In a nutshell
The UX/UI Design job market is full of offers with unequal qualities, in this article I list the points to check when reading an offer, with examples of good ones and others more questionable.
This article is part of another ⚠️
If this is your first visit here, welcome 👋 . Please note that this article is part of a more global one: Getting started in UX/UI Design, a comprehensive guide. Although it is not essential, I still recommend to start there first if you are new to UX/UI Design.
Table of contents
- Not all job offers are the same
- How to differentiate between good and bad offers?
- Examples of quality job offers 👍
- Example of questionable job offers
- Last tips before diving into the professional market
Not all job offers are the same
Indeed, some come from startups, companies or agencies that know what UX/UI Design is, have realistic and quality work methods (i.e. not always in a hurry), pay well and in a relaxed atmosphere ✌️ .
And on the contrary, other recruiters think you’re a graphic designer (because well, you do pretty stuff on the computer, it’s the same thing right?), will ask you for extra hours in a “subtle” way (“what, you didn’t finish the design of this 200 pages website in one week? Yet I know someone who heard of a designer who once did it in four days for a 300 page site…”) all paid at minimum wage of course, when it’s not an unpaid internship 😱 .
You also have to take into account that in big companies you have the human resources department who sometimes write the offers and for some will just copy and paste parts of other offers without proofreading to the designers of the company (if there are any).
Where to find traditional and freelance jobs?
Among the best known you have Indeed, We Work Remotely, Design Remotely and even Dribbble Jobs.
For freelancers, you have Malt, Upwork and even Dribbble Freelance Jobs. Be careful with Fiverr though, I talk about it more in detail here.
You can find all my other favorite sources in my free book about the best UX/UI Design resources.
How to differentiate between good and bad offers?
I present here the questions to ask yourself, which I believe are essential in any UX/UI Design job search:
What role does UX/UI Design play in the company?
That is to say: is the user experience at the heart of the company’s concerns or is it something that is discussed in a rush along the way so that the product is “pretty” and “pixel-perfect”?
If, for example, the majority of the employees are technicians (developers, mathematicians, engineers in general) you risk being the only designer surrounded by colleagues who don’t understand the added value of a good UX, which will make you spend half of your time, if not more, having to convince people of the importance of spending time on the UX/UI instead of really designing.
It’s often during the first meeting with the company that you can learn more about the subject and you can imagine: if they have 30 developers, 15 project managers, a product already on the market and no UX/UI Designer yet, it’s not a good sign.
From the answer to this first question, the next ones come into play. Indeed, if UX/UI Design is at its right place in the company, then it is very likely that the answers to the following questions are right.
Is it required to be a experienced developer as well?
Because of the youth of the field, there is a lack of knowledge about your job (sometimes voluntarily, thinking that it reduces costs) and it is quite common to come across offers that ask to know how to develop in addition to doing UX/UI Design. If I advise to have knowledge in HTML/CSS or JS (more info: As a UX/UI Designer, do we need to know how to code?), on the other hand, it’s useless to specify that you don’t have to do the work of a developer.
However, you have to find the right balance, especially in a startup where you’ll have to wear several hats, but as long as you’re not asked to do tasks that are too far apart and that a majority of them stay in the UX/UI area, then it’s fine.
How is the UX and UI of their existing products?
Often, the company’s website will tell you how valuable is the design for them. Look closely to see if there are any flaws like unclear structure, alignment issues, text lacking contrast, layout issues on mobile etc.
Also, if they already have a product on the market but it has a lot of negative reviews for a long time, this is, you guess, a bad sign (or they wake up and call on your services to save their business 😉 ).
It’s actually a good approach during the interview to tell them about these problems and how you can solve them and why, it shows that you really cared about the company.
Does the company know where it is going?
Let’s take the image of a captain on a big sailing ship when it was trendy to conquer islands. On some boats you had experienced captains who, based on their good knowledge of the sea, acquired through many efforts, knew how to set and maintain a clear, realistic course, and delegate the good navigation of the ship to its crew.
On the contrary, you had others who did not take the time to define a course, wanting to go too fast, one day he said “course to the east!” and the next “course to the west! Not forgetting to check every day with the crew members to ask them “but why haven’t we found a treasure island yet?” and to show them how to raise the sails or how to row well to members who have 20 years of experience in their field…
Well, afterwards, it won’t be explicitly stated on the ad: “we don’t know where we’re going but come along, we’re cool, look we even have a foosball.” (or they have a special sense of humor). So it will be up to you to do your research in advance on the company, you have for example Indeed and Glassdoor which allow employees to rate their company. Also look at the ratings on Google and other similar services and ask the right questions during interviews.
Who will be your colleagues?
The ones you’ll be in contact with the most will often be project managers and developers (and marketers too). So be careful, you can have a project manager who thinks you’re an artist who only has to produce beautiful mockups or developers for whom as long as they understand how to use the product it’s fine, we can launch on the market.
Examples of quality job offers 👍
Most of them can be found on the sites I listed before, except for Indeed where there is everything. In general, the title gives us a clue if we are dealing with a suspicious offer or not.
However, be careful, between the text of an offer and the reality, there can be differences. Don’t forget that the “seduction” is a two-way process, of course you have to convince them to take you on but they also have to convince you to potentially spend years of your professional life with them, which is not insignificant.
Let’s see the first offer I selected:
“Product Designer - Design System
For this first offer, posted by Hotjar and found on “We Work Remotely”, we have a well written text with many keywords that shows us the seriousness of their approach. Let’s look at the parts of the offer that I chose to highlight:
Sure it’s in the title, but it’s still nice to see the term “Design System” used in the offer, it’s a sign that the company considers the design of its products with a systemic (or “global”) and coherent approach, or at least that it is on the way. Then we find other words that are serious and show that UX/UI Design is considered in its rightful place by the company.
