UX Researcher Vs UX Designer: Differences Might Surprise You

Brian Bojan Dordevic
About The Author

Brian Dordevic

Brian is Marketing Strategic Planner with a passion for all things digital. Feel free to follow him on Twitter or schedule a consultation call with him.

Are you interested in pursuing a career in the world of UX? Great choice! But before you dive in, it’s crucial to understand the difference between two critical roles that often get mixed up – UX researcher vs UX designer. These two job titles may sound similar, but they’re distinct career paths requiring different skill sets, responsibilities, and personalities.

To help you choose the right career path, our digital marketing agency will explore the UX researcher vs UX designer topic in detail in this article. You’ll learn where these two roles fit into the design process, the salary range for both positions, which skills to demonstrate with your UX portfolio, and much more. But before you continue reading, please understand that both UX roles are great choices. We’ll try to explain the difference between UX research and UX design to help you set your foot in the right direction and get a job that you’ll enjoy. Now, let’s start!

Table of Contents:
UX researcher vs UX designer are two distinct career paths that require different skill sets.

What’s the Difference between UX Research and UX Design?

More and more businesses realize the importance of investing in user experience design and the returns on investment it can bring. UX statistics suggest that only 1 out of 26 unsatisfied customers ever complain – others simply leave without saying a word. It’s your job to take a proactive approach and find their pain points, needs and wants, then shape your digital product to improve UX. 

Before starting with a detailed UX researcher vs UX designer guide, you must understand that both roles are crucial in the UX field, but they serve different purposes. 

Imagine you’re working for a company that sells fitness products, and you’re tasked with improving the user experience of their mobile app. You might conduct UX research and ask different user research questions to learn how they use the app, what features they find most valuable, and common user pain points. Based on your research findings, you might identify areas for improvement, such as making it easier to track progress, adding new workout options, or simplifying the sign-up process.

Sticking with the same example, if you were a UX designer, you’d wait for a user experience researcher to gather helpful information and then start sketching some ideas for improving the application design. You might create high-fidelity wireframes that show how the app’s screens could be reorganized to make it more intuitive and incorporate new features that research showed would be popular with users.

As you can see, UX research and UX design are two different but complementary processes that work together to improve the user experience of an application or a website.

What Is a UX Researcher?

A UX researcher studies how people interact with technology or products and uses that information to inform design decisions. They’re like detectives who use various research methods to uncover insights about user behavior, needs, and motivations. This involves conducting surveys, interviews, card sorting usability testing, and analyzing data from website analytics and other sources to learn more about users and create a better experience for them.

So, what stage of the web design process does a UX researcher typically get involved in? Well, they’re usually involved in the early design stages – especially during the market research for website design and discovery phases. Besides analyzing user pain points, needs, and motivations, user experience researchers also conduct competitive research to see what other websites are out there and how they compare to the one their team is designing. 

Upon gathering this information, UX researchers analyze and synthesize the data to create user journey flows, user personas, and other artifacts that help UX designers better understand the user’s perspective.

After the initial research and discovery phase, user experience researchers may continue to be involved in the design process, but their role usually shifts. They might help validate design decisions by conducting usability tests on prototypes. Or they might track user behavior and feedback upon the website’s launching to ensure it meets user needs.

Main UX Tasks You’ll Need To Perform as a User Experience Researcher

As a UX researcher, your main goal will be to understand users and how they interact with products or services. For this purpose, you’ll need to use both qualitative and quantitative research methods. Here are some of the main UX tasks you’ll be performing as a user experience researcher:

  • Conducting user interviews: One of the most important tasks of a UX researcher is to conduct user interviews. By asking the right user experience survey questions, you can gain valuable insights to help you design better products.
  • Creating user personas: User personas are fictional representations of your target users. They help you understand the needs and behaviors of different user groups, and your team can use them to guide UX design decisions. You’ll need to create these based on your research findings.
  • Running usability tests: Usability testing involves asking users to perform specific tasks on a website or an app and observing their behavior. Card sorting is just one example of such tests, which involves asking users to place products in categories they find logical.
  • Analyzing user behavior: Another critical task is to analyze user behavior. This involves observing how people use the website and identifying patterns and trends in their behavior. For example, if you’re working on an eCommerce site, you might look at how people navigate the site, how long they spend on each page, and what actions they take.
  • Communicating findings with the rest of the team: You’ll need to synthesize your research findings into actionable insights and communicate them to your web design team. This involves identifying key themes and patterns and using them to inform design decisions. For example, if your research shows that users struggle to complete a specific task, you might recommend changes to the user interface designs to make the task easier.

