Transitioning from UI to UX design: How to flawlessly make that career change
If, as a UI designer you’re looking for better prospects, you may have already begun exploring various job profiles, updating your portfolio, getting up-to-date with the skills and requirements of a new role. It’s only human to want more, to shift uncomfortably just when you get a little too comfortable, and to try your hand at a different 9 to 5, with brand new challenges. After all, uncertainty is exciting.
You may want to experience what it’s like to work at a different place altogether. Alternatively, in organizations like Cactus Communications, where there is immense scope for mobility, you may stick around and look for a position that helps you use your current knowledge in design and take it a notch higher. If you’re wondering how you can do that, read on!
Before even getting into the HOW, let me first explain the basic differences between UI design and UX design because more often than not, erroneously, UI and UX are used interchangeably.
UI design concerns itself with creating aesthetically pleasing output (this can range from web pages, posters, banners, infographics, videos, GIFs, etc.) for which the designer may have to invest quite some time in prototyping, constructing mood boards, and creating a number of different possibilities/alternatives. They will have to design all the screens the user will look at, and which will decide the ultimate action they take and whether it was a business intention/expectation.
“User interface is a lot about visual design. (It’s about) psychology and how people perceive information” -Suchithra Sathiyamurthy, UI designer
UX design, on the other hand, is essentially a user experience-focused approach which takes up the challenge of designing products for a wide range of audiences i.e. optimizing a product such that people of diverse age groups, ethnicities, generations, even, the technologically-challenged can use it without much of a hassle (and with much delight). A UX designer will use their business knowledge and expertise, along with extensive research, testing and refinement to ensure that the user has a great experience.
Simply put, UX has everything to do with research-based interaction design, whereas UI is to a very large degree, concerned with visual design.
There are, however, a few common elements between UX and UI. In fact, UI may sometimes, even be considered a subset of UX design. Both jobs require designers to create wireframes, prototypes, test the design, get feedback, etc. The differences may seem endless but truth be told, any successful brand depends greatly, on the cross-pollination of these two design fields.
So WHY should you even consider transitioning from a UI designer to a UX designer
· Acting as the bridge between departments or product managers and the execution team, UX designers are important channels that grow and guide everyone else on the path of progress because of their continuous exposure to leadership.
· UI designers are constantly trying to keep themselves informed about the latest big tool or software update. In contrast, UX skills can withstand the test of time. Soft skills honed through user research, collaboration with stakeholders, etc. are transferable to future jobs.
· User experience is not limited to digital products, which is certainly the case for UI design. UX can be extended to services, processes, spaces, etc. providing a greater scope of work for UX designers.
· Let’s be honest here, multiple reports suggest that a UX designer typically earns more than a UI designer, and for most people that’s good enough motivation.
How can you successfully make this career jump?
1) Develop empathy for the user
UX design is user-centred and requires practitioners to be empathetic and self-aware. You have to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, listen more than you speak, observe how users interact with your design and avoid making assumptions.
“Not everyone can work as a UX designer. Why? Because working in UX requires you to not only LOVE people, but to be endlessly curious about why they do the things they do. If you’re not a people-person, and you have no curiosity about human behaviour, then this simply isn’t the career choice for you. Sorry!”
- Rosie Allabarton at UX Mastery
2) Iterative problem solving approach
Designing is to a great extent, an iterative problem solving process. UX makes it a mandate. The iterative approach to problem solving is based on gradual improvements to a very basic design. Simply put, when you have a problem, even though you know that you don’t know the answer, just get started! Then, learn from the results you get, and start again with the higher level of knowledge you have. And so on, until you have ruled out all but the correct solution.
3) Take an online (or offline) course
You need a strong foundation in UX for a successful career. There are many courses available that you can choose from. Remember, the price of a course doesn’t always correspond with its quality. Talk to UXers around who have done the courses you’re interested in. There is a lot of reading material, podcasts available online and offline which can help you understand the basics of UX.
However, completing the course and not practicing it at work will not help at all. Just getting a certification doesn’t make you a UX designer. To become a successful one, you have to practice it.
4) Learn about statistics and analytics
UX design features tons of user research. Today, we even have ‘UX researcher’ as a dedicated job profile with the KPI of just doing product research. Companies which understand the ROI of UX research, allocate a decent budget for it. It is important to know how your product is being used and how you can make it better. Explore the most used analytics tools and learn the basics of how to read data.
5) Good communication skills
Like I have mentioned above, UI designers are needed to upskill every time there’s a new design tool in the scene. But UX designers have timeless, transferable skills that can be applied to other fields. UX designers often have to rely on soft skills to get a better output from stakeholders, eventually, making a better product. They have to sell their design and approach to the stakeholders well.
6) Keep reading and learning
There is a lot of reading material available online. Always keep yourself up-to-date with the latest trends and UI tools available in market. You can also join online UX design communities like Reddit, Quota, Dribble, Designer Hangouts, etc. for communication and maybe even collaboration with like-minded people.
7) Be curious and optimistic
Antonio Gramsci believed in the ‘Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will’ and this is very well applicable outside the realm of sociology. A UX designer strives to maintain that integral final balance between these extremities. They are deemed to be rational, logical, and to see things for what they really are, have an innate, scientist-like scrutiny, be clear of biases and assumptions, making facts their friends, curious about user behaviour, their needs, their hopes and expectations, and are armed with tools of research. Just a dash of courage and a pinch of optimism to do the things never attempted before and you can be ready to traverse on a whole new career path!
If you want to move from UI design to UX design as a career, that’s awesome. It’s not going to be as difficult as you might think. You just need to get the right knowledge from available sources, and get some on-the-job training so that you’re familiar with all UX processes. When you think the time is right, you can start networking and lining up some interviews for your new job!