Careers in UX

On this page is all of the information that I have found relating to a career in UX and what kind of opportunities and careers are out there to explore in the world of UX design.

Prior to coming to university I had worked in IT support in various schools for a year and had decided that the tech support role was not for me. I’ve always been ambitious when it comes to career aspirations – everything from the RAF to National Geographic to Microsoft and so it seemed that working simply in tech support was a bit ‘dull’ and not very stretching for me, which is why I came to NUA to essentially ‘retrain’ and enable myself to go onto the ‘front-line’ of the tech world and work with the latest and greatest hardware and software. I mentioned my previous career aspirations and experiences with Microsoft at the end of my Reflective Journal for February 26th-March 2nd.

Me behind the infamous Microsoft sign at their worldwide headquarters in Seattle, USA (May 2015).

I feel that the UX industry is definitely the industry that I want to go into now and there are so many places that I can go with these skills: Microsoft, Adobe, Dell, HP, all the big brands again, but there’s also UX in other industries besides ‘tech’ that really interest me. I’d love to explore UX in healthcare, the energy sector, motoring, flying, communication and all of these other disciplines that this course and the knowledge it is giving me can open me up to!

Prior to writing this page I had visited Redgate on February 20th with my peers and had a really positive introduction to the UX there and had also had talks from employees and directors of Foolproof, The User Story and Neon Tribe at university which have introduced me to some local UX firms and help show me what they do. The talks and visits all taught me different things, we had some talks delivered by Foolproof about research and ideation, talks by The User Story about prototyping and talks by Neon Tribe about user personas and testing. These have all been very insightful and showed me the different parts of the industry. Furthermore, in Year 1 I have completed two projects that go through all of the stages of UX design – the Stellardrive project which I completed between October and November 2017 and the Nellie’s Nursery project which I completed between January and May 2018. I feel like I have been advised about and have actually tried each part of UX design so I am beginning to understand what I am interested in.

Friday 2nd March 2018

What do I want to do in UX?

Today I asked myself this question:

Which part of the UX design process do I enjoy the most?

Difficult one to answer! I honestly enjoy practically all of it! I went online and found a break down of the different jobs available in UX design and evaluated which I enjoyed the most, regardless of pay in the industry.

  • User research: this all about understanding the target audience and their behaviours which later leads to user analysis and using this data to produce or modify a product. There are several examples of when I have done this. I have done this when evaluating the prototype test data from the Stellardrive and February 2018 Nellie’s Nursery prototype testing data. I’ve also done it when collecting user research for the February 2018 Nellie’s Nursery prototypes. I do enjoy analysing data, always have done. In GCSE maths I was always good at the statistics units which were all about drawing and interpreting graphs and data and in A level economics and geography I was also very good at questions relating to analytics. I wrote a lot of content for each of the prototype tests and went out of my way to present the data in a way that was easy for the reader to understand and interpret. I also find that collecting data and then analysing it has really helped me to develop my work, for example improving navigation in the subsequent Nellie’s Nursery website prototypes. I also wrote a lot of content when analysing the Google Analytics I got back from my ‘Visit London’ exercise and tried to identify and explain trends and user behaviour. I feel that this is a area that I am both interested in and good at!
  • Usability analyst: this role entails identifying usability problems by applying user research and general usability principles (such as design frameworks). I have done this before too and feel that this goes hand-in-hand with the research. This role is all about using research to identify usability issues, which I have done and feel I can do well too.
  • Information architect: this role is about optimising and scoping how information is presented to a user. It’s something that I do but don’t enjoy as much as the research and analysing that research. Again, it tends to be something that I do and then discover that I’ve done wrong when the testing data comes in – for example in the February 2018 Nellie’s Nursery prototype testing I found a large percentage of my testers tried to look for information on a page where it wasn’t – showing a huge issue with information architecture. As a sole job role that doesn’t really appeal to me, if I were to do this I’d want to be doing it in conjunction with another role.
  • Interactive designer: this role entails using research data to design an experience that is appropriate to all users of the site. I feel that this part of a developer’s role and I like developing the projects and coding, so I feel that this could be a suitable role for me. My ability to interpret data and then act on it also lends me to this role.
  • Visual designer: a visual designer is somebody who turns wireframes and [low-fidelity] prototypes into visual designs that will be user-friendly and adhere to brand guidelines. For example, this might involve taking a wireframe sketched on paper or designed on software and taking this wireframe into software such as Axure or Illustrator to design a higher-fidelity version of it. To do this you need to have a good understanding of graphical elements and graphic design. This is likely the UX role that many graphics graduates go into for this reason. It’s something that I might potentially enjoy doing, but unless it involves actually doing a little bit of a coding then some of the other roles are probably more suited to me as I prefer designing with coding than making mock-ups in Illustrator or Photoshop as this is where my background is.
  • UX designer: a ‘Jack of all trades’, a little like a ‘full stack developer’, but more of a ‘full stack UX designer’. People in this role create aim to create successful user experiences by researching, acting on feedback, analysing feedback and test data, testing and following best practices. In my degree so far I have done this role and have really enjoyed it, so I would definitely be interested in working in this role.

