Debunking-top-5-myths-ux-designer-job-diane-cronenwett

Debunking these Top 5 Myths About UX Designer Jobs

The UX Designer role can be nebulous if you aren't familiar with the ins and outs of the day-to-day responsibilities. While there are similar responsibilities from company to company, let's look at a few myths that exist for anyone joining the UX field.

I do a lot of mentoring and volunteer work focused on helping people improve their UX portfolio and helping them understand the UX hiring process. 

A few misconceptions exist about the UX designer role (or Product Designer, Interaction Designer role). Hopefully, this clears up common myths.

 

Myth 1: UX design is easy.

The UX designer role appears the most accessible in product development, considering that UX designers don’t have to write code but sit in product teams responsible for innovating on new products.

Unlike our engineering or product manager peers, we don’t have to contend with writing code, managing technical roadmaps, or digging into engineering details when there’s a problem. 

Instead, UX designers create wireframes and sketch ideas, actively contributing to innovation. Newcomers to UX design are typically excited at this prospect.

Don’t be discouraged when things get tough.

Don’t get me wrong, a career as a UX designer can be gratifying and exciting. But it’s more challenging than it looks. For example, you might realize in the first year of working as a UX designer that the job has much more to it than you initially thought. 

If you went into UX design thinking it was easy, you might feel overwhelmed and want to give up as soon as you realize it’s more complicated. 

Don’t. If you stick with learning and working to improve yourself, you’ll find that once you understand the design problem-solving process, you can solve any problem.

💪 Design problem-solving is a superpower; once you master it, you can solve any design problem. Hang in there!

Myth 2: You have to be technical to be a UX designer.

It was a common belief not so long ago that UX designers should know how to code. Many practicing UX designers have a degree in Computer Science. However, it’s not a requirement to write code.

But I recommend learning the limits of technology in whatever medium you design. For example, if you are designing for the web, familiarize yourself with the basics of HTML and CSS and understand how data works. 

The rationale for this is that when you are designing, engineers take that design and implement the experience based on your design.

Based on engineering feasibility input, you might make some assumptions about what might be possible and have to redesign the solution at the last minute. (This has happened to me, and it’s not fun.)


Understanding technology helps your technical communication and allows you to ship products.

I’ve observed that designers who need help understanding technology need help to ship a designIf the UX design isn’t technically feasible, the design won’t ship. Or, it might ship, but it will be broken in some areas if you don’t capture some use cases in the design. 

Broken design is a terrible user experience and degrades the entire experience for users.

Understanding the limits of technology also helps you to ask engineers better questions to determine if you can design something a certain way. 

The good news is that it’s relatively easy to pick up technology basics. The good news is that the more you work around technology, the more you’ll start to understand things. Also, feel free to ask engineers questions. 

💡If you’re interested in speeding up your learning curve, you can take a Java script course or any coding course. You’ll start to understand the fundamentals of coding. Just the foundations will be a great start to help you know how to ask the right technical questions.

Myth 3: The UX design tool matters.

When starting in design in any capacity, newcomers often think the right tool is essential to learning to become a UX designer. This is also true for illustration and graphic design;

For UX, Product Designers, or Interaction Designers, the tool of choice right now is Figma. A few years ago, it was Sketch. Before that, it was Omnigraffle or Photoshop. 

UX design tools change often in our field, and with each new evolution, tools improve our productivity, enhance our workflows, and increase our collaboration. Still, they don’t make us UX designers. 

 

Principles and practice will improve your design ability.

Understanding the principles of user-centered design approaches and developing the UX skills of interaction design and visual design, amongst many leadership and hard skills, make us UX designers. 

The UX design tool is our vehicle to help us get what’s in our head into a place others can understand. Sketches can accomplish many of the same goals if you are good at sketching in detail. 

It can feel frustrating when you know the tool but need help approaching the design. It’s all a normal part of the learning curve. 

 

Learn UX through experience and practice.

UX Design takes time to learn and a much longer time to master. You can expedite that learning curve by doing tutorials, taking on different projects, and actively seeking feedback. 

I recently read a Reddit thread where someone complained about how they knew Figma well, but their design was mediocre. 

