Designers create interactive user experiences. But before that, they need to know who their users are and what they need, so user experience (UX) researchers come into play.
As a UX researcher, I understand the role of UX research in product development. If you want to follow this career path, I can get you covered! This guide will show you how to become a UX researcher successfully.
So, keep reading to explore!
A UX researcher is a data scientist who gathers and accesses customer data. Then, they use it to evaluate and improve their products’ UX (User Experience).
UX is important for user-centered designs. Thus, the UX researcher often works for companies prioritizing user research when developing their products.
As a UX researcher, I work on different projects. Depending on each project’s requirements, my tasks vary. But generally, my duty list includes the following:
- Research planning: At the beginning of the project, I conduct research. I often create a list of research objectives and plans. This way, I can ensure the results meet my goals. Then, I meet with stakeholders and clients to identify their needs.
- Data collection: Next, I collect data from the research participants. There are many things to check. So, I take notes between the sessions to make my reports easy to understand.
- Data analysis: After that, I analyze the collected data. This task involves qualitative and quantitative analysis.
- Presenting research: I have to explain what I found to the UX designers. And based on my research, they can sketch the product.
- Ongoing testing: The solution of my UX team should be on the right curve. Thus, I perform ongoing testing to ensure its performance.
If you want to become a UX researcher, you have many things to start doing.
1. Earn a bachelor’s degree
Firstly, you need a bachelor’s degree. You should focus on social science or technology majors. During those courses, you can work on these concepts:
- Human-computer interaction: This concept is the core of your UX research. It teaches you how people interact with technology. Based on that, the UX design can be user-friendly and efficient.
- Psychology: As a UX researcher, you have to understand human behaviors. Thus, this subject will be vital for your future job.
- Statistics: You have to rely on data to make informed decisions. Statistics will help you interpret your surveys.
- Computer science: You work with your computer almost every day because UX has many technical aspects. So, you should have a background in computer science.
- Information systems: This subject is important for handling information architecture in digital products. It will, therefore, help you organize and retrieve information easily.
- Design: You should also be familiar with UX and UI design, too. It’s the heart of UX.
- Anthropology: Human behaviors can be different depending on culture. So, learn about cultural differences, too.
Remember that UX works with a wide range of areas. Hence, cover all the concepts above at school. Then, you can develop your UX skills.
Earn certifications in UX. They allow you to focus on certain aspects of the field.
I recently completed the CUA program. It was a game-changer for my UX research career. You should get it, too.
This certification teaches you to assess and enhance UX across different products. It also covers many topics like interface design and usability testing. The whole program takes only 6 to 12 weeks. You can adjust it to match your schedule.
This program costs about $1,000. But it’s a worthy investment for your career. Trust me! With CUA, you will feel more confident when working with user-centered design.
This certification is more affordable. If you choose the Core Competencies program, you need to pay $250. Meanwhile, the Practicum Exam is more expensive, about $500.
Both UXPA courses focus on UX practices and designs. By the end, you can apply those principles in real-world situations.
IDF aims to validate your expertise in user research and data analysis. If you want to improve your usability testing, it will also help.
There are three levels in a course. But I find the program flexible. I could finish it all in just two months. Moreover, the cost is reasonable. Each level has its own pricing option, from $99 to $299. You can get the foundation level first and progress gradually to the higher ones.
User research skills are the key to becoming a good UX researcher. To develop these skills, you have to focus on these aspects:
- Users’ behaviors and needs: You aim to build a product that your target customers need.
- Differences in their behaviors: As I have mentioned, your users’ behaviors may differ. Thus, do not focus on the majority. It would be best to care about the minority, too.
- Research at all stages: The beginning of a project demands research the most. However, you need to search during its development. This way, your project can be on track. You can also help your company save budget and resources.
- Usability testing: The refinement stage of your project requires usability testing. After performing the test, you know what features to add to your product.
- Analyze the findings: This skill is crucial. If you don’t know how to communicate your findings of research and tests, your effort will go to waste.
Experienced employees always stand out. Thus, try to gain practical experience to become a UX researcher. I highly recommend these three ways:
You can join non-profit projects to hone your UX research skills. Many organizations give you opportunities to grow. You can go with Catchfire and UX Rescue. They are the best choices out there.
