What is the role of a UX manager?

As a user experience manager, or UX manager, you are a leader — always in subject matter, and sometimes for the UX team, too. You produce high-quality design work, and in many cases, grow and manage a team of designers and researchers. Most UX managers transition into this mid- to senior-level role after at least five years of working in UX design with a deep knowledge of the discipline.

UX design is where products and customers meet. Each place where the two intersect — every menu, button, or form — is called a user touchpoint. And every touchpoint impacts how a user feels about your brand and product. The primary goal of a UX design team is to optimize these touchpoints so that customers have a positive, even delightful, product experience.

This puts UX teams in a unique position to influence a product's success — and makes UX managers a sought-after investment for most SaaS companies. The proof is in the job market. There are more than 10,000 listings for the role on LinkedIn, and according to sites like Glassdoor and Payscale, the typical salary range for mid-to-senior level UX managers is anywhere from $114,000 to $180,000.

The role of a UX manager is both impactful and rewarding. If becoming a team lead on the UX team interests you, this guide offers an overview of the responsibilities of the role and the skills that you will need to succeed.

What does a UX manager do?

Depending on the size of your organization, you might lead a team of designers or a team of UX researchers — or both. It is worth noting that designers can specialize in UX design (e.g., interaction design, information architecture, prototyping, and wireframing) or user interface (UI) design (e.g., visual design, typography, and graphics). UX researchers collect data and analyze trends in user behavior to identify areas of friction within the product. Then, UX designers utilize those insights to deliver design solutions that met user and business needs.

As a team lead, a UX manager sets design standards for the team and trains and supports the team in UX best practices. You review work, provide guidance, and collaborate closely with product management and engineering. You also hold traditional management duties — such as planning budgets and timelines, monitoring progress on deliverables, and presenting to leadership.

What are a UX manager's responsibilities?

Let's dive into the responsibilities that come with leading a UX team. Here is what you can expect:

  • Set and own UX strategy: You develop the strategic plans for the UX team — helping to connect the company’s brand identity with the desired user experience. This could entail building strategic UX artifacts like user journeys and personas.

  • Align with the product management team: Many times, UX design teams are part of a larger product management function. UX managers work closely with product managers to lead this collaboration.

  • Oversee the UX team: Lead and mentor direct reports, make hiring decisions for the team, and help individuals improve by providing feedback on research and design work.

  • Plan budgets: Work with cross-functional leaders to allocate the resources necessary for the UX team to complete their work, for things like research and tooling.

  • Delegate and manage UX deliverables: Prioritize and assign work to the team while ensuring deadlines are met and manageable.

  • Facilitate the design process: Set and maintain team workflows, evaluate what is and is not working, and document the design process.

  • Lead design reviews: In a design review, the UX team explores your product or website to search for usability problems and identify areas to improve. UX managers often lead this process.

  • Communicate with stakeholders: Speak regularly with other teams and leadership about progress, upcoming work, and any work requests assigned to the team.

Related guide: Who makes up the product team?

What skills do you need as a UX manager?

If you are looking at UX manager job descriptions, you may wonder if you have the right skillset for the role. Here is how UX manager skills and responsibilities match up:

Skill

Related responsibilities

Communication

  • Collaborate regularly with product management and engineering

  • Manage progress and relationships within the UX design team

  • Present work to stakeholders

Curiosity

  • Expand your knowledge on UX design best practices and industry trends

  • Encourage the UX team to continuously improve and explore new solutions

Deep knowledge

  • Be an expert on all aspects of UX research and design including:

    • Information architecture: Organizing pages and information within a website or app so that it is navigable and accessible

    • Prototypes: Building simplified versions of a working feature or product to investigate problems and validate solutions

    • Research: Collecting and analyzing inputs such as behavioral data and customer feedback

    • Testing: Examining whether solutions are working as intended

    • Visual design: Understanding how elements like colors, font, images, and layout impact user experience

    • Wireframes: Designing blueprints that demonstrate how a solution works before displaying how it will look

  • Share your design expertise across the organization

Empathy

  • Understand user perspectives by actively listening, observing, communicating, and limiting assumptions

  • Lead by example — demonstrating the same empathy for internal teams as you do for customers

Hiring expertise

  • Interview, hire, and grow the UX team

  • Onboard and support new hires to be successful

People management

  • Build and maintain team values and a positive team culture

  • Work with individual team members on career development

  • Advocate for necessary resources for the team

Problem solving

  • Proactively spot and fix design issues and continuously iterate on solutions

  • Remove bottlenecks so the team stays on track

Project management

  • Manage projects, budgets, and deadlines for the team

  • Report on progress to product management leads and other stakeholders

How can I become a UX manager?

The blend of strategic, tactical, and managerial work makes the role of UX manager appealing to many. Like most disciplines, you need to be an expert in what you do before leading others. If you are currently working in UX design and are interested in becoming a UX manager, here are a few ideas to help you gain the right experience:

  • Talk to current UX managers: Build relationships with managers at your organization and others in your network. Express interest in the role and ask about their experience and skills.

  • Show leadership across projects: Take initiative and volunteer for new projects and tasks. Be vigilant with deadlines and open to feedback.

  • Take on a mentoring role: Help other members of the team grow their skills in areas where you shine.

  • Manage a UX intern: If the opportunity arises, manage an intern to explore what it is like to be a team lead.

Of course, people management is not for everyone. If the idea of becoming a team lead does not resonate with you, there are other ways for you to advance your career as an individual contributor. For example, you could pursue becoming a principal UX designer — a top-level individual contributor who is responsible for large-scale design projects across products.

As you continue to grow, think about what motivates you the most. Is it the joy of sharing your expertise to help others grow? Is it creating truly engaging experiences for customers? That passion will drive your success in UX design — not a particular role or title.

Related: How to Get Ahead if You Are Not a People Manager

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