I concluded that I enjoy researching, analysing and developing – but I don’t mind doing the information architecture and designing the visuals as long as I can do (at least some of) the others roles too.

If I were going to go into a career in UX I think I would likely look to be researcher/analyst or a UX designer. I’d definitely consider being an interactive designer if the job entailed some coding. It’s a hobby that I really enjoy doing and teaching and is a very useful skill, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of UX. I guess if I want a job doing coding all the time then being a software engineer or developer would be the job role to seek, but that doesn’t come with any of the other UX roles that I enjoy doing. I’d have to decide if coding was more interesting to me than analysing the data or being a ‘full stack UX designer’ and the answer is probably no. Just because something isn’t on your job description doesn’t mean that you can’t do it full-time though.

Who’s currently working in the UX industry?

The current market share of UX jobs is quite interesting, with most of the industry being populated with ‘UX designers’. These are likely older people who are now working freelance. The big MNCs tend to prefer younger people who bring in fresh ideas and can adapt quicker to the newest technology such as augmented and virtual reality.

UX Designers: 26%
Interaction Designers: 24%
Visual Designers: 23%
Information Architects: 18%
User Researchers: 6%
Usability Analysts: 2%

UX designers, interaction designers and visual designers are all popular – probably because when people think of ‘UX’ they think of these roles. However, professionals who do roles relating to research and analysing are still quite rare in the market – probably because people perceive these roles as ‘boring’. I don’t perceive research as ‘boring’ at all, so having only 8% of the UX employment market share being made up of people who do what I want to do can be quite a good thing because it means that competition is scarcer, meaning my chances of employment and pay are higher.

The other advantage I might have in the job market is a degree in UX design. At the moment, it is not essential since very few universities offer it. In fact, NUA is currently the only university in the UK to offer a degrees in user experience and interaction design at undergraduate levels. Most people who have some kind of degree in UX or IxD have completed master’s degrees in them after having studied something like psychology or graphics at undergraduate level. Most people who are interested in UX and IxD but don’t study it don’t have the opportunity to do projects like I’ve been doing that go through every single stage of the UX process and unless they get an internship or work experience, they certainly don’t get to work with industry links or real clients like we are on my course. I hope that when I graduate in 2020 I will be an attractive person to employ because of my degree which will have taught me the core components of UX design.

What skills do I need to pursue a career in UX?

I feel that I possess most of the skills that the industry is looking for.

Markup like HTML, XHTML, and XML
CSS coding
Page layout and interface design
Image editing and production
Front-end programming like JavaScript
Information architecture, site mapping, and wireframing
Usability testing and knowledge
Graphic design
Back-end development like PHP, Ruby on Rails, and ASP
Project management
Writing and editing
Findability, search engine optimization, search engine marketing
Accessibility testing and knowledge.

