Why Do Startups Usually Hire UX Generalists Instead of Specialists?

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The demand for user experience (UX) professionals has never been higher. From Silicon Valley and beyond, there's a newfound emphasis on providing users with the highest quality digital experiences. But, why do startups usually hire UX generalists instead of specialists? 

This article explores the reasons why startups are increasingly focusing on UX generalists to achieve their product goals. We'll discuss the cost benefits of generalists, the wider range of skills they bring to the table, and the need to stay ahead of the competition.

Ultimately, this article seeks to show why startups are increasingly enjoying the advantages of hiring UX generalists rather than specialists and provides some top tips for those who are only at the initial stage of their UX career. 

Understanding the UX Landscape in Startups

The challenge of working in a startup industry is that it offers a chance to become skilled in a wide range of disciplines. An attitude of continuous learning helps drive success, and this frequently requires people to take on extra responsibilities and modify their roles during their careers. With this creativity and flexibility comes a great opportunity to expand one's experiences and practice new skills.

Moreover, in a startup, you may develop a more comprehensive understanding of how different systems interact and how it all fits together in order to create a successful service or product. In this type of environment, being a specialist can take on a whole new meaning as you work more closely with other team members, providing a unique opportunity to collaborate and grow.

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User experience is a diverse field with many opportunities for professionals both in startups and well-established companies. By pursuing various UX roles, such as UI/UX designers, information architects, UX researchers, UX writers, and content strategists, practitioners can acquire a range of core design skills such as visual design, interaction design, user research, information design, information architecture, copywriting, editing, and rapid iteration management. An important decision for any UX practitioner is to choose whether to become a generalist who applies for multiple roles or to specialize in a particular domain.

These two paths, respectively, are labeled as T-shaped and I-shaped designers. The T-shaped refers to a designer knowledgeable in many areas but especially proficient at one, while the I-shaped designer is specialized in only one area. With either approach, UX practitioners can excel at what they do when working for a startup.

The Appeal of UX Generalists for Startups

Startups have been turning to UX generalists for their design needs due to the range of skills they bring to the table. UX generalists aren't just great coders or great designers – they can do both, and that makes them a great fit for early-stage companies. With their ability to create designs from start to finish and don their business and technical hats, UX generalists are quickly becoming a popular choice for startups. By the way, the startup industry is the highest-paying for UX designers.

Versatility and Broad Skill Set

A UX generalist is seen as a valuable asset to any organization because of their versatility and broad skill set. They possess a broad knowledge of UX design which encompasses a whole suit of responsibilities, such as research, strategy, visual and interaction design. Their ability to think big picture, bridge the gap between departments, and think from the user’s perspective allows for a truly thorough and holistic UX experience. 

A UX generalist has the ability to execute any type of project with ease. They understand the larger implications of each step taken, which helps them guide projects while ensuring a comprehensive user experience. Furthermore, they have the skills to execute any design work that is required. Many UX specializations have a deeper level of knowledge in one specific area, while the UX generalist is able to provide a thoughtful approach to the entire span of activity associated with UX development. 

The broad skill set of a UX generalist means they are adept at multitasking and rapidly adapting to unfamiliar situations. Whether it’s refining an existing solution or generating a new one from scratch, they can provide the necessary UX knowledge and foresight. Their adaptability also allows them to contribute to all sides of the project; from strategy to visual design, they can act as a bridge across departments to ensure the entire process is optimally implemented. 


Asking individuals to wear multiple hats in an organization is not a new concept. When it comes to UX design, having a generalist in the mix is an incredibly cost-effective way to increase the overall efficiency of a team. 

A UX generalist can cover both the broad and narrow aspects of UX design without having to commit to specialist roles or additional hires. This allows a business to maintain a strong level of control over design costs and focus the energy of the team on the overall goal. Furthermore, a UX generalist is capable of handling multiple tasks at once, which can save business money in terms of resources devoted to a specific project. 