This option must be the most popular way to gain experience. Some universities and colleges ask their students to take an internship in the last year. But you should still go for it even if your school doesn’t.
Many companies need new UX researchers to help with their work. You can also benefit from it as you will work with professionals in the field. They will teach you valuable lessons.
The salary for interns is not high. However, when working as an intern, you can picture clearly how UX research runs. The real-world experience should be your ultimate goal.
You can also join software development competitions. It’s a precious chance to work with professionals. Additionally, your projects will be outstanding pages in your portfolio.
The portfolio is what you need to apply for a job. It’s also what your potential employers know about you first.
You keep all your previous work in your portfolio. The records can be your volunteer work. And if you completed any projects during your internship, include them in your portfolio, too.
You can attach your portfolio to your resume. Yet, I recommend hosting it on your website. You can also use Github or LinkedIn to showcase your work.
Networking is important for your job because it allows you to find new job opportunities. Your acquaintances can tell you about jobs in their companies.
You can also learn a lot from them. For example, a simple chat with them may help you know the latest technologies in the industry.
Sometimes, you can ask them for help. They may have the same problems and show you how to solve them.
But how to expand your network? You can join UX communities. UX researchers gather there to discuss their work. So don’t hesitate to be part of them.
You can attend UX conferences, too. But don’t just come there for listening only. Why don’t you talk to the person next to you? They can be your pal, colleague, or mentor.
Finally, equip yourself with the necessary skills. Both technical and soft skills are crucial.
I have explained some user research skills. But in addition to them, you should work on other aspects, such as:
- Journey maps: You need to simulate a user’s journey with your product. Then, you can ensure the optimal design process.
- Empathy mapping: There can be nuances and fine points in your user’s experience. In this case, you need empathy mapping skills to avoid mistakes when conducting your research.
- Wireframes and prototypes: You don’t have to create wireframes and prototypes. Yet, if you know them, you can work well with UI designers.
Soft skills are equally important. Here are some things to work on:
- Problem-solving: While conducting UX research, you may encounter problems. In other words, you should be a good problem solver.
- Analytical thinking: A UX researcher has to analyze data and suggest solutions. This task requires a good analytical mindset.
- Active listening: You have to understand your users. And the best way to know their needs is to listen to them.
- Teamwork: Teamwork can make dream work. This quote is true for your UX/UI development team.
This career can be right for you if:
- You love conducting research and analyzing data.
- Discovering user insights is your passion.
- You are a creative and analytical person.
- You like creating excellent user experiences to drive your business growth.
Yes. Companies want their products to adapt to their clients’ requirements. Thus, they need UX researchers to handle this task.
Moreover, UX research is necessary in many industries. Thus, healthcare, technology, and finance companies keep searching for talented UX researchers.
UX researchers can join different industries. Full-time researchers often work 40 hours per week. Yet, they may work overtime if their deadlines are too tight.
You can work onsite or remotely. Plus, there are many freelance opportunities. So feel free to choose the right path for you.
Another good news is that you can get high pay as a UX researcher. Your annual salary will be around $124,856. Yet, it depends on your experience and skills.
Generally, being a UX researcher is a well-paid job. You can also climb up your career ladder quickly with hard work.
You need to study subjects like technology and psychology. Then, they help you understand human behaviors and suggest the best UX solutions.
Yes, as long as you have passion for it. UX researchers may come from different backgrounds. Remember, there is no set degree to apply for a UX researcher.
No. UX research isn’t intrinsically difficult. There are also many resources online to learn from. However, ensure you are determined to follow this path.
Yes. This career is stable and promising because of the value it provides to businesses. You can also find joy when working in this role.
You can work as an intern or take entry-level jobs first. These positions will help you earn practical experience. Also, take online courses to learn about UX research. The combination of knowledge and real-world experience will then help you settle on a UX researcher job.
You can become a UX researcher once you’ve got all the necessary skills and experience. This journey will be full of challenges, but the opportunities are numerous.
I have gone through many things to reach that far. And I don’t regret taking this path. So, if you love it, follow your dream. Welcome to the world of UX research!