Of course, it’s probably impossible to be brilliant at all of these, but being able to do at least some of them will be helpful. My back-end development skills are a little rusty as I haven’t touched on back-end development since doing A level computer science some 3-4 years ago now and I am not the best at graphic design – I tell my friends that I ‘get other people to do my illustrations’ as I am hopeless at it! However, I love writing and editing, I love coding the front-end of websites and my degree has taught me many of the skills in-between!

Let’s talk about money

Doing initial research, the salaries for a career in UX at the moment are high! They are generally anywhere from $60,000 USD to $130,000 USD per year in the United States depending on your experience, position in the company, job role and city you are working in (living costs are higher in some cities than others, so salaries are inflated to account for this but your real income is about the same). All of the positions listed above start between $60,000 USD and $80,000 USD per year and generally a top-end salary for any of those positions is between about $95,000 USD and $130,000 USD.

Some research online suggests that the salaries for UX designers in the United Kingdom are a little lower (perhaps as the industry is still in its infancy here). Glassdoor states that the minimum salary for a UX designer in the UK should be £27,000 and the maximum salary £77,000, with £38,068 per year being the national average which is still a great income. In September 2016, Instant Offices claimed that the average salary for somebody aged 22 to 29 in the UK is £21,948 per year, for somebody aged 30 to 39 it is £27,972 per year and for somebody aged 40 to 49 it is £27,096 per year – so a salary of £38,068 per year on average is well-above the national average, even for a 49 year old.

Let’s talk about satisfaction and state-of-mind

Having worked for a year (and worked two jobs in that year!), I know that money is not always the most important thing. When I was working in IT support for a year after A levels and before starting university my disposable income was high enough to be able to comfortably afford to run a performance car for a year or two, fund a very expensive holiday to New York and also purchase a very expensive Nikon D500 D-SLR on the day that I left. However, I wasn’t happy in the job and wasn’t satisfied. Despite having the money to buy these nice luxuries, I still felt this way. Since coming to university and studying a topic that I love, meeting new inspiring people who have become my friends and generally having a lot more fun and being a lot more stretched and challenged, my mindset has improved massively and I am much happier. I gave up my second job part-way through Year 1 so that I could spend more time on my degree and my friends and despite not earning anything at the moment and having to scrap my car due to not being able to afford to run it anymore (the automatic transmission failing abruptly and the repair bill being astronomical might have also had something to do with it though), I’m much happier! So, money isn’t everything. Sometimes being satisfied with what you have, what you are doing and the people you are interacting with is far more important than seeing money accumulate in your current account which you’ll then just go and spend on the latest expensive item to satisfy an urge rather than a need.

So, when I go looking for a job, salary will be important as obviously I will want to earn a comfortable living, but the most important thing will be finding a job that involves doing the things I love and working with people that I will hopefully grow to love once I start.

April 15th 2018

Having some free and just having written an article explaining why I enjoy(ed) working with students and questioning what kind of a place UX has in the education sector and having spent the week networking with some local UX research and design professionals, I thought I’d do some more research into UX career opportunities.

Where do I actually want to work?

I don’t mean ‘which company do I want to work for?’ the question here is geographical. My ideas about this will probably change and will be dependant on the opportunities that present themselves to me in the future, but at the moment here is my plan.

  • Start locally, working for a Norwich or Cambridge-based UX agency like The User Story, Neon Tribe, Redgate or Foolproof. Get a few years experience here and live in the city away from my home in Wymondham to get some independent living experience and kick-start my UX career.
  • After a few years or when an opportunity arises, move to a bigger city like London to pursue a career there or even go abroad to New York, San Francisco or Seattle. I think if I were to move abroad to work I’d want to work in the USA, Canada, Australia or any other English-speaking country given that I am not one for foreign languages! Happily, New York is apparently home to a lot of UX jobs (I’ve visited the city and loved it, but living there is astonishing expensive so would have to live out!), I’ve visited Seattle and loved it and cities like Ottawa in Canada are fast becoming ‘Silicon Valleys’.
  • Just go with the flow!

