to work
8:45 – First coffee of the day (I start feeling alive)
9:00 – Check emails, finish anything left undone from the previous day, work
10:00 – Standup or check-in with the client
10:15 – Work, meetings, presentations
12:00 – Lunch
13:00 – Work, design work
17:45 – Wrap up
18:00 – Done for the day
Because I also mentor, my work might also start at 19:00 with an hour or two of Skype calls or it will be an evening out with friends.
22:30 – Sleep
The one thing that I have noticed though is how the “work part” is structured differently.
As a freelancer, you will most likely be doing everything. From UX to UI, sometimes even development. I’ve never done the latter myself, but I know of freelancers that do that. You might be working at home or in the office of the company that hired you. Your work will probably feel different as you won’t have deep relationships with other people. Which in some cases is actually a plus. For example in a very politically dense company. And you’ll probably have more freedom when it comes to working time. On the other hand, you’ll probably work more, you’ll have unpaid vacations and less security. You’ll also have to do your own business. You’ll have to have time to constantly find new work.
If you are fully employed, the experience might be different. You’ll have more meetings, coffee breaks, less stress, and more consistent work. You’ll have to adapt to the company structure and their work time, but you’ll also have stronger relationships and you won’t have to deal with the business side of your own business.
If a company is big and they already have a strong UX department, your responsibilities will most likely be more narrow. Your work will be less diverse. You might be a specialist in one of the sub-areas of UX (researcher, designer, usability analyst, strategist…), and there is a chance you’ll have a smaller impact.
On the other hand, if a company is smaller, you’ll probably be doing more diverse work. You might be the Jack of all trades and have a major impact.
All in all,
if you ask different UX Designers what their day looks like, they’ll probably give you a similar workday as I have. But if you ask them about specific work … there no designer will give you the same answer. Unless they answer with: it depends.
Until next time,