UX specialists are hot commodities

As the digital world shrinks down to a screen the size of your hand, demand for user experience designers explodes.

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Moreover, as mobile computing explodes, a company's entire customer base will demand a consumer-like experience with its products. As Masiero notes, 10 years ago ADP's sole audience was the human resources department. That's no longer true.

"With mobile devices becoming ubiquitous, we have to serve 30 million users, from somebody on a construction site to an airline pilot to a hotel manager. And you have to create a design so that the experience is accessible to everyone, while still providing them with a sense of uniqueness," he says.

High Tech, High Touch

UX specialists are hard to find in part because the position requires expertise in multiple disciplines: design, programming and human behavior. "We do a little bit of market research, a little bit of psychology," says Whitney Quesenberry, who runs a UX design firm in High Bridge, N.J., and has done work for Novartis, Siemens, Dow Jones and Eli Lilly, among other companies. "UX is like programming -- there's not just one job involved."

Donna Farrugia, The Creative Group's executive director, insists that the more cross-disciplined UX designers are, the better. They ideally should have good design and layout chops as well as technology skills that include HTML and JavaScript expertise. "The ideal is this hybrid person who's both right-brained and left-brained, high tech and high touch," says Farrugia.

That pretty closely describes Michael Beasley, a designer at Internet marketing agency Pure Visibility in Ann Arbor, Mich. He got a bachelor's degree in both English and music from the University of Michigan and then stayed to get a master's degree in human-computer interaction from Michigan's School of Information in 2005.

"That's where I got my approach to interface design," Beasley says. "The multidisciplinary approach taught me design, human cognition and usability principles and methods. I also got a good understanding of how organizations work and information flows. That made me a pretty well-rounded person."

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