I would definitely be willing to move away to pursue a career as long as there were no commitments holding me down. Let’s hope I find a partner who could also find their dream job in a large city, but luckily most creative and science/technology-based jobs have large presences in ‘world cities’ like London and New York.

What sector do I want to work in?

It’s possibly too early to be deciding about this given that I will be exposed to many different types of technology over the course of my degree and want to delve into different sectors and design experiences for them, but I could really write pages and pages about the sectors I am interested in and why. To summarise, I feel that UX can be applied to just about every industry. At the end of this post I explored how it could be applied to education without having done any research prior and back in October and November 2017 I spent a lot of time researching the UX of car infotainment systems, so it’s not just app and website design that a lot of people think it is. It’s probably true that a lot of UX agencies get people approach them wanting to have a website or an app redesigned and for the agency to guide them through the UX process, but there are so many sectors that UX can be applied to.

Here is a summary of the sectors that personally interest me at the moment.

  • Automotive. With the rise of autonomous cars, there’s going to be so much more scope to make ICE (in-car entertainment) a much better experience since we will no longer have to worry about distractions or safety features or anything like that. As long as the interior designers get more creative with car interiors, we could possibly have so much more screen space and other neat interior features to play with. One day, autonomous cars will be at a stage where it will almost certainly be safe enough to watch a film, browse the internet and even sleep whilst ‘being driven’ (technically you don’t drive an autonomous car – it drives itself!) Think of the opportunities that presents!
  • Industrial systems. Things like power stations, factories, quarries, mines – anything that requires a big control system, has always fascinated me. Once I was tasked with researching one particular power station for an AS geography assignment and I ended up finding out about loads of power stations and how they work. The systems that control these industries are crucial for keeping us alive and require a very different UX approach than say a car infotainment system or an iPhone app does due to the complexity of the information these systems display, the tasks they have to carry out and the noisy environments that they operate in. The current systems are often complicated and difficult to understand, so why not get with the times and make something functional, but also slightly beautiful?
  • Education and ‘children’s UX’. I’ve discussed my thoughts about how UX can be applied to education at the end of this post, but education will always interest me just due to the fact it’s been a part of my life for years. More and more children are being exposed to technology, why not educate them with it? Children’s UX design also requires a unique approach – the design must be easy to use, bright, colourful and appropriate to the target platform (likely a tablet in this day and age). If designing a product to educate, the design must also contribute to educating the child. A good design could help to change a life, which is also another reason why I liked being involved with education.
  • Healthcare. Like industrial systems, the current systems tend to be old and difficult to use. They must be designed with the same principles and done right can contribute to saving lives.

I’d say that at the moment those four are the ones that fascinate me the most – but I’m not going to pin my whole career down on working in UX for one of those sectors. I can even see massive potential for UX in industries that I’m not so interested or knowledgeable about, for example fashion. I can see that UX could play a huge part of the fashion industry in the coming years and right now it’s not there – so is thinking about UX in fashion an opportunity to become a ‘unicorn’ and start the next big thing? Corner the market before it exists. I mean, there is the UX of fashion websites and maybe taking fashion to VR and AR for a better shopping experience but with fashion could you even go as far to say that VR and AR headsets are not very fashionable right now, so how can fashion designers make them look better? If they look better, more people will be interested in wearing them and thus the VR and AR market share goes up.

Perhaps my approach to finding a career in UX shouldn’t be ‘I want to focus on making infotainment systems, I’ll reach out to BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Ford to see what they have’, rather ‘I’ll work for an agency that has a variety of clients to keep the projects fresh and varied’ or ‘I’ll take whatever opportunity takes my fancy and give 110% to any project, taking the time to research anything that I need to research and have fun finding out about a new sector!’ Having one of the latter attitudes may render a more exciting career and give more experiences in industry, making moving between sectors easier. It’s possible that one of these sectors could ‘stagnate’ or even die over time, so if I have the ability to be flexible and quickly change paths with UX then my career will last longer.

What’s out there at the moment?

