The UX Manager Role Explained: The Complete Guide

Camren Browne, contributor to the CareerFoundry blog

A lot goes into making a product. Every menu, button, form, animation, color choice, and piece of copy has been designed and decided upon by expert designers. Sometimes, it takes multiple designers on one project to get it just right. Companies with larger design teams often need a way to manage and direct their work efforts to stay efficient and on task. 

This is where a UX manager comes in. Working as leaders for the designers, UX managers are a great asset to any design team or agency. Their high level of UX expertise and knowledge of how to manage groups helps brands produce successful products in a cost-effective manner. 

In this article, we’ve broken down what a user experience manager is, their tasks and responsibilities, and what skills they need to fulfill the role.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  1. What is a UX manager?
  2. What does a UX manager do? Tasks and responsibilities
  3. How to become a UX manager
  4. Final thoughts

Let’s get started!

1. What is a UX manager?

A UX manager is responsible for overseeing all UX design-related activities within a company or design team. They usually define the team’s strategy and how their work process will flow. In many ways, they are the leader of the UX team at a given brand or organization. 

UX managers are often mid to senior-level designers transitioning into this leadership role. They have deep knowledge of the UX design process, its adjacent fields, and best practices to achieve user satisfaction. Alongside their UX expertise, they are skilled in managing people, budgets, and the goals of the business

A UX manager strives to enable and equip an organization to uphold the value of good UX practices to minimize unwanted costs, unproductive work, or an unsuccessful product. UX managers work to build a strong UX culture within a company that focuses on fulfilling user needs and achieving business goals. 

2. What does a UX manager do? 

A UX manager is a high-ranked position and requires a lot of leadership skills. Many responsibilities fall under the role. 

Let’s look at a UX manager’s five major duties and daily tasks. 

Duty 1: Directs the UX team

As the name would suggest, a primary role for UX managers is leading their UX team

These responsibilities include: 

  • Making hiring decisions
  • Delegating tasks depending on skill level
  • Defining deadlines and prioritizing activity 
  • Ensuring the team stays on schedule
  • Providing group and individual feedback
  • Reviewing each team member’s development and promotion based on unbiased merit. 

Duty 2: Sets the tone

Another part of a UX manager’s responsibilities is setting the tone for how the team will carry out UX processes. 

This looks like: 

  • Setting the plan for how the team will carry out the UX process
  • Establishing clear UX values
  • Aligning the identity of the brand with the needs of the user 
  • Laying out a plan for each day and future workdays
  • Setting the tone for what the user’s experience with the product/brand should be.

Duty 3: Manages Inter-departmental relations

UX managers also work as liaisons between departments and facilitate communication. 

This includes: 

  • Working closely with product managers
  • Communicating the company budget to the UX team and work within it
  • Communicating with stakeholders and other company leads about team progress 
  • Advocating for adequate UX team working conditions within the company budget, employee availability, and allocated resources.

Duty 4: Conducts design reviews

While UX managers are not always intricately involved in the fine details of the designs, they do conduct design reviews

This usually looks like this:

  • Leading the UX team through the exploration of the product
  • Identifying any friction and usability problems
  • Praising what is working and suggesting alternatives for what isn’t
  • Actively discussing and supporting team members in new approaches 
  • Approve or disapprove designs
  • Take ownership of the team’s proposed solutions.  

Duty 5: Builds UX thinking

UX managers lead by example and encourage optimal UX culture in the workplace. 

This is usually accomplished by:

  • Encouraging discussions about innovative thinking and future design techniques
  • Contributing to the optimization of workflows
  • Adequately documenting the design process
  • Keeping the perspective of the user at the forefront of daily design decisions
  • Aligning business requirements and goals with user wants and needs

2. How to become a UX manager

If UX management sounds like something you are interested in, here are some steps to achieving UX manager status. 

Evaluate your skills and experience level

Before putting yourself out there for a new role, it’s important to evaluate your credentials and what you bring to the table. UX managers often have at least five years of UX design experience and have reached mid to senior designer status

Therefore, you must harbor deep knowledge of UX research and testing, wireframing and prototyping, visual design, and information architecture.

You will be the person other designers approach for design advice and approval. Therefore, your UX competency and capability must be very advanced. Even more important, you must be able to communicate these skills and share them with other team members to be able to direct and influence their work. 

Besides a strong understanding of UX design principles, UX managers must have exceptional skills in hiring and managing people, communication and empathy, problem-solving, time management, and a constant curiosity to learn and explore new solutions and industry trends.

Some knowledge of setting budgets, managing finances, and business protocols is also beneficial as UX managers are a bit more in touch with the financial aspect of a project than other team members. 

Network and build connections

Talking with other UX managers, at your company or others, about what steps they took to achieve manager status can give you a good idea of how to plan your career advancement. Building a relationship with them will give you first-hand insight into their daily responsibilities as well as open you up to possible open roles. 

You can network in person, online in UX communities, or on LinkedIn. Expressing your interest in the role to higher-up employees can also help them pass your name along to hiring professionals at yours or other companies with open availabilities.

Furthermore, speaking with your own UX manager can clue you into any parts of a project that you can take ownership of and lead a smaller group of designers. 

Networking with higher-level designers and UX managers can definitely help you get your foot in the door of a UX manager position. However, finding UX students, interns, and junior designers can also be of benefit when looking to expand your expertise in mentoring or managing other employees.   

Take leadership initiative

An even better way to move up to UX manager is to find ways that exhibit your readiness to take on a more advanced role.

Adopting a mentor position can give you a great deal of experience instructing and directing other employees. You may find junior designers at your place of employment to mentor or you can reach out to other UX communities online or in person and inquire about designers looking for mentorship. 

Similarly, keep an eye out for any new interns at your current job. You can volunteer to manage the interns and gain experience being a team lead to other designers. Having these types of work experiences under your belt will add noteworthy credentials to your resume when applying for UX manager positions. 

Even if you can’t find specific people to mentor or manage, there are still many ways you can take on more of a leadership position in your current role. Instead of focusing solely on the work you deliver, try to find ways that influence the project overall, your team’s design process, or the way other designers work and produce.

Being an effective and encouraging influence on your team can help them think of you as a leader, making it a smoother transition to a UX manager position. 

3. Final thoughts

A UX manager has the very important role of directing their team to create a successful product, enabling them to be successful designers. Their position comes with years of experience working as a UX designer and a deep knowledge of the inner workings of UX and how profitable and enjoyable products are made. 

Their UX skills are matched by their expertise in directing groups of people, staying within company financial goals, and setting the tone for effective UX processes within a brand. UX managers work as advocates for the user, their UX team members, and the brand they work for all at once. It can be quite the juggling act. 

Yet, the role of a UX manager can also be incredibly fulfilling as you influence the work of a team, watch other designers grow, help your company experience success, and your users enjoy a top-notch product. 

Want to dive into the world of UX yourself? Try the free UX design short course or speak directly with a UX program advisor

If you’re interested in more about UX management, UX design, and other related topics, check out some of these blog pieces:

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