Finally, the effectiveness of UX generalists can also be seen in terms of the skills they bring to the table. Being able to work with a variety of tools, strategies, and processes gives a UX generalist the ability to develop creative solutions for problems at a much faster pace. This can reduce the amount of time required for designing a product, leading to cost savings as well.

Adaptability in Fast-Paced Environments

A UX generalist has the advantage of adaptability in fast-paced environments. As a generalist, they are able to quickly shift focus between different projects and types of UX work while staying updated on best practices and trends, and re-using their experience across different contexts. 

This is particularly beneficial when working in fast-paced environments that require quick decision-making or iteration. For example, in a software development context, a UX generalist would be able to rapidly create user flows or wireframes to help frame the development debate. When changes or feedback appear rapid-fire, the flexibility of having someone who can rapidly change focus and review past work can be invaluable. 

Additionally, the presence of a UX generalist in fast-paced environments can also force the team to question and focus on the most important user experience elements in the midst of rapid changes. This ensures that the team is always making sure that, no matter how quickly they move, the end product still supports the user’s experience.

The Long-Term Implications of Hiring UX Generalists

The long-term implications of hiring UX generalists are multifaceted. By having a UX generalist on staff, organizations benefit from having a single point of contact that can identify and investigate user experience issues. Additionally, by understanding the broad concepts of user experience, a UX generalist is able to better articulate user needs across all organizational functions, helping to develop a unified user-friendly experience. UX generalists can also provide feedback on new product development and suggest alternatives to existing products or services in order to optimize the user experience.

Having a single person with knowledge of user experience allows for advancements to be made quickly without having to wait for separate specialized departments to become involved. Finally, having a UX generalist on staff can help with the onboarding of new team members, thus reducing the learning curve and increasing innovation and collaboration in the organization.

When Should Startups Consider Hiring UX Specialists?

Startups should consider hiring UX specialists instead of UX generalists when the scope of the project requires expertise in a highly specialized skill. For instance, if the product needs detailed usability testing or user research, it would be beneficial to have a specialist in the field of the project. Additionally, hiring a specialist would be more cost-effective in the long run as they can provide the project with in-depth knowledge and expertise required for a successful product launch compared to a UX generalist.

Striking the Balance Between Generalists and Specialists

When it comes to having a successful UX design process, striking the right balance between UX generalists and specialists is essential. 

On one hand, UX generalists bring a broad outlook to design projects, enabling them to understand the big picture of how the design should fit into the product as a whole. On the other hand, UX specialists bring in more focused expertise from either user research or UX/interaction design, enhancing the design quality and influence on the user experience. 

Ideally, a team should ideally be made up of both UX generalists and specialists to ensure all elements of the user experience are taken into consideration. Generalists bring the larger context and use their knowledge to direct the specialists towards the right solutions. Specialist expertise then adds the necessary level of detail, precision and ensures a robust UX strategy that will eventually make its way into the product. In a perfect world, these working together would provide the best results. 

However, the challenge for many companies is striking the right balance between the two roles and understanding the benefits of both. Although having both roles is ideal, it’s not feasible for a lot of companies to maintain these positions due to budget constraints. Companies must determine the right mix of generalists and specialists and decide what combination would be best for their specific needs. 

In order to ensure a successful UX design process, it is essential to have the right balance between UX generalists and UX specialists. By carefully considering the specific design requirements of a project, companies can determine which combination of experts would best meet their needs and enable successful product design.


Do startups usually hire UX generalists instead of specialists?
Do startups usually hire UX generalists instead of specialists?

It depends on the startup. Generally speaking, startups may prefer to hire a UX generalist as it provides them with more flexibility. A UX generalist can work on a variety of tasks in the UX space, while a specialist may be limited to one particular field. However, some startups may prefer to hire specialists if their product requires a specific set of UX skills or knowledge.

Which type of business is most likely to hire a specialist designer?
Which type of business is most likely to hire a specialist designer?

A tech or software development business is most likely to hire a specialist UX designer instead of a generalist. Companies that rely heavily on user experience for their success, such as online retailers and digital media sites, need UX design specialists who can create personalized digital experiences for their customers that engage, inform, and convert visitors to loyal customers.

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