I had a quick look on LinkedIn, which I use very heavily to professionally network, for UX jobs in the Norwich area. This is what I found.

Interestingly, the top result as of April 15th 2018 is for an automotive UI/UX designer. The job entails working with clients (presumably from the motor industry) with current and future vehicle programmes and designing these systems using a range of software and thinking about how the driver and passengers would use these systems. This particular vacancy is looking for five years prior experience and you will go in as an Associate (so it wouldn’t be an ideal first job, but it’s an example of the kind of thing that is available after you have some industry experience) and is looking for skills in presenting ideas, organisation of version history, work with programmers and suppliers, working in large teams and basic Microsoft Office skills.

This is something that could interest me in the future once I have some experience in the industry.

Below is another local UX job, this one is an entry-level job that also involves web design and development skills – which I am being taught on the BSc User Experience Design course.

This kind of thing could also appeal to me – it involves thinking about UX whilst also doing development and coding too. The job has an interesting list of requirements:

Essential

JOB QUALIFICATIONS

  • Minimum of 2 years’ experience in software application development
  • Good Knowledge of Relational Databases (mySQL or SQL Server)
  • An attention to quality and detail, with a problem solver mindest
  • Self-improvement and ability to learn on the fly with the desire to add value to the organisation

Commercial Experience Of The Following

  • Building responsive interfaces using HTML5 and CSS3
  • JavaScript, AJAX or jQuery
  • Working with REST API’s
  • Examples of previous work

Desirable

  • Knowledge of working on consumer solutions would be a distinct advantage

Commercial Experience Of The Following

  • JavaScript Frameworks, such as AngularJS, nodeJS or ReactJS
  • Entity framework or other object-relational mapping (ORM)
  • Bootstrap
  • ASP.NET Core
  • A good understanding of API design and documentation
  • Previous use of bug tracking software
  • Knowledge of developing mobile friendly web applications
  • Ability to use version control software
  • Agile/Scrum development process exposure

Your Personal Characteristics will include:

  • Team player with the ability to perform in a close knit, yet productive team

  • Excellent communication skills with the ability to explain issues clearly and simply, both orally and in writing

  • Collaborate to achieve team goals

  • Creative and demonstrates flair

  • Logical and analytical, with a methodical approach to problem-solving

  • Accurate, with high attention to detail

  • Self-motivated, resourceful and keen to learn and share knowledge

  • Able to remain calm and problem-solve under pressure

As this role is essentially the role of a UX designer and a developer rolled into one, the list of requirements is fairly extensive and probably has more prerequisites than most UX designer jobs do, but this is the difference between working for a large multinational who will just be looking for a ‘UX designer’ as opposed to working for a smaller company which have fewer staff and therefore require more ‘full-stack’ developers, which I talked a little bit about in this post. This job is also looking for several years’ prior experience, which begs the question ‘how do you get industry experience?’ It’s a difficult question to answer with a lot of possible answers, but for me the answer might be to work closely with companies during my degree years and trying to get a placement with them after the degree.

Most of the other jobs advertised on LinkedIn for UX in my area are a mix of UX consultancy vacancies and also front-end design jobs which focus mainly on CSS and JavaScript development which I do enjoy. I tend to think of front-end development as being more of a interaction designer’s job than a UX designer’s role, but it is something that would definitely interest me.

April 25th 2018

A few weeks ago in one of our Monday morning sessions we were tasked with researching some UX jobs in a local, national and multinational corporation and note down our findings. Below is a scan of the sheet that we worked on.

In case you can’t read my terrible handwriting, the ‘gist of it’ is that generally companies that specialise solely in UX design and UX development tend to be small-medium sized businesses and there are currently no major corporations out there that do just UX (by ‘major’ I am referring to a corporation the size of Apple or Google or Wal-Mart or equivalent). It seems that if you want to work for a large company that ‘does UX’ your best bet might be to try and make your way into a company like Google or Microsoft or Apple and join one of their in-house UX, UI or design teams but before you’ll be able to do this it seems that some experience will be required. One of these smaller corporations would be a good place to start, especially since large MNCs like Microsoft and Google often outsource to them to find fresh ideas and get third-party perspective on their (sometimes decades-old) designs. Perhaps if you worked at one of these corporations and made a good impression with a big client like Google you could eventually ‘network your way’ into Google?

