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Paper Prototyping session @chegg circa 2012

How to get started in User Experience

A guide for the average Joe.

Diego Mendes
Oct 6, 2013 · 4 min read

After I wrote “Why I design” I began getting several requests via twitter, email, G+ etc… Folks were asking me how they could also become a UX Designer. Here is my response (based on things I actually did). I hope it is helpful =>

If you have a friend in UX Design…

Call your friend up and ask him/her to intern on 1 project — No better way to learn.Watch, take notes and participate. At the end of each day ask a bunch of questions. Be at kickoff meetings with engineers and product managers, try out wireframing, creating user flows, moving pixels, validating product direction through user research… try everything. You will learn a bit more about what you would be good at and where you need to improve your skills.

Dang! But I don’t have a friend in UX Design…

No worries! UX folks are friendly. You can attend free UX events in your city or talk to folks through twitter. Here are a few folks I would recommend on twitter:

Also, read a lot of great content! Here are a few websites where you can get started:

ACM Interactions, A list apart, UX Magazine, Interactions Magazine & Medium, UX Myths or 52 Weeks of UX.

You can get a free UX ebook here & here.

Lastly, watch videos of great designers who love their work and sharing about their work. Here is one that will get you pumped!

How do I make it happen? How do I get into UX?

Friend or no friend, the formula is the same:

Networking + Learning UX + Practicing UX = Job for you.


Join a local chapter of a UX organization so you can network. There are many organizations.Here are a few with local chapters: UXPA, IXDA, SIGCHI and HFES.

Stay away from the huge conferences and try to attend smaller gatherings. PRO TIP! Instead of just attending, you should volunteer.It is much easier to impress someone by being a great volunteer than by having a 30 second elevator speech. They will still remember you a year later if you volunteer and do a great job, whereas your elevator speech will be forgotten probably by the EOD.

Learning and Practice

If you have no UX experience, you really need to learn and practice UX. You can go the traditional route or you can be creative in how you educate yourself about UX.

1. Traditional Education

Going to a strong program in Human Computer Interaction, Human Factors etc… has awesome positives. You will learn quickly, get plugged into the community and do a lot of projects. If you go to a good program you will get a good job at the end of it (I have list of programs I know and recommend at the bottom of this post). The downside for some is the time commitment and financial burden one may incur.Not everyone can afford to go to school.

2. Semi Traditional Education

Learning through bootcamps.Cooper and The User Experience Center are two consulting groups that teach a really intensive course a number of times throughout the year. These courses typically give you good starting knowledge, but not a lot of depth. They may be better for folks who are already graphic designers, researchers or software engineers who are trying to break into UX design or UX research. Networking here usually works pretty well since most folks are already professionals close to UX.

3. Learning on your own

Learning through the web., General Assembly, Skillshare, Coursera, Udemy. All of these websites have human computer interaction and ux courses. You can learn at your own pace and then try to do projects for non-profits or friends. If you are good at learning on your own, this may be the cheapest way to get there. However, it may also be the tough to build a good network through these courses.

4. Practicing what you learn

Traditional programs usually hook you up with internships, but if you are learning on your own, well then you have to fight for one. While you are volunteering at a UX local event, tell the UX people you meet that you are new. Tell them all the stuff you have learned on your own and how you have done pro-bono work already and convince them they will be really happy if they give you an internship/apprenticeship. Then roll up your sleeves and go do great work!

Follow me on twitter: @diegomendes

Other resources:

FYI, the programs I am familiar with and would recommend are: Bentley University(where I went),Stanford,Carnegie Mellon, Michigan and RISD.

To learn about UX career salaries, take a look at this survey.

How to land your first UX job podcast.

If you are still reading, it means you are really motivated. Get started today to learn about all UX stuff on open free online courses here or reading here.

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