How I Become An UI/UX Designer

My obession with product design started from this chair.

By now, right before my appliction for a UX-related master degree, I have got one internship, two start-up projects which are both under development, and a determined mind that product designer is what I wanna do for my next period of life.

My exchange to the School of Architcture in uWaterloo, to some degree, has changed my life. Maybe subconsciously I’ve already known architecture is not my destination and the chair design class justtriggered me to make this decision.

The paper mock

In the chair design class, my partner and I started from a quite simple paper prototype which showed a chair would pop up after opening. Then I came up with an idea that we can add two side chairs using the remaining space without adding weight. Naturally we got our use case: it’s a foldable and portable chair which is perfect for a family of a couple and a kid who live in a small apartment. So the principles are to save space and to reduce its own weight. That’s how we got the final shape and design. However, when the 1:1 model came out, the feedbacks of my classmates still surprised me — some petite girls could hardly reach the middle chair because it was too high. We worked on the dimensions again and finally the design was almost perfect. Everyone saw our chair loved it.

I feel the power of users for the first time while architects never give too much considerations to them.

We architects serve our clients, design with all kinds of methods and create so-called sacred spaces, but we seldem talk and listen to the real users of the buildings. We assume the users are not experts, have no aesthetics, and have no idea what they want. The huge volume decides that architectures cannot be easily “prototyped” until it’s actually built but then it’s too late to correct mistakes. The train station in Suzhou is such a terrible case. The inner space is so huge that air conditions can’t work, so maybe it’s the worst eco-friendly building in the world; The restaurants are on the second floor of the islands, without lifts, so how could the disabled and people with heavy suitcases reach there?

You can expect to be a “full stack designer” as a UX designer, as well as to see your work built in a not long period.

The Internet companies run in a super fast pace so does their design. Personally, it takes me 1 month in average to finish the first draft from scratch, including user researches. I’m pretty sure my works would be released within months.

The conparison between the working experiences as a UX designer and an architest may be unfair because I haven’t work for a big Internet company yet, and my intership were in a quite notable landscape company. But one thing I’m sure is that architecture is too massive to get everything under control. It’s not one or two teams’ busniness to build a such giant concrete beast. What we architect can do is only 10% throughout the design process. We have to follow the restrains of urban planning, compromise in front of high cost, and keep an eye on the unqualified constructions. It’s lucky if we can see the project built, while most of our design won’t be accepted eventually due to some ridiculous reasons.

How did I find my projects? — UI/UX designers are still in a great demand.

First of all, hunting for a job is never easy but if you got prepared you have more chance than in other fields. Basically I started from building a online website and doing a redesign with my friends who also wanted to be a UX designer. Learn by doing. With some other school works, my porfolio was then ready. The next step is seeking opportunities. Know as many entrepreneurs as you can and keep in contact with them. When I felt hopeless to find a full time internship , I asked one of my entrepreneur friends: “ Do you need a UX designer?” and the answer was yes! I tried to design the profile part of his app because I still had to prove my profession. His start up could barely afford to do user research, so I invited my friends to try and test my design again and again. I applied all the feedbacks into design and finally I earned the trust of my boss.

What do I do as a UI/UX designer? — Everything except coding.

From collecting user painpoints, prototyping, user research, to UI mock, I do everything because I am the only app designer. Thankfully, I have a mentor who have already designed the web which can be my reference and guidelines. I learned so much from the design review meeting where all my colleagues, including engineers, would express their opinions. And since we are designing an online English education app, we have enough users to interview and test. Our strategy is to build the mvp to solve to the core problems of users, some of whom may pay us money or give us feedbacks. The process of deciding which feature is “P0” is not easy. At the very beginning we thinked about everything we hoped to achieve but then we kept doing subtractions. In essence, it is the core of our product that decides whether it could succeed or not.

The screenshots of demo

If you are curious about the design process, please comment and thumb up!

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