The tough thing is that even these smaller companies generally are asking for several years design experience beforehand. Where do you get experience? The answer to me at this stage seems to be through networking whilst being a student at university and then hopefully getting yourself an internship or a job with that company. A lot of people applying for junior positions in these companies likely have not completed a UX degree since very few exist in the UK at the moment (some exist in the USA so the position may be a little different over there). When I graduate in 2020 I will among one of the very first people to graduate with a UX degree and will have spent the past 3 years or so learning about the UX journey and will have had some industry experience and live briefs to talk about – as well as real websites for clients (like Nellie’s Nursery) under my belt! Already in Year One I’ve made a site that will be going live for a real client, so who knows what years two and three will bring? So perhaps by talking about the work I have completed in my degree I may have a slight advantage.

Happily, I live locally and Foolproof operate in Norwich. They actually have a programme for graduates that would be worth getting a place on since it negates the need for ‘experience’. It’s nice to see a company think about this. Graduate schemes for other companies have worked really well for friends and relatives of mine so I would definitely look to get on a graduate scheme for a company like Microsoft or Foolproof – I’ll be seeing what’s about in the near future!

Being a teacher?

My recent interest in education again, described in this blog post and also this one, has made me realise that one day I’d probably like to be a teacher. It’s not a career that I’d probably do straight out of uni as I want a career in UX or technology first and then be able to rely these experiences and this knowledge to students to inspire the next generation. I think a good teacher is one that is passionate about their subject, has life experience and give fascinating and useful insights to industry to encourage students to get interested in the industry.

The government is putting a lot of resources and effort into education in the technology fields, even introducing a new set of qualifications called T levels and by 2022 they want 8,000 newly-trained computer science teachers to teach in the UK. Whilst I hope that in 2022 I am beginning a career in technology, hopefully by the time I decide to become a teacher (maybe around aged 45-50), the T level courses will be very mature and the government will have a solid strategy in place to teach about technology. Technology is already a core part of student’s lives, so by the time I am 50 years old in 2047 it will probably be dangerous to live without it! Both of my A level computer science teachers were mature students who graduated from the UEA with a computer science degree aged around 40-45 and I connected really well with both of them – I think hearing about their industry experience and being able to pick at their seemingly-limitless knowledge made me respect and admire them more than I’d respect a 23 year old who had just come out of university. I’d want respect and admiration from my students.

I’ve worked in schools with students aged right from 2-3 (nursery age) to 18 (Year 13) and I always felt that I connected best with the high school (aged 11-18) students, so this is the age group I’d be interested in teaching. They’re the most capable, best at engaging in conversations and most interested in the subjects that they study. I remember asking one of my computer science teachers why he chose to teach high school students and he just said ‘for the banter, of course!’ Obviously there is a fine line between ‘banter’ and being disrespectful that has to be drawn, but working with students who work hard and at the same time are humourous and engaging must be amazing.

I always felt I had a connection with teenagers. They are the ones most capable of having great banter but also have the most interest and ask the most questions.

Although my preferred age group would be the high school bracket, visiting Nellie’s Nursery today I have a lot of respect for those who work in nurseries and the youngest of children because they are educating children at arguably the most critical point of their educational lives – get it wrong at the beginning and these mistakes are exceptionally hard to undo in later school life. I also have absolutely limitless respect for anybody who goes into SEN (special educational needs), working with children of any age to bring them to the education that they deserve. My respect for those who go into SEN teaching comes from the sheer amount of fighting my mother had to do to get my brother the SEN support he required and deserved throughout 13-odd years of his school life. Thankfully, in the past 5-10 years or so SEN now features much higher on many schools’ agendas, but back in 2002, 2003, 2004 it was still a very new area for many schools and support for it was often inadequate. SEN teachers must be the ones who go away at the end of the day feeling that they achieved the most. I used to work with a lady who specialised in SEN at the school I worked at and the second she got made a mainstream reception teacher she resigned – she is now studying SEN at Master’s level. SEN teachers do it because they care – and you so have to care if you want to be a teacher of any kind!

