It’s 2019. The design industry is, for the most part, unanimous on the definition of UX design.
The role of the UX designer, on the other hand, is still growing. In today’s world, it’s a job title that means different things to different companies—and one whose skillset must constantly evolve to keep up with technology.
At CareerFoundry, we’ve trained over 1000 designers who have received a promotion or new job using our online courses. That means we’re constantly adjusting to the trends we see in the marketplace. That is to say, the actual trends that actual hiring managers are looking for.
So what does it really mean to be a UX designer in 2019? And what are the other jobs forming alongside?
Here are five of the most noteworthy UX career trends shaping the industry in 2019 and beyond.
1. The rise of specialist job titles
Last year was all about the rise of the UX researcher; this year, we’ll see more and more UX writers and information architects.
In such a broad, multidisciplinary field as UX design, this shift towards specialist roles is hardly surprising—but does it sound the death knell for the all-encompassing UX designer job title?
Not exactly. While some designers are more than keen for employers to stop pushing UX designer as a job title, the reality is that multi-skilled designers continue to be in demand. A search on job board Indeed for user experience researcher roles in the U.S. turns up around 4,000 positions, compared to over 17,000 for user experience designer.
What this specificity does reflect is the maturity of UX. More and more companies are recognizing just how broad, deep, and multifaceted UX design really is and are increasingly willing to invest in several specialists, rather than expecting everything to be covered under one job title.
2. A shift towards freelancing (especially for specialists)
With this rise in specialist job titles comes a shift in the way that designers are working—and in the way that companies are hiring.
In November 2018, The Creative Group partnered with AIGA to survey over 1,000 creative professionals. They found that 37% of creative teams predict relying more heavily on freelancers over the next three years, with 17% focusing their freelance hiring efforts on user experience research and design.
“While some designers are more than keen for employers to stop pushing UX designer as a job title, the reality is that multi-skilled designers continue to be in demand.”
Companies are starting to hire for projects—not positions. We expect to see businesses turning to freelancers and contractors on a project-by-project basis to fill certain in-house skills gaps. A prime example of this model is an in-house team of one or two T-shaped UX designers who temporarily contract a UX researcher to help them get a certain project off the ground.
For specialist designers in particular, 2019 may provide more opportunities than ever to embark on a freelance career.
3. UXers need skills beyond the screen
In the age of augmented and virtual reality, voice user interfaces and chatbots, today’s UX designers must be able to think beyond the screen—and beyond design. As UX becomes more closely intertwined with business outcomes, employers are also placing more emphasis on soft skills and business understanding.
(Want to learn more about how design affects business outcomes? Check out our Design Maturity Model report for the numbers.)
According to LinkedIn’s annual list of the most sought-after skills, employers in 2019 are looking for creativity, collaboration, and adaptability, coupled with hard skills in areas such as UX design, artificial intelligence, and analytical reasoning.
UX designers will need to start applying what they already know to less familiar types of interfaces and experiences. At the same time, they will need to master new principles and guidelines—such as the art of creating immersive experiences for VR, or how to design for voice.
We’ll see more and more opportunities opening up for UX designers beyond the typical realms of digital and service design. For those who are keen to keep pace with the tech industry, upskilling will be a huge focus in 2019 and beyond.
4. The age of e-learning and autodidactism
On the subject of upskilling, where and how are UX designers learning their skills?
With very few dedicated UX design programs available in the traditional sense—i.e. at school or university—it stands to reason that many of today’s designers are self-taught or participating in non-degree programs.
“In the age of augmented and virtual reality, voice user interfaces and chatbots, today’s UX designers must be able to think beyond the screen—and beyond design.”
Given the multidisciplinary nature of the field, it’s also not uncommon for professionals to transition to a UX design career later on in life. When it comes to learning UX design from scratch, comprehensive online programs tend to be the go-to method.
Is this likely to change in the near future?
Probably not. With the global e-learning market set to be worth $287 billion by 2025 (compared to $107 billion in 2015), we expect the number of online bootcamp graduates entering the world of UX to far outweigh those coming from traditional learning institutions.
5. Ethical design must be a priority
We’ve talked about how UX designers will need to master new skills in 2019 and beyond, such as designing for voice, VR and AR—but there’s another hotly-debated topic that is directly impacting the UX designer role: ethics.
Product Designer Lu Han recently discussed on the Spotify blog just some of the ways in which unethical design can harm the user—from inactivity and sleep deprivation enabled by infinite-scroll feeds, to negative self image, anxiety, and depression.
Tech companies in particular are under increasing pressure to take responsibility when it comes to issues such as smartphone addiction. Rather than simply blaming the user and turning a blind eye, the focus will need to shift to responsible design.
While some baby steps have been made—for example, the “You’re all caught up!” message that pops up after too much scrolling through your Instagram feed—there’s still a long, long way to go. As advocates for the user, UX designers will shoulder much of this responsibility.
More so than ever before, designers must strive to create products that provide a seamless user experience without promoting unhealthy levels of usage. In 2019, consumers will be looking for companies to take visible action, so ethical design will be a huge focal point.
It is both an exciting and challenging time to be a UX designer. As technology evolves and both consumer and employer expectations shift, today’s designers must be prepared to adapt and grow at a rapid pace. If you’d like to learn more about starting a career in UX, Career Foundry has a 1500-word guide on how to break into the industry, including workflow tips, reading recommendations, and networking advice.