Requirements for Becoming a UX Researcher

Now let’s talk about the requirements often listed in job descriptions for UX researchers. First and foremost, there usually isn’t any specific degree you’ll need to land a job in this UX role. Still, it can help if you have knowledge of human-computer interaction, psychology, or a related field. A degree in these fields will give you a strong foundation in research methods, user-centered design, and data analysis and help you accomplish tasks efficiently as a UX researcher.

Typical requirements for UX researchers we found by analyzing various job descriptions include:

  • Deep knowledge of various UX principles, UX research tools, and research methods
  • Ability to come up with the right questions for users to plan your research
  • Passion for problem-solving within the user research field
  • A strong analytical skillset
  • Strong communication and collaboration skills
  • Ability to work closely with product managers, designers, and developers to ensure that research insights are being incorporated into the design process

Become a UX Researcher If You Can Relate To This…

When choosing between becoming a UX researcher vs UX designer, selecting the role you’ll enjoy more is crucial. If you love understanding how people interact with technology and want to improve those interactions, becoming a UX researcher could be a great fit for you! Here are a few things you might love if you’re considering a UX research career path:

  • Psychology and human behavior: If you love understanding why people do what they do, you’ll find UX research fascinating. You’ll use your understanding of human behavior to help designers and developers create digital products that align with how people think and act.
  • Problem-solving: UX research is about identifying problems with digital products and developing solutions. If you love a good puzzle or enjoy brainstorming creative solutions, UX research might be right up your alley. 
  • Constant learning: If you love learning and staying curious, UX research is an excellent career. You’ll be working on different projects and need to learn about various industries and user groups. You’ll also need to stay up-to-date with the latest UI/UX trends, research methods, and technologies.
  • Empathy: If you have a high level of empathy and enjoy understanding user pain points, needs, feelings, and motivations, UX research is a great fit for you. As a UX researcher, you’ll need to understand the user’s point of view to create an experience that meets their needs and expectations.

Becoming a UX researcher is a great career choice if you love people, problem-solving, and continuous learning. With the growing demand for UX professionals, it’s a career with lots of potential for growth and impact.

UX designer creates enjoyable experiences for users.

What Is a UX Designer?

The main job of UX designers is to create digital experiences that are intuitive, easy to use, and enjoyable for the end-users. This could be anything from a website to a mobile app or software program. More specifically, UX designers work on the overall design and layout of digital products. 

In the web design process, UX designers are typically involved from the beginning. They also work on planning and creating a UX strategy. They work alongside other team members, such as UX researchers, project managers, web developers, and graphic designers, to create a roadmap for the project that considers the user’s needs and goals. 

Once the planning phase is complete, UX designers move into the design and prototyping phase, where they begin to create the overall look and feel of the website. They might create sketches, wireframes, and mockups to understand better how the user will interact with the product. 

During the development phase, UX designers will continue to work closely with the development team to ensure that the final product meets user needs and is easy to use. As you can see, UX designers use the insights UX researchers collect. They’re involved in all the phases of the design thinking process.

Main Tasks You’ll Need To Perform as a UX Designer

As a UX designer, your main focus is to create digital experiences that are easy to use, visually appealing, and enjoyable for users. To achieve this goal and improve UX, there are a few key tasks you’ll need to perform:

  • Wireframing and prototyping: Once you understand your user’s needs, you’ll need to create a plan for your digital product. This could involve sketching out basic wireframes to map out the layout and functionality of your design. You may also need to create interactive prototypes to test your ideas and get user feedback.
  • Creating mood boards: By creating mood boards, you’ll help others visualize what the end product should look like.
  • Visual design: As a UX designer, you’ll need to get involved in visual design to bring a plan to life. You might need to choose colors, typography, and imagery consistent with your brand and appealing to the insights that UX researchers have collected. You may also need to create icons and other visual elements that are intuitive and easy to understand.
  • Collaboration and communication: As a UX designer, you must work closely with other team members daily. Good communication skills are essential for ensuring that everyone is on the same page and that you can work as a team to improve UX on a website or an app.

