The Growth of UX Organizations

Jeff Sauro, PhD

UX professional salaries have increased 7% from 2009 to 2011.

During that same period the profession has also grown.

For the last two Usability Professional Association Salary Surveys (2009 and 2011) respondents were asked how many UX Professionals there are in their company and the total size of the company.

In 2011 the question posed was “How many user experience-related staff work in your entire company?”  I graphed the median responses below.

Figure 1: Median UX professionals by company size from 2009 to 2011 and 95% confidence intervals.

I broke down the responses by company size and used the median to offset the influence of a few respondents who reported more than 5000 UX professionals at their company. The median number of reported UX professionals by company size were 6, 15 and 50 for companies ranging from 100, 1000, and 10,000+ total employees.

In general we see that larger companies (not surprisingly) employ more UX professionals than smaller firms. What’s interesting is that across all company sizes the median number of UX professionals has increased between 20% and 30% over the last two years.

Decline of the Lone UX Wolf

I also took a look at the number of respondents who reported that they were the only UX professional at their organization. Again with this perspective we see that there has been a nominal decline in the lone wolf UX professional across company sizes (albeit not statically lower).

Figure 2: Percentage of solo UX professionals by company size for 2009 and 2011 with 95% confidence intervals.

What is a UX Professional?

Just because there are more UX professionals reported in organizations does not mean there are in fact more professionals working to improve the user experience. It very well could be the increase we see is due to a broadening of the term User Experience.

And this addresses a seemingly perennial (and somewhat belabored) question about who should call themselves a UX professional and what exactly the profession of User Experience encompasses.  Based on the comments in the survey, UX related staff generally includes user researchers, usability engineers, human factors engineers, designers, information architects and supporting product managers and project managers.

There is most likely both an increase in the number of professionals dedicated to improving the user experience and the popularity of organizations claiming to have more employees improving the user experience.  Whether this putative increase in manpower actually results in a better user experience is a topic for another article.

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