Aspiring to be a UX designer? Here’s how to get started…

UX Iron
UX Iron
May 19 · 5 min read

I’m often asked about how to get to get into the field of User Experience (UX). So this is my response, I hope you find it helpful! To start, let’s clear up a few things before talking about a good path to becoming UX a practitioner. User Experience isn’t about making things pretty, it’s about solving real problems. It’s solving these problems with three areas in mind:

  • What is it the user needs? What are they trying to accomplish?
  • What are the business goals?
  • What psychology is needed to help the user accomplish their goals (this is the key underpinning to making technology usable)?
  • What are the constraints of technology?

Here are some inspiring reading for how to become a UX designer:

There are three paths to becoming a UX designer:

  • University: If you decide to go to a university, congrats! You are going to get the full immersive experience. You will take a well-rounded set of courses in a length of time that allows you to do some deep learning. This is my personal recommendation as there are lots of people that call themselves UX designers but don’t have any real understanding of what UX is (which is defined here). The best position you can put yourself in is to be a knowledgeable expert and going to a reputable UX program at a University allows you to do that.
  • Immersive Bootcamps: Boot camps serve a specific purpose: they are for people who want to fast track into UX. Many bootcamps even offer job placement after you complete the course. They are generally 10 weeks and are extremely intense. The courses are all day, and having a job during this time is frowned upon and will likely cause you to fall behind. They can cost from $10,000 to $15,000. Be prepared to work your butt off and it’s helpful if you try to learn as much as you can before you start the course, ( Design of Everyday Things or become familiar with wireframes).
  • Extended learning programs: Often designed for people who work, they’re are part-time classes which are often at night or on the weekend. While this seems like a logical solution because it would allow you to continue to work, the content is a “light” compared to bootcamps and university programs, I would recommend skipping this option as it’s impossible to learn enough to make it worth your time.
  • Educating yourself: Online tutorials are readily available, from UX Mastery to Coursera. The following is a review of some of these courses: The problem with online courses is that they don’t dive deep into topics. If you go this route, you’ll be like the majority of beginner UX designers with no distinguishable traits and no real knowledge and it will be hard to get a job. UX is one of the few fields that has the expectation that you’ll be ready to be up and running on day one. All that being said, the courses that impress me the most are from Interaction Design Foundation. They’re a non-profit that has highly educated instructors from around the world. Courses tend to be scholarly and well worth the small membership fee. Check out the courses here: The other way of educating yourself:
  • READ -read a lot! Here’s my list of recommended reading. Start with “Design of Everyday Things” This is the Bible of UX.
  • From there, try a book in the area of UX that you might be interested in like Information Architecture or Research Methods.
  • Then behavioral science and heuristics are are topics that you should know about regardless of which role you’re interested in because the concepts apply universally.
  • Another book that’s a must is “Communicating Design” it shows you how all the key documents / artifacts you’ll design. You’ll reference it frequently during your career so buy it in the physical format (yes a real book), you’ll dog-ear pages and make notes in the margins plus who can resist the smell of a text book that’s never been used.

Once you feel like you have sufficient knowledge, you’ll need to apply them to real world projects. This is hard because it’s similar to the age old question, “What comes first: the chicken or the egg? Seemingly, no one will hire you without experience and you can’t get experience without working…here’s how you get experience, two suggestions:

  • Volunteer to design an app for a non-profit. Make sure to apply the entire UX process and document everything so that you can make it a “use case” in your portfolio.
  • Come up with a problem that you think UX can solve, and then design it! Again, document all the details so that you can use it as a use case.

Here are some approaches and methods to UX that you should know:

  • Visual Design: Some people think that UX is about Visual Design, but that’s only part of it and some people are employed to design apps from only the Visual Design perspective. This is not true UX!
  • Marketing Emphasis: Some people think that UX should consider what people’s preferences are and that if 50 percent of the market likes cola cans that are red, then that’s what matters.
  • Behavioral Experience: UX leverages how the brain works to design technology that allows the user to easily accomplish their task — That’s UX and that’s what you should have knowledge of if you want to really impact design.

User Experience is a wonderful field to get involved in, knowing that your contribution to making things usable matters! It makes it a little easier to wake up on a Monday morning. Let me know if you have any feedback.

Let me know if you have any questions at


Stacey Sarris

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