We also see that they mention Figma and what it’s used for, it’s much better than the questionable offers, which we’ll see later and which list a bunch of trendy tools without describing their uses within the company.
Other positive signs, Hotjar has more than 12 designers and they are careful with their “design debt” (type of debt that is built on “we’ll see later for accessibility, it’s not important”). And finally, they don’t ask to code but to be synchronized with the developers to make sure that the integration of the components is respected, perfect.
For the second offer, it comes from Alan and like the previous one, we have a clear and precise text about who they are and what they want. Let’s see a few passages:
As the title says, they are looking for a specialist in UI Design, which is already a good sign because it shows us that they consider this field as important enough for their products not to have only generalist UX/UI Designer but a specialist.
We could have guessed it, but like the previous offer, they talk about their design system, another good point. Then we have a list of keywords that shows their seriousness in their approach to design by talking about user experiences based on a high level of visual design, processes based on UX rules and the fact that their designs are made to evolve through reviews between designers, that’s beautiful 🥲 .
Example of questionable job offers
Now that we’ve seen some good offers, let’s look at the opposite. Fasten your seatbelts to your gamer seat® because you’ll definitely come across offers that, even though they are titled “Seeking UX/UI Designer”, will ask you to know how to develop in JS and PHP, to do advanced motion design or even to have marketing skills…
So I ventured into the depths of Indeed in search of dubious offers, I had to stay in bed for two days to recover…
For this first offer, already just the title starts bad, anyway when there is a “/” it’s not often a good sign… So according to this title, this company is looking for a UX/UI Designer who is also a developer, mmm… Normally I’d stop reading here, but let’s see what’s required:
I think it speaks for itself, according to this offer you should be able to design everything from web design to powerpoints slides to motion design and at the same time, edit the code of WordPress themes and plugins (good luck with PHP…). And of course being a full-stack developer (“client-side” and “server-side”), it sting my eyes 😵💫 .
Besides, if we talk about UX we also talk about DX for “Developer eXperience” which is when a code is clean, documented and without (too many) bugs, or in this case, everything leads me to think that the codes produced by this company must have a rather poor DX…
More nonsense, no need to come back on it, you understood I think, the first lines of this capture summarize the problem well. In any case, you will rarely see terms like “design system” in these kind of offers.
And finally, the famous “you have to go fast and with quality on several projects at the same time”, which suggests that you will often work in a hurry.
“UI/UX developer (HTML/CSS)”
For the latest offer, here’s a little gem of creativity with a headline at a quantum level, hang on:
We have a nice mixture of terms but which sting the eyes a bit, like “jQuery, AngularJS” which are outdated technologies and then random technical words: “XML”, “DOM” and a tool not really used in UX/UI Design: “Corel Draw”. In short, things that should not be asked to a UX/UI Designer.
Then comes the paradox, where you are asked to do pure UI Design, “UI prototyping and navigational flows” and at the same time COMPLEX applications in HTML/CSS/JS (and “jQuery” which is not a language but a JS library which is not very popular anymore).
Anyway, if you were wondering why some sites are poorly designed and always break down, this offer illustrates the cause: companies that require geniuses who do two jobs for a (preferably low) salary and always working in a hurry.
But as Steve Jobs would say, one more thing:
Just in case, if by some miracle in addition to your talents as a designer and developer who makes semantic and clean code, you also know how to do PHP, Java and server-side JS (NodeJS), then this job is for you!
Jokes aside, this shows us that the company doesn’t know what they wants, if they really need to do Java, they should be looking for a Java developer, same for React.
Last tips before diving into the professional market
The design market is demanding, there are many beginner designers who struggle to find their first job (the so-called “beginner with 5 years experience required”). Often for your first salaried position or freelance assignment, you won’t always have a choice.
Of course, I took some “extreme” cases, like the last one “UI/UX developer (HTML/CSS)” where you already know from the title that it’s not worth to keep reading, but there are many offers between the top ones that require experience and the more questionable ones.
My advice remains the following: for the first position, if you have no choice (i.e. need money or simply a first experience), don’t be too picky (unless they really abuse by asking to do PHP etc.).
Also, if you can, prefer a fixed term contract so you don’t fall in the trap of the endless loop of the permanent contract, i.e. the last thing you want is a job where you have to always work in a hurry and that doesn’t allow you to progress. It’s an endless loop, because you can’t put quality projects in your portfolio to find a better job.
That’s why training well before is essential to avoid this, and also doing some personal designs on your free time even when you are in a job, to increase your portfolio.
Don’t be the elitist designer either
I previously talked about project managers and developers who don’t always understand the importance of a good UX and UI but the reverse is also true for us. The last thing to do is to harass your colleagues, explaining why we should only hire designers and that you, Steve Jobs’ spiritual son, have it all figured out and that the CEO should almost give up his job for you.
You have to be educational, taking the time to argue and explain the UX and UI points that would be problematic and why it may cause the company to lose customers. And remember that ultimately, users need to solve specific problems with a functional application and not spend 10 min raving about your intros screens and their 3D animations 😉 .
And finally, you have to know how to compromise, if where you work, you release the first version of a mobile application on the market and it has some UX and UI flaws, it’s not the end of the world. As long as you’re given the time to fix them in the next update, there’s no need to send a 3-paragraph email to all the employees, explaining why we’re heading for disaster.
On the other hand, if this is not the case and it only adds to the “design debt”, then be careful (the famous debt filled with “we’ll see later” that often comes out at the worst moment and makes everyone late).
To keep the momentum going
Here is the last article in this series to get started in UX/UI Design, where I give you an overview of project management methods:
UI Designer with UX and web development skills