User Experience and Information Architecture
September strikes and if you haven’t noticed already the tubes and trains are filling up again as families return from foreign shores in time for the new school term. If of course like me you haven’t holidayed just yet, then I’m afraid it’s just busier trains and sun tans to envy.
Further to my post earlier this year I wanted to send the second of my bi-annual ramblings. “The view from where I sit” For those who received the email back in January you’ll know the format of what follows. For those that didn’t, belt up - it's going to be a screamer! (I’ve lied, it’s not that exciting) It’s a bit about the contract and permanent market, what hiring managers are looking for and the trends within the UX space.
As ever, any thoughts or opinions are welcomed – please do let me know if you have any questions, or if you are seeing trends occurring that I’m not! I will be adding a finalised version to my blog so any improvements or additions that can be made over the next week or so will be appreciated.
What does the Permanent UX Marketplace look like currently?
The UX marketplace is healthy as ever and in demand for User Experience professionals. This is a pattern which is increasingly on the up for a number of reasons. It has been apparent that 25% of the placements made have been companies making their first UX hire (I mentioned in my last post that I’d seen a number of clients dipping their toes into the UX space and trying to get a hand on where the benefit lay for their business). Fast forward 6 months, IT are now setting up a new desk and businesses are embarking on new channels. Whether a freelance or permanent professional, there are certainly positives to take from this. It particularly demonstrates a real demand for UX professionals that are able to implement an adaptive UX process while communicating their ideas to internal stakeholders that aren’t familiar with UX practices.
There is still continued and monitored growth in more established UX teams.
And the Contract Market?
The contract market has really picked up in the last 6 months and there is more resource and varied skill sets now available. As such, this has meant that there has been a slight decrease in the daily rates but it seems the majority of people are happy to accommodate in order to secure consistent work. The market is still very healthy and there are noticeably more clients who do not need a full time employee bringing in contractors. I think the contract UX market really does have some legs with regards to the diversity and demand for UX capabilities in a number of guises.
For me the market has been relatively unpredictable this year – usually I know when the busy months are, when to expect a slow month, trends in hiring, scope and project timelines. The freelance market has yet to plateau this year. Rather, it appears to have peaked and troughed, hence predictability going out of the window. I’ve found there have been a lot of people starting and ending contracts in bulk numbers which wasn’t so much the case last year.
A bit more on rates;
Agency and client side companies requiring a UX practitioner capable of leading UX on a project are likely to pay £350-£400 per day, which is certainly less than last year. Of course there are companies that have a greater budget available, but these are ball park figures. Companies are expecting an element of high level thinking as well as hands on production. It’s fair to say today’s client is in tune with the market and they know that with greater supply they can saves on rates.
In both agencies and client side there are now more “rolling contracts”. On average it takes about 8 weeks to hire a permanent member of staff, notice period included. Naturally for all contractors, the longer the contract the larger the amount of security one can possess in their work. However, I think exposing yourself to a small number of organisations isn’t a bad thing, as the likelihood is they will come to you first when they need contract resource.
What are Hiring Managers looking for right now?
I believe Axure is still out in front as wireframing tool of choice, mainly due to its prototyping capabilities, with knowledge of HTML5, CSS3 and Jquery becoming more important too. Social Business or Social Media experience seems to be rather sought after in some agencies also, so don’t be surprised if there is an increase for roles of this nature.
The UX skill set is hugely important when hiring a contractor but with more candidates and more variety in opportunity clients do seem to be looking for project specific relevance. This may be food for thought when thinking about how you wish to tailor your contract career moving forward and what projects or companies are of most interest to you.
What trends have I noticed within the UX Space?
Over the last 12 months there has been a huge shift in what skill sets can be developed and transferable to the UX market. I think the most noticed has been Visual Designers and Front-End Developers, which is funny because if you rewind a year or so this was a constant complaint from hiring managers. I’m looking to hire a UX Architect; I’ve advertised the role, received 30 applicants but none of them are a UX Architect – can you help!?
The market has now shifted to a point where a “hybrid” UX designer or Developer can be a real asset for some companies because in theory you’re getting double the deliverables from one person and the collaboration and understating of a wider UX structure is greater. Almost a "BOGOF" some may say…..
But why the need?
There is now a greater demand for people to join projects where in an ideal world that person can be responsible for both the interaction design but also have a creative, sharp eye for the visual implementation. Step forward the UX/UI Designer! Now there will always be the old age argument between who should and how do we design the best User Experience, but that aside there is clearly a growing demand allowing the creative professional to make a transition into UX thus offering a well-rounded skill set.
In my last post I spoke of how cost effective and engaging sheets and sheets of static wireframes stuck to a wall can really be in today’s forward thinking and hands on world. UX is becoming much more of an iterative process, and one in which prototyping seems to be quickly replacing static wireframing. RWD has created 2 further opportunities, UX Architects that can code or technical professionals who have been exposed to and can quickly pick up on the core principles of UX.
An Increase in Multi-Channel UX/CX Positions
A noticeable trend occurring within the UX space is an increase in both permanent and contract positions that are instrumental to client’s multi-channel customer experience. Positions focussed on improving the usability of internal systems and interfaces used by telephonic customer support and service staff, aimed at strengthening multi-channel brand experience. Given the access to, and availability of the actual users of the interfaces, these can make for some quite interesting projects, in which improvement is easily measurable. Furthermore, these projects can be refreshingly usability focussed as less importance is placed on visual elements.
There seems to be some very interesting start-up companies out there who either have UX as a sole focus of their business or require a UX practitioner or UX/UI designer to assist in their delivery. I personally have a real interest in starts ups because it’s interesting to see how many innovative entrepreneurs grow their brand and product whilst gradually acquiring a market share in one of the most exciting digital spaces (albeit it’s at an arm’s length). I also think that there are a number of people who enjoy the challenge and intimacy that start-ups can offer. Whether the company is successful in the short or long term, there is a pat on the back legacy that will always remain.
I personally recruit freelance UX Architects only but am part of a wider UX team here at Xcede. If you are in need of a new challenge (or know someone who is), would like to learn more about some of our current opportunities in UX, both contract and permanent or even our clients and we think could be good for your career, please contact Ryan on 0203 301 9915 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.