Senior UX Designer VS Junior UX Designer
Disclaimer: We’re not claiming here Senior User Experience designers are better than that of Junior. Some of our students early in their careers are more competent than UX designers with years of experience. In this article, we’d like to merely point out the differences.
Notes: We have an exclusive UX mentorship program spanning over 50 UX designers. Our community is growing and In case you’re interested in joining our group, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Senior UX Designer VS Junior UX Designer
The difference between a senior UX designer and a junior UX is not about the title. The years of the experience doesn’t define your title, the quality of your experiences does.
We certainly do not claim that all the senior User Experience designers are more competent than that of junior. But, on average, there are key differences we observe that are worth investigating and sharing.
The difference between a senior UX designer and a junior UX is not merely about how many different tools you know. It’s about acquiring a unique mindset, set of disciplines, and a certain depth in your craft that shapes up your professional brand. Your broad and in-depth abilities give you a unique and irreplaceable character. And that’s what makes a senior user experience designer different from a junior UX designer (on average).
Before we go deeper let’s review the concept of T-Shaped Learning.
“T-shaped persons is a metaphor used to describe the abilities of persons in the workforce. The vertical bar on the letter T represents the depth of related skills and expertise in a single field. Whereas the horizontal bar is the ability to collaborate across disciplines with experts in other areas and to apply knowledge in areas of expertise other than one’s own.” (Wikipedia)
What we often observe is a senior UX designer masters different verticals and has developed his soft skills (horizontal bar) to a level that can lead and manage teams and projects.
Thus, as a Junior User Experience Designer, you must attempt to deepen your skills in different fields for example, mastering user research, interaction design, and interface design. Furthermore, after acquiring mastering in certain vertical fields, you will double down on your personal development and broaden your soft skills.
Here are the key differences between a Senior to juniors
1. Presentation of Ideas and Skills
If there’s one thing to take as an accurate measure of the maturity of a UX designer, it’s presentation skills and expressing her ideas. Being able to articulate design decisions is what makes the world go round.
Impulsive and irregular delivery of ideas exposes your decision-making process and that can be unsettling for you. Don’t get us wrong, sometimes good and raw ideas pop in merely because of your sporadic thinking, but it doesn’t happen all the time and that is something you don’t want to rely on.
Also, you’re able to communicate your ideas visually. And that’s their key. We should not rely only on words when the output of our work is mostly visual.
2. Mindset > Tools
In the end there are a certain number of tools to master. For example as a UX designer you need to master at least Sketch, Adobe XD and Figma. Anyone spending months on one of each tool can become really great at it. But that’s only a part of what you do. The creative problem-solving mindset is something that takes longer to develop and must get involved in different projects and people.
Your mindset (how to solve any problem systematically) and personality (how you’re deemed as a person) and demeanor (how you react in times of pressure) would set you essentially apart from others who more or less know the same tools as you do.
3. Creating impactful solutions
UX design is a lonely job. Over 60% of our students alone lead a department of one. Mostly they’re pressured to tackle different tasks within an unreasonable timeline. This often puts young UX designers in a tough dilemma. On one hand, she’d like to do proper research and deliver outlasting solutions, but, she has to deliver what she’s asked to. This often leads UX designers to copy-paste what already works. As they worked in the past and often neglect the new cultural and technological trends.
However if you work in a bigger organization where there’s an established design department, then you’d be given enough time to research and develop their ideas.
Here’s a good career tip for you.
Join a bigger organization early in your career so you can learn from other experienced designers.
Unfortunately, the majority of UX designers are the victim of such circumstances (working alone) and as a result they’ve been trained unknowingly to deliver quick results. Which often leads to no impact.
And that’s what differentiates a great designer from an average one i.e. the ability to design experiences that WOW its audience.
4. System Thinking vs. Improving a Part
This is not on you, this is on the collective mindset of our culture. We tend to improve a part as opposed to looking at the whole system. And often as a junior UX designer, you’d end up improving a part like a sign-up process.
It can be that you’d be leading a department of one and end up doing everything but you’d probably have no time to look deeper into how different parts affect the total experience of the users.
And the more you gain more experiences through different projects, the more you realize how important it is to look at the entire experience of users from a bird’s eye view. Over improving a part and neglecting others might cost you the future of the business.
5. Assumptions vs. Experimentations
One of the pivotal differentiators that set your path apart from others is the ability to solve problems systematically using market inputs. As a good rule of thumb, you must verify all the assumptions and that’s what you’d often pay less attention to early in your career.
As you grow experiences you’d realize how costly it is to lay the foundations on unverified structures. The more you gain experiences, you assume less, run experiments to verify all assumptions, and prototype more than actual design.
6. Intuitions vs Research
This point is the extension of the previous point. Our intuition is an invaluable gift by which we can navigate. But, we have to bear in mind that our intuition is often wrong. The world is continuously changing and evolving and what your intuition considers to be true reflects on your past experiences.
An experienced designer grows a healthy relationship with her intuition and knows when to use it and when not. Often facing new challenges you must rely more on research than intuition. Intuition opens the door to the past and research discovers the new NOW.
7. The size of your activity radius matters
When you start your career as a UX designer, you often work within the design team and often in collaboration with developers. That’s the range of your activities. As you gain experience, you get invited to different meetings and work with different departments. And that’s a beautiful sign. It means you’re deemed to be of great value.
If you’re some years into your career and still hang out with your design team only, that might be an alarming signal. Of course it can be a different case for you. I know User Interface Designers who are fantastic at their job but they don’t necessarily fancy developing the ideas. They’d prefer rather design and develop interfaces.
If you want to become a UX designer who is equally good at UX research and UI design, then eventually you’d meet more people from different departments and get to work more on the ideas than actual pixels. This is the gradual career path we see amongst senior UX designers.
Thank you for being here. In case you find this article useful, don’t forget to write us an email and share your thoughts with us.
Also, we have a UX Career Mentorship. It’s a year-long program that you should not miss.