Stickynotes episode 18, Oct 22 2020
Details from this session
As more companies embrace UX, there’s more opportunity to specialize in certain areas. What specialisms exist today, and where are we heading?
It’s still possible to stay as a user research generalist, or as a design generalist, but as UX becomes more embedded in companies there are some exciting opportunities to specialize in various UX roles.
As a user researcher, you can specialize in quantitative or qualitative research, or come to those disciplines from data science and ethnography respectively.
As a designer, you may find yourself specializing more in interaction or visual design, or taking on a very particular role in 3D, motion, iconography or typography.
The manager track is another form of specialization – concurrent with generalization. You’ll need to learn the special skills necessary to manage a team, while also remaining familiar enough with each individual’s role that you can help to coach them.
Research or design ops are worth a mention too. Larger organizations will often formalize their participant recruiting, governance, and infrastructure roles in a central group in order to save costs. That group may also be responsible for maintaining a data corpus of all the research that’s performed in the organization, even as far as mining it for new insights. If there’s a central style guide or design system, this team will be responsible for maintaining it. They might be the ones arranging training and continuing professional education. This central team may also be responsible for educating others in the organization – basically “selling” UX.
So there are lots of opportunities to create a focus on a particular area of UX and become a specialist. This specialism is easier if you’re working for a large organization, or if you’re in independent with a broad client base. This way you’re likely to have a big enough pool of projects to keep you employed in your specialist role.
Some people really do well focusing on just one type of research, one stage in the design process, or one technology. But it isn’t for everybody. It’s fine to also want to maintain a good generalist toolset, or to seek out variety in the research or design challenges you face.
Typically even if you do specialize in one area, it helps to have a broad understanding of and ability to perform different research or design roles. In order to complete a particular task, you may need to run a lab-based study even if you’re primarily a field researcher, or do some visual design work even if you’re primarily an interaction designer.
And finally it’s worth mentioning that if you’re just starting your UX career you don’t need to consider specializing yet – and you may not even have a chance to. Entry level positions are often generalist in nature. That’s not a bad thing. Experiencing, learning, and mastering several different techniques will let you find out exactly where your strengths and preferences lie.
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