User Experience Designer
Kaihoahoa Wheako Whakamahi
User experience (UX) designers design the way websites and software applications (apps) look and work, based on what users need.
User experience designers usually earn
$90K-$150K per year
Source: 'Recruit I.T., 2021.
Pay for user experience designers varies depending on skills and experience.
According to Recruit I.T.:
- User experience designers usually earn $90,000 to $130,000 per year
- Senior designers usually earn $105,000 to $150,000.
Sources: 'Recruit I.T Technology and Digital Salary Update Auckland', July 2021, 'Recruit I.T Technology and Digital Salary Update Wellington', July 2021.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
User experience designers may do some or all of the following:
- research website and software application (app) design and technology trends
- meet with clients to work out the requirements of their website or app and talk over ideas
- meet users to understand their needs
- work out website or app layouts and how the user will find their way around them
- develop basic designs using wireframes (drawings of layouts) and prototypes (original models used to develop later versions)
- decide on the type, placement and content of graphics and multimedia features
- test designs with users
- liaise with writers, developers and other staff to help create websites or apps.
Skills and knowledge
User experience designers need to have:
- web and app design and graphics skills
- knowledge of user experience methods such as user research and creating wireframes and prototypes
- ability to develop websites and apps
- knowledge of the principles of user-friendly design
- understanding of how people interact with computers and mobile devices
- understanding of common software development and project management practices.
User experience designers:
- usually work regular business hours, but may work longer hours to meet deadlines, especially if they are self-employed
- work from home, in an office, or anywhere a computer can be set up
- often travel locally, nationally and internationally to meet clients, developers, project managers and systems specialists.
What's the job really like?
User Experience Designer
Jas Hua's interest in websites began at secondary school, where she came across some ugly examples. She was sure she could do better, and started learning about how sites were designed and structured. Now, it's her full-time job.
How do you create a good-looking and functional website?
"Usually a client will say what they want, and what style, and then you have to come up with a wireframe, which shows where elements of the website will be positioned. After the client's approved it, you develop it into a first design. You may have to redesign it two or three times before it's finalised and you get something the client is happy with.
"You have to be clear about the purpose of a website, and its target audience – you have to keep those things in mind when you are designing."
What do you like most about your work?
"I really like designing pretty websites. Especially when you get the final design and people tell you 'Your site looks so cool' – that makes me very happy."
Product designer video
Lauren talks about life as a product designer – 4.21 mins.
Product design is a field of design heavily focused on software. We oversee both the UX and the UI. The UX being what is the experience our customers are having on our products and services and then the UI being the actual elements that they're interacting with. We're making sure that the navigation is as seamless as possible and that you understand the information that's in front of you.
My role is problem solving. How do you actually help businesses make better products?
Xero is an accounting platform that is easy for small businesses to use. We work with design researchers, we work with our product teams, stakeholders and our customers to find out what are our customer needs and what are the business objectives.
As a product designer we start with defining a problem and we understand that through research, data, analytics and experimentation. We work from that into wire-framing low fidelity designs. We move fast and we iterate quite quickly. We then prototype this into a higher fidelity design that we can actually put in front of our users and validate the approach that we've taken and then from that we have insights that help us to iterate and continue to improve those experiences.
So a day in the office usually starts with prioritising what I need to achieve that day. The product team does Agile practices. We have our stand-ups that's where we can all get together and we understand what each person's working on.
The user will come here entering in from...
Then we have things like design QA. I will catch up with our developers.
If we release this bit first.
I might run some co-design sessions with other designers. We can critique each other's work, we can give feedback, we can ask questions, we can give ideas and we can challenge some assumptions that have maybe been made.
I try to get the team as involved as possible early on so that we all have buy-in to the project and they understand how we can make the best user experience possible. Everyone brings in a different perspective and you need to make sure that you bring those perspectives together to try and meet that best customer outcome.
As a product designer you need to be able to adapt to circumstances that are always changing, to continually learn and hone your craft, to make sure that you're understanding what's happening out there in the market around you, to want to work in a collaborative environment because you're always working with multiple teams, with different people.
Once they've raised the case...
You need to be able to present because you are the voice of the end user and lastly, enjoy solving problems.
There are multiple different pathways that you can take to becoming a product designer. Myself, I went to university but some people learn on the job. Some people move from things like product owners or product managers into design.
Because we're in the design field there are so many different options. You can either work like I am - internally within a business or you can actually work in an agency where you might be working on different projects from different businesses.
You can also go into freelancing where you might be working for different clients all the time. There's a lot of opportunities also with remote working, so you might even be based in New Zealand but working for an American company.
What I love about the job is that I have the chance to change the lives of our small business customers. Because we're across the whole process, we actually have a lot of influence on what the product will be like, how the users might interact, making sure that they have the best possible experience. And that's a pretty awesome thing to be a part of.
There are no specific requirements to become a user experience designer. However, you usually need a certificate, diploma or degree in one of the following:
- web/interaction design
- graphic or media design
- a computer-related area such as computer science.
You also usually need one or both of the following:
- a portfolio of your design work
- examples of projects you have worked on.
A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training. Useful subjects include design and visual communication, and digital technologies.
For Year 11 to 13 students, the Gateway programme is a good way to gain industry experience.
User experience designers need to be:
- imaginative and creative, with an eye for design
- good at communicating ideas
- able to accept criticism
- able to work well under pressure and unsupervised
- skilled at relationship and project management
- skilled at problem solving.
You have to keep yourself inspired and up to date with new advances. Inspiration might come from looking at the way other websites are designed, or perhaps from architecture, fashion, or graphic design websites.
User Experience Designer
Useful experience for user experience designers includes:
- previous experience with websites, such as volunteer work in graphic or web design
- software development
- user or market research
- client or project management.
User experience designers need to know how to use computer equipment properly to avoid occupational overuse syndrome (OOS).
Find out more about training
- Engineering New Zealand
- (04) 473 9444 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.engineeringnz.org
- IT Professionals
- 0800 252 255 - email@example.com - www.itp.org.nz
- (09) 475 0204 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.nztech.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
User experience designers in demand
Skilled user experience designers are in demand due to:
- increasing numbers of organisations shifting services and systems online
- growing awareness of the need for user-friendly websites and apps
- existing websites which need redesign so people can easily access them on mobile devices such as phones and tablets.
Shortage of experienced user experience designers
There are not enough experienced user experience designers to meet demand. Nearly two thirds of IT employers report skills shortages, and there aren't enough information technology (IT) trainees.
According to the Census, 1,356 user experience designers worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Types of employers varied
Many user experience designers are employed by:
- firms specialising in websites and apps
- government departments
- large retailers, banks, or service organisations.
Other user experience designers are self-employed.
- Hays, 'IT Salary Guide and Recruiting Trends', accessed November 2021, (www.hays.net.nz).
- Recruit I.T. 'Technology and Digital Salary Update Auckland', 'Recruit I.T. Technology and Digital Salary Update Wellington', July 2021, (www.recruitit.co.nz).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
User experience designers may progress to set up their own user experience design business, or move into management roles.
Last updated 16 August 2022