A Day In The Life Of A UX Designer

A Day In The Life Of A UX Designer

Summary:

What does a day in the life of a UX Designer actually look like? One reader wanted to know, so Matt attempted to capture a typical day for him as a comic.

Every UX Designer is different though—why not download the comic template and create your own version of “A day in the life of a UX Designer”?

What does a day in the life of a UX Designer actually look like?

And what’s the best way to communicate this to someone interested in the field?

We received a fantastic email from a 20 year-old student during the week that asked this very question. Here’s part of that email:

I started to read whatever I could get my hands on about UX, and I’ve bought a couple of books and have been reading them, but then I thought: What is UX exactly? None of these books explain specifically what a UXer does. That’s why I’m turning to you guys instead of buying more books about UX—I want to find out what a UXer does exactly … what does a day at work look like?

Of course, our What the @#$% is UX Design? video (which, incidentally, now has over 17,000 views on YouTube!) talks a little bit about what a UX designer does, but doesn’t really go into any detail. Is there even a “typical” day? Projects are so different, as are the processes preferred by individuals.

It got me thinking, though: what’s the best way to find out?

The answer? I would create a comic showing an hourly snapshot of one of my days. I won’t pretend to have invented the concept (I think I first saw it done in an edition of An Anthology of Graphic Fiction). However, other than having a camera crew follow me around, it seemed like the next best thing for demonstrating the kinds of activities performed by someone working in UX. And then I’d encourage others to do the same.

Some comments about the comic below:

  • This is a reasonably accurate depiction of one of my days, but it doesn’t reflect every day, because every day is different. Currently one of my clients is a 2-hour train-ride away, one is a 10 minute bike ride away, and other clients I work with from home. Some have plenty of budget for extensive user research, others can barely be convinced to include one round of user testing before launch.
  • The comic is intended to be a series of snapshots in time, not a comprehensive collection of everything that I do. Conducting user testing sessions, writing reports, mocking up user interfaces in Photoshop, conducting user interviews—these are all common tasks that didn’t make it into my day in the life. And that’s OK.
  • I’ve deliberately included the hours before and after work, as a way of making this story more personal. It would have seemed too clinical if the aspects of my day outside of my professional responsibilities were omitted.
  • I’ve included some additional notes about each frame after the image, to provide additional context for some of the activities depicted.

With all that out the way, here’s my comic!

A Day In The Life Of A UX Designer, by Matthew Magain
Some notes about this comic:

  • 6.00am: Sometimes I get up this early by myself; more often than not, I’m woken by my two-year-old daughter who then sneaks into bed for a cuddle.
  • 7.00am: I’m spoiled for good coffee in the morning, thanks to a whiz-bang espresso machine that my wife won on a TV game show a few years ago!
  • 8.00am: I love combining my commute with exercise. However, I must confess that this drawing is not strictly accurate—normally I wear a bright yellow cycling top. You know, to be safe.
  • 9.00am: I find stand-up meetings to be great, but I’ve learned that not every organisation has embraced them.
  • 10.00am: I’m not always looking this smiley and confident in a stakeholder meeting. It depends on who the stakeholder is and how senior they are! :)
  • 11.00am: Seriously, how good is Google Analytics? And free! This amazes me on a regular basis.
  • 12.00pm: I wrote an introductory article on creating personas for SitePoint that you may find useful.
  • 1.00pm: One of my current clients is situated on the waterfront, so yes, I really did eat my sandwich on the grass the other day, looking at boats, with my shoes off.
  • 2.00pm: So I frown when I concentrate. I’m sure you do, too!
  • 3.00pm: I love storyboarding. Getting paid to draw comics is awesome!
  • 4.00pm: Balsamiq Mockups is currently my wireframing tool of choice, just in case you were wondering. There are other tools out there though.
  • 5.00pm: I sometimes use a market research company to find candidates for user tests, but in large organisations I usually make the most of a large, diverse collection of people and recruit staff members as participants, at least in the early stages.
  • 6.00pm: Cycling to work is awesome. When it’s not raining.
  • 7.00pm: My daughters are not always this well behaved at the dinner table.
  • 8.00pm: My daughters are always this badly behaved in the bath. I’m resigned to the fact that it’s just how it is.
  • 9.00pm: Yes, our TV really is this big. That TV game show I mentioned my wife went on? She also won a cinema projector on that show. My wife is awesome. Don’t think you can beat her at trivia—you can’t.
  • 10.00pm: This is the time of day that I work on personal projects, such as … this very website!
  • 11.00pm: This is actually a bit earlier than usual. I’m a bit of a night owl, especially if it’s a good book!