I saw it as a positive thing. Acknowledging that a tool won’t improve your UX design skills but recognizing the need to improve is the initial step towards becoming a better designer.

✨ That said, continue to learn Figma and other design tools, but also know that you’ll get better over time through repetition, feedback, and continuous learning.

UX Myths-1

Myth 4: You need special schooling or background to be a UX designer.

One of the attributes I love about the UX field is that various people with different experiences enter the field. 

I’ve met many people with backgrounds in engineering, architecture, art, music, and writing (and others). In addition, most of the people didn’t have a formal design education. 

I also don’t have a formal education in design. You don’t need special schooling, but I’ve noticed that if you didn’t go to a traditional HCI school or study Interaction Design or a UX-related field, you have a lot of learning to do. 

There’s a lot to learn as our field has a lot of different skills and things we do daily. We lead meetings, create wireframes, prototype, align stakeholders, and communicate with various people. Some of these skills may come quickly to you, depending on your strengths, but you’ll have to learn them if not. 

Within these broader activities, you must learn about usability principles, interaction design, visual design, prototyping, design interaction patterns, and the context of when to use specific patterns, and the list is extensive.

An openness to learning new skills, concepts, and principles will help if you don’t have a formal design education.

As long as you are willing to learn and don’t get bothered by the tons of feedback you’ll likely receive during this period of learning, you should be fine. 

Taking an example from my design journey, I had to learn a lot of foundational topics in my first job. My first job was in New York City, a culture known for its directness, and this was very true, as I got straightforward feedback daily—no sugar coating. 

I learned a lot at my first job. My brain was always tired because it was overflowing with new information. On some days, I felt overwhelmed by the feedback I received. 

But all of this made me a much better designer and encouraged me to think differently about my work and how I approached design.

Luckily, there are many ways to learn UX online, from online resources, industry professionals, and on the job. 

"There is no failure, only feedback." - Robert Allen

Myth 5: Only managers lead.

It might be surprising if you are new to the field, but UX designers are leaders on their teams. 

Designers act as the voice of the customer and aid the team in articulating a product vision in the form of wireframes or through storytelling. 

Our job is to ensure that the design experience meets our users’ needs and fulfills the business requirements. If the UX designer is the most knowledgeable about the product experience, they often present the work to executives. Managers might be there to support, but the designer will speak to the design.

Leadership can also mean influencing stakeholders around product ideas you have to improve or change the direction of the product. Influence can also go the other way, in that you may have to influence the team not to build something because it’s not in the best interest of users. 

 

Design leadership includes communication and dealing with conflicts with stakeholders.

For example, I was in a situation where the product manager wanted to create an experience that I felt was unethical. 

Given how delicate it can be to communicate to someone enthusiastic about their idea, I had to be very careful in how I messaged this to ensure the relationship was intact and no one felt weird about it. 

If things go wrong with the design, it’s up to you to take responsibility to fix things immediately or take accountability and devise a plan to enhance the next version. That’s part of leadership, too. 

Final thoughts

While some aspects of the UX role will be different than what you thought, that might be okay with you. I never thought of myself as an influential people person because I’m a bit quieter around people I don’t know.

But, one of my favorite parts of the job is the influencing and aligning part. I love getting people in a room together and aligning a group around an idea or vision. I had no idea this was an expected skill, but I like doing it.

You might find that you were expecting design to be fun and easy but enjoy the challenge of problem-solving complex problems. (Hint: You’ll think about them in your sleep- at least I do.)

Few careers have the autonomy and influence to shape the experience of products people use every day. UX Design is one of those careers.

Everything is learnable. Whatever you don’t know, you can always learn. Just be patient with yourself as you do.

Hopefully, this helped dispel or clarify some common myths behind a career in UX design. Reach out if you have any questions.

Diane Cronenwett- UX-Portfolio-Course

About Diane Cronenwett

Diane Cronenwett teaches UX courses on advanced UX topics and foundational topics, and has led design experience projects for top-tier Fortune 500 companies based in Silicon Valley (Meta, Amazon, and PayPal to name just a few). Diane is passionate about sharing her knowledge with UX professionals and newcomers to the field to grow their skills in UX, and get to the next level in their career.

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