Ask LH: Can I Get A Job In User Experience Design And Work Remotely?

Dear Lifehacker, I am wanting to progress further into the area of user experience design. The majority of the companies that do great UX work and that actively advertise for UX people are based in Melbourne or Sydney. I don't live there, but I am fully set up at home with an iMac and all of the necessary software. Is it worthwhile applying for these positions and proposing a 'working remotely' type role? Thanks, Remote User

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Dear RU,

That's a timely question to ask during National Teleworking Week. The short answer is: it's always worth asking, because you'll never know otherwise. The response you get is going to depend on a variety of factors, including the amount of experience you have, the culture of the company that's looking to hire and your own willingness to be flexible.

User experience design isn't perhaps the most obvious field in which to try and pursue a remote role. Advertisements for jobs in the field invariably emphasise the importance of working in a team, which makes sense; there's a lot of collaboration involved with software designers, product designers and business managers. That could be difficult unless you find an employer which already has an active culture of encouraging staff to work from different locations.

Experience is likely to be a factor here, though that could work both for and against you. Senior UX roles involve far more interaction, which tends to go against being allowed to work remotely. That said, if you have relevant experience and a company has been trying to fill a position for a while, you'll be in a better position to negotiate.

Ultimately, it's worth asking because even if the reaction is negative, the experience will be instructive. If the universal response is "no, we need someone who lives in Sydney or Melbourne", you'll need to consider moving to advance your career goals, or examine moving into a different field. The experience of applying should also give you a sense of whether you'll qualify for those roles if you do move. Good luck with the search!

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    Good advice Angus. I'd even go one step further and suggest that it's basically impossible to work remotely as an effective in-house user experience designer. Not being on site rules out the ability to use a ton of techniques from the UX toolkit, such as participatory design sessions, collaborative sketching, paper prototyping, card sorting ... these kinds of roles mention teamwork in the job description for a reason.

    That said, I'd suggest that it is possible to be a good web designer, while incorporating aspects of UX Design into your work to give yourself an edge over other agencies that don't consider the entire experience. If you were freelancing, for instance, and included as part of your offering some user research—surveys, telephone interviews, the results of some remote user testing sessions, triangulated with web analytics data, for instance, along with user testing sessions that you conduct using participants local to you, then you could still advertise your services to clients as a "user experience designer" and be able to look yourself in the mirror. ;-)

    Best of luck with it.

    Matt

    Last edited 16/11/12 11:17 pm

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