If you enjoyed this, be sure to browse the archives of Kevin Cheng’s OK/Cancel web comic—a big inspiration of mine!

Matthew Magain
Written by
Matthew Magain
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18 comments
    • Thanks Duke. I won’t pretend that every day is inspiring and interesting and goes smoothly—some days I’m at home the entire day, others I’m in meetings all day long explaining, justifying and championing this stuff. It depends on the client and the project, but overall the variety keeps it interesting!

      Cheers

  • Wonderful! Love the comic strip idea and seeing what other UX people do during their days. I’ll definitely do this some time when I want a little bit of a fun, creative, reflection. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Dinu.

      It depends on what your goals are—to communicate your vision in a business setting, or draw comics for pleasure, or something else? If it’s drawing comics as a career that you’re after, I’m probably the wrong person to ask. Here are a few ideas…

      How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way: I LOVED this book as a kid, by none other than comics legend Stan Lee. I see it was actually turned into a video series of the book too, and it looks like it’s all there on YouTube.

      Scott McCloud’s classics Understanding Comics and Making Comics are seminal pieces of work if it’s more books you’re after. See What I Mean is a fairly new book by Kevin Cheng which is more focussed on using comics in a business setting.

      Depending on what your goals are, you may be interested in tools like Comix I/O, which make it easy to pull together an xkcd-like comic strip without drawing anything.

      Hope that helps!

  • Okay, so I’m just going to say this: is there a way of telling UX is the career path for you? So, take me. English Lit graduate with a First, literate enough and interested in the idea of UX, but also nervous about the idea of stakeholder interviews and tonnes and tonnes of qualititive data I then have to stick into a spreadsheet to prove myself.

    I keep trying to learn to code, but it’s not for me. I’m not a programmer, I’m not a BA, I’m an English Lit graduate that wants to give ideas out and see them work, but not do hardcore coding. I’m nervous about the idea of a company trusting their entire website to me, even with user feedback, as I don’t want to muck up.

    I know I’m only nervous because I’ve never done it before, but the ‘quasi-science’ scares my liberal arts brain! How much of the UX process is finding data, and how much is sorting it? Is there any way of finding out if you’ve got the head for UX?

    • Don’t take this the wrong way, Aisha, but it sounds like your hurdle is not “getting more information to make an informed career decision” so much as a lack of confidence. I like this quote, attributed to Henry Ford:

      “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t … you’re right.”

      You’re clearly interested in this stuff—that’s a good start. Next, why not try investing in some books or courses to help improve and apply your skills? The more you learn, and the more experience you can obtain, the more confident you’ll become. Simple.

  • Hi! I found this post to be super fun and made me more interested in the field. I’m currently a freshman studying Human Centered Design and Development (HCDD) and Brain and Behavioral Sciences (BBS) at Purdue and I’m so much more excited about what there is to learn and do within UX! Thanks!

  • This is adorable! I love how you drew your two-year old with a messy face at the breakfast table haha. If you say this is a fairly accurate depiction of a day in the life, then being in the field that sounds pretty good to me. BTW, bought the UX Mastery UX Career Guide ebook on UX. It’s a great find! I guess because UX is such a new field that there aren’t many comprehensive guides to starting a UX career.

    I’ve been thinking about attending DESIGNATION bootcamp to learn UX. From your experience, have graduates from these types of bootcamp been able to hit the ground running once they are hired by a company?

  • I’m going back for my masters in the fall for UX and I always look to your articles/comics for inspiration. It’s making me pretty excited to turn my career into this direction :)

  • This is awesome! I see not only a share-lover UX designer and also a lovely father who is really proud of his daughters and family life. I am on the edge of going in to developer/support or UI/UX, so thanks for posting this (though 2 years ago), it really helped me having a detailed perception of UX typical day.

  • Great read Matthew!

    I’m thinking about signing up for a course with GA down here in Melbourne to pursue a career in UX so this was really interesting for me.

    Cheers,

    David

  • I’ve kept coming back to this article for the last 2 years, even before I realized I want to be a UX designer. The best way to create a new life for yourself is ask what you want a day in your future life to look like. Thanks for the inspiration!