How do I get started in UX Design?
I get asked this question a lot and each time I do, I search my outbox for the last reply I sent so that I can update it and send it again. So I thought it would be useful to post it here instead.
UX is a relatively recent addition to the Software Design process and practitioners come from all kinds of backgrounds — Graphic Design, Service Design, Web Development, Journalism, Marketing, Psychology, Architecture and more.
The role of a UX designer can be as confusing to UX Designers themselves as it is to the companies that hire them so it must seem like a quagmire to someone starting out.
In most of the places I’ve worked, the UX Designer is responsible for the full end-to-end of the design process; conducting initial user research, creating personas & scenarios, plotting navigation (information architecture), sketching wire-frames, creating interactive prototypes, writing content, user-testing and finalising visual designs — phew..
Larger corporations with higher UX maturity, as defined by Jakob Nielsen, split the role out across the different disciplines; User Research, Information Architect, Data Analyst, UX Designer, Content Strategist, Interaction or Visual Designer and Lead or Manager who oversees the whole process — or some version of this.
So it’s easy to see why there’s so much confusion about what the role entails, especially for those who are new to the industry.
If you are looking for your first UX position, my advice is to focus on an area that interests you the most and seek out companies with an established UX team. You will learn more from working in a team than trying to figure it all out on your own.
When companies are hiring UX for the first time, they often list a plethora of skills that sometimes even include HTML/CSS and JQuery. This ‘Unicorn’, ‘Hybrid’ or ‘Ninja’ description usually tends to mean that either they don’t understand UX or don’t know what they want — or they do know what they want but don’t have the budget to cover it all. Be wary of the job descriptions that list all the skills and look for ones that focus more on what they require. e.g. ‘Understand user requirements’ or ‘Design solutions that support our business and user goals’.
- IADT run a Masters in User Experience Design
- If that’s too much of a commitment, they have a shorter Certificate course.
- UXTraining.com run courses for all levels in various cities across Europe. They also have Online training for individuals who are just getting started and In-house training for companies.
- Coursera: Human Computer Interaction Specialisation
- Interaction Design Foundation: Short focused courses
- UX Training with Nielsen Norman Group
- UX Strategy by Jaime Levy
Jaime teaches how to apply UX techniques to solve business problems and craft innovative digital products that people want to use.
- About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design by Alan Cooper
A veritable encyclopaedia for Interaction Designers! This book is essential reading for anyone designing software products for people. Keep it nearby as a reliable reference book.
- Just Enough Research by Erica Hall
This was the first book I read on user research and it made me realise that it wasn’t this great big mystery but really just a lot of common sense. The book helped me to ask better questions and think more critically about the answers.
- Don’t Make me think by Steve Krug
This fun introduction to User Experience Design is an ideal read if you’re starting out or working alongside UXers and want to know a little more about it.
- The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
Interesting insights into the psychology of design and designing for people.
- Lean Analytics by Alistair Croll & Benjamin Yoskovitz
Using real-world case studies, this book helped me to better understand analytics and how to use data and metrics to inform design decisions.
- Webs of Influence by Nathalie Nahai
By understanding the psychology behind how we perceive things online we can create better products that people will love to use.
There are loads of tools to choose from but these are my favourite:
- Adobe Experience Design — Once I discovered this I closed down Photoshop — forever! As it’s still in beta, it is light on features — which can be a problem — but it has enough for rapid prototyping and is very easy to use. The downside is that it doesn’t play well with other tools, not even other Adobe tools! However, I can definitely see it becoming the industry favourite in a few years.
- Sketch — When I need those features I mentioned were missing from Adobe XD, I jump into Sketch*. It is the current industry favourite and it’s easy to see why. It’s fast, easy to use, great for creating vectors on-the-fly, handles symbols really well, has lots of useful plugins and an endless supply of free pattern libraries to get you started. One possible downside is that it’s only available for Mac.
* Save files as SVG from Adobe XD to make them editable in Sketch.
- Invision changed my life as a designer. It reduced my prototyping time from days to hours or — in some cases — minutes. It’s starting to get a little crazy with features but it’s still my go-to tool for sharing designs with your team.
- Adobe XD has it’s own built-in prototype builder which makes it really easy to start prototyping right away. But the rendered prototype is compacted into an iframe and in my opinion, not yet good enough to share with stakeholders. However, a really cool feature is the ability to record the screen directly within the tool and export a video for sharing.
There are loads of resources for helping you with your user testing. I haven’t used them all but most have free or reduced price trials that you can use to help you decide on your favourites.
Analytics & Feedback
If you’re starting out in UX Design, I’d love to hear how you get on and if any of this information was useful to you.
Best of luck in your UX career!