Requirements for Becoming a UX Designer

To become a UX designer, you don’t necessarily need a college degree, but having one can’t harm you. By reading dozens of job descriptions for UX designers, we’ve found several requirements that companies often list. Hopefully, this will help you better understand the different requirements for UX designer vs UX researcher positions: 

  • Strong understanding of the design thinking process and various UX principles and UX methods
  • Proficiency in UX tools such as Adobe Creative Suite, Sketch, InVision Axure, and similar
  • Good grasp of color psychology, typography in UX design, and similar
  • Ability to solve complex problems
  • Ability to create enjoyable designs across various devices
  • Strong communication skills
  • Familiarity with agile product management software, project management tools, or coding languages

Highlighting these skills in your UX portfolio will increase the chances of landing a job in some UX design roles.

Become a UX Designer If You Can Relate To This…

The career path UX designers choose is full of challenges, but many things bring joy to those who fill design roles. If you love creating intuitive, user-friendly experiences that make people’s lives easier, becoming a user experience designer might be your perfect career choice. You’ll be responsible for designing how people interact with websites and apps. Here are a few things you might love if you’re considering a career in UX design:

  • Being Creative: The UX field is excellent for creative people. You’ll have to develop unique and innovative ways to engage users and make their experience smooth. This could involve designing layouts, choosing fonts and colors, or creating animations that enhance the user experience. 
  • Constant learning: Just like UX researchers, user experience designers must also be committed to lifelong learning. The UX tools and trends are constantly evolving, and in order to create the best possible products, you need to be open to trying new things.
  • Collaboration: UX design is a collaborative process. You’ll work with other designers, developers, user researchers, and stakeholders to create products that meet everyone’s needs. If you love interacting with people during work hours, then both UX design and UX research career paths are perfect.
UX researchers and UX designers have similar salaries.

UX Researcher Vs UX Designer Salary Comparison

We feel like this UX researcher vs UX designer guide wouldn’t be complete without comparing salaries for these two UX roles. It’s easy to compare salaries for these two UX roles nationally. However, please beware that the average salary UX designers and UX researchers get varies greatly depending on their exact locations. It’s also worth noting that we’ll just discuss averages and that salaries can vary quite a bit depending on factors like the company size, individual skills, and more. It’s also important to remember that salary is just one factor to consider when choosing between UX researcher vs UX designer career paths. 

How Much Money Do UX Researchers Make?

The estimated total pay for UX researchers is $96,821 per year. And here are salary expectations for UX researchers in 2023, depending on their experience:

  • Entry-level UX researchers will earn around $50,000 in 2023
  • Junior UX researchers can expect to earn around $72,000 per year
  • Mid-level UX researchers earn around $105,000 per year
  • Senior UX researchers earn around $125,000 per year

How Much Money Do UX Designers Make?

The estimated total pay for UX designers is $97,333 annually. And here are the expected salaries in UX design in 2023, depending on the individual’s experience:

  • $50,000 for entry-level positions
  • $67,500 for junior UX designers
  • $95,000 this year for mid-level UX designers
  • $125,000 per year for Senior UX designers Senior UX designers

As you can see, these two UX roles are almost equal regarding salaries, so you should focus on pursuing the one that excites you more.

Final Thoughts – Which Career Path Should You Choose?

Hopefully, our expert insights from our Chicago web design agency have helped you better understand all the differences between UX researcher and UX design roles. To conclude, both of these UX roles are promising career paths. Each of them requires different skills and has unique responsibilities, but they both play an essential part in the web design process. 

Choosing between becoming a UX researcher vs UX designer can be a tough decision, especially since both roles offer exciting and rewarding opportunities. However, the best approach is to evaluate your strengths and interests to determine which career path fits you best. Consider the skills you possess, the tasks that excite you, and the environment you would enjoy working in.

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