And I’m sure that nursery and primary school teachers look up to high school teachers with respect – after all, they have to deal with the teenage angst problems, exam stresses, raging hormones and moody attitudes. But, part of me thinks that I could help students deal with these problems and could be somebody they could turn to.

I shared this article to my LinkedIn this morning – it really emphasises why UX should be considered more in education. Let’s hope that somebody designing these new T level courses reads it and incorporates UX into the syllabus to teach a generation about this up-and-coming industry and companies heavily involved in the e-Learning sector give UX more consideration when designing learning tools. The article even suggests that ‘Learner Experience’ (LX) might even be something to consider. The article suggests that this would just be several requirements to determine if learning was successful, but I think that UX could play a critical role in ‘LX’. If ‘LX’ ever becomes an industry, I am all ears!

Could ‘Learner Experience’ (LX) be the next big thing for education.

It would be absolutely amazing to leave uni and have s great career in technology – changing the way we live by improving interactions with technology, whether for money or just for humanity’s sake – and then going to inspiring the next generation to do just the same. I’d love for young people to look at the work I do and did during my career and think ‘I want to do that too!’ or even better ‘I can do that better’. After all ‘Inspiring the next generation’ was the slogan I used for my Wymondham High Student Digital Leader team between January 2015 and July 2017, so maybe it’s what my career goal should actually be?

‘Inspiring the future generation’ was the slogan of my digital leader team. Perhaps that should be my slogan throughout my professional career too.

April 26th 2018

Today I did a little bit of research about ‘Learning Experience Design’. It is actually a principle and it seems to perfectly encompass UX and education, bringing the two together very nicely! The best way to sum up how LXD (‘Learning Experience Design’) works is by using the diagram below.

Essentially you take user experience design and instructional design (which is about the psychology of getting people to follow instructions). LXD has come about as the result of the rise in e-Learning and technology in education.

User experience design is a very new field, but LXD is even newer. However, there are already 10 best practices for it according to Extension Engine blog:

  • People learn better from a combination of text and visuals.
  • Avoid the use of excessive sounds, even ambient noises can be off-putting. Also avoid the use of excessive video and sidebar information.
  • Contextualise learning to real-world examples.
  • Create space within the interface for feedback.
  • Provide students with control, e.g. allowing them to control their pace, control video, audio and allow them to review prior content.
  • Provide tools based on the type of activity.
  • Don’t separate related content such as text and visuals.
  • Use relevant graphics rather than random fancy animations and graphics.
  • Use movement (perhaps animations) to teach physical procedures and static images to teach processes.
  • Humanise instructional content, so instead of using ‘robotic voices’ like Microsoft Annie, use a humanised voice.

Most of these are also applicable to ‘traditional UX design’, but the reasoning for each of these has more of a link to education and learning techniques than it does to say navigation, colour palette and feeling in control.

I’ve just summarised those 10 points, to read more I’d definitely recommend reading this article here.

LXD can also take into account the student voice, look at the quote below from Jessica Knott, a learning design manager and applied researcher for Michigan State University.

User experience research methods and design thinking help us unpack the intangibles of the student experience. There are many instructional design frameworks that inform the way content is delivered—and those are important—but LX pushes farther, making sure the student voice is integrated more purposefully by sharing the course development and iteration process with those for whom it is designed.

Student engagement was always something that interested me, so perhaps LXD is the way to go.

How does one get a job in LXD?

Most LXD jobs are based in the e-Learning sector with employers like Amazon advertising for LXD jobs on Indeed. Here is their job specification:

  • Design and develop bar-raising learning associate-facing programs using ADDIE and AGILE methodologies.
  • Analyze performance data to determine performance and learning objectives that deliver expected business results from new hire and cross-trained Associates.
  • Design and transform our learning programs from classroom-based instructor-led training to blended virtual programs.
  • Build elearning, instructor-led classroom and virtual classroom programs, performance assessments, surveys, and self-directed learning programs.
  • Partner with operations and program leaders to align our learning programs with the expected business outcomes.
  • Optimize the use of learning technologies that help us scale.
  • Embed data collection and feedback mechanisms throughout our learning solutions to generate data-driven, actionable insights into the Associate Learning Experience. Lead efforts to drive continuous performance improvement from those insights.
  • Communicate progress and opportunities through daily huddles and weekly, monthly, and quarterly business reviews.

These are the sorts of things that somebody who works in LXD for Amazon at least does. It’s all about designing and developing classroom-based learning and e-Learning tools.

The requirements for this particular vacancy are:

  • 3+ years’ experience with current learning technologies in a large corporate environment
  • Demonstrated ability to design and develop blended learning solutions that produce measurable business results
  • Advanced experience in learning technologies for blended, virtual learning
  • Intermediate experience designing for virtual learning platforms (Adobe Connect preferred)
  • Advanced experience with learning content creation tools (Adobe Creative Cloud, Articulate Storyline 360 preferred)
  • Basic Experience with content tracking through Learning Management Systems (AICC, SCORM and xAPI)
  • Ownership and the ability to find solutions and a path forward even in ambiguous situations
  • Strong project management skills and the proven track record delivering results
  • Excellent oral, written and interpersonal communication skills
  • Demonstrated ability to work well in a team environment, work under tight deadlines and successfully manage multiple work streams
  • Ability to travel internationally up to 25% of work time
  • College degree BA/BS in a related field.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Experience in operations or call center leadership
  • Certified Performance and Learning Professional (CPLP) or similar industry certification
  • Master’s Degree in related field
  • Experience with Six Sigma tools and Lean techniques

Definitely not an entry-level career but likely one that you would need to consider after a few years in the industry. I’m not exactly sure what they’d like a master’s degree in, perhaps something education based. This job also requires a lot of international travel and working abroad so it is possibly not a vacancy to choose if you are very settled at home or only want to work in one place. If I was still single and had few commitments besides running a house, car and holding down a job (read: no long-term girlfriend, wife or children!) then I’d love this, but if I had a long-term girlfriend, wife or children to tend to then I’m not sure if I’d be happy with being away from them for up to 25% of the time – especially if the children were young.

Jobs in this field are scarce at the moment so the best way to get into it seems to be to get involved with a company that has a big focus on educational technology and e-Learning and work on developing tools and designing experiences for them. There are some user research jobs available in this field too which is an area of UX design that I said I’d be interested in. The big companies, like Microsoft, tend to want PhD level education for a role like this which shows that you can research and drive meaning from data. I have a feeling that in the long run, education beyond university may be required to work in LXD at the moment, but who knows how the industry will look in 2020?

 

Bibliography

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Glassdoor.co.uk. (2018). Salary: User Experience Designer | Glassdoor.co.uk. [online] Available at: https://www.glassdoor.co.uk/Salaries/user-experience-designer-salary-SRCH_KO0,24.htm [Accessed 2 Mar. 2018].

Instant Offices Blog. (2016). Average Wage UK: what salary you should be earning at your age?. [online] Available at: http://www.instantoffices.com/blog/reports-and-research/average-uk-salary/ [Accessed 2 Mar. 2018].

Stevenson, S. (Undated). LXD: 10 Things To Know About Learner Experience Design. [online] Blog.extensionengine.com. Available at: https://blog.extensionengine.com/lxd-10-things-to-know-about-learner-experience-design/ [Accessed 26 Apr. 2018].

Kilgore, W. (2016). UX to LX: The Rise of Learner Experience Design – EdSurge News. [online] EdSurge. Available at: https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-06-20-ux-to-lx-the-rise-of-learner-experience-design [Accessed 26 Apr. 2018].