Encourage Audacity
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Encourage Audacity

Top 10 lessons I’ve learned as a UX designer… so far

Photo by Med Badr Chemmaoui on Unsplash

I’ve learned a few lessons in my UX journey so far. As a self-taught designer, though some of these tips may be obvious, I had to learn them the hard way. I hope this keeps you from doing the same.

1. You don’t need a degree or a Bootcamp to get into UX.

That’s not to say that it won’t make it any easier transition, but it’s not needed if going that route doesn’t work for you. I’m one of those people who didn’t go to school or a Bootcamp. For me, it boiled down to me not being able to afford to attend a Bootcamp. I had a family to provide for at that time. I was the only one with a paycheck, so if I didn’t work my family didn’t eat. so I couldn’t justify taking money away from my family to go back to school, so I did things the hard way.

What matters, whether you go to school or a Bootcamp or go the self-taught route like me, is a willingness to learn on your own and put what you learn into practice. The principles you learn in UX extend beyond a computer screen. You can use problem-solving, critical thinking, observation, and research skills in all aspects of your life. College isn’t for everybody, and neither are boot camps. You need to understand how you learn best and take the route that aligns with that. Also, lots of large tech companies no longer require a degree, so don’t feel pressured into getting one if it doesn’t fit your life.

2. Always stay hungry for knowledge.

Working in tech it seems like things change at the speed of light and we have to be on top of our game at all times. Continue to learn and grow, so as our industry changes we can change with it. Just like the software and systems we create, we have to constantly update and upgrade our skills to stay relevant within the field.

This can be done in all kinds of ways. You’re doing it right now by reading this article. Reading articles is a great way to stay in the know, and up to date on what’s happening within the design space. As far as learning new skills there are tons of platforms like Skillshare, Interaction Design Foundation, Udemy, and even YouTube where you can learn new skills at your own pace.

3. Try to be as inclusive as possible.

Accessibility is a huge part of everything we design and it needs to be talked about early and often to ensure that we accommodate as many people as possible with the best experience possible. We shouldn’t stop at something being ‘good enough’, but strive for a world where we look to create an equal experience for all. A big thing right now during this pandemic is that a lot of people are working from home and using things like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and others to meet. What most of us fail to consider is how that affects people who are hearing impaired. How will they be able to know what’s going on when a person is presenting on the screen and they see their face to read their lips, or how it will work when a person who doesn’t have their camera on is speaking. We need to put more importance on making sure that we address these things from the beginning.

4. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

Or even inside or around or under the box. I’m not one of those people who believe that there is no such thing as a bad idea, but I am a believer that sometimes you have to explore the bad ideas so you can get rid of them to make room for the good ones. Explore all of your ideas because you never know which one will lead to the breakthrough you were looking for.

5. Never go straight to high-fidelity.

Okay so never say never, but for the sake of dramatic effect NEVER! This was a new concept for me, at first coming from a graphic design background where everything needs to be buttoned up before you showed anybody, but as I got into UX I changed my mind pretty quickly. This one builds off the last tip of thinking outside the box. It’s easier to ideate and brain dump all of your ideas with a rough sketch than it is a high-fidelity. It’s also beneficial to do things like task flow and journey maps before you push things to hi-fidelity. It will also keep you from spending a ton of time building out the perfect high-fidelity screen only to find out that you went down the wrong path with your design when you could have spotted this earlier along in the process and avoided wasting all that time. Now you’re stuck having to redesign a high fidelity mock because you decided not to do a simple sketch first.

Also, people will tend to get off track and make comments about color or typography, or word choice when I’m trying to nail down the user flow, so I’ve found it helps to strip the designs down in the beginning. I will start on paper or a whiteboard instead of the computer. In this age of COVID, I will use a digital whiteboard like InVision Freehand or Miro to make it easier to share my sketches.

6. Ask why. A Lot!

So much so that you should sound like a broken record. Ask your users, ask when you’re doing requirements gathering, ask when you’re getting design feedback. Keep asking why until you truly understand the meaning behind what that person is trying to tell you. You need to dig as deep as you can to get to the root of their words.

In my first UX job that’s how I got by. I wasn’t afraid to ask them why we were designing something that way, or why we implemented something and took away something else. It just helped me learn to think like a UX designer more and understand what questions to ask later down the road.

PAUSE!

Let’s take a break real quick. Those six tips you just went through are all pretty technical, but these last four are solely about your mental health and maintaining a good work-life balance. I would argue that these next four are exponentially more important than the previous tips. If you don’t keep your mind sharp and take care of your mental health then you won’t be able to execute the things you just read. Mental health matters so please take it seriously.

Okay, let’s get back to it.

7. Close your laptop.

Take breaks. Go for walks. Get off your computer. As creatives, we need to give our brain breaks and let it wander for a bit because that is usually when we come up with the best ideas. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come up with a solution to a difficult problem driving home in the far, or the shower, or even the gym. It will also help you maintain your relationships with the people you care about.

This was something that I had to learn that hard way. A few years ago I was all work all and not play. I worked a full-time job all day then would come home and work on freelance work all night. My mental and physical health was shot. I was stressed, tired, and extremely burnt out. In the end, it cost me my job and nearly cost me my relationship. Don’t push yourself to the brink of burnout. Take some time to step away and reset. Your brain and your body will thank you for it.

8. Have hobbies.

Don’t be one of those designers that do design as a hobby. Get away from the computer and do non-design-related things! I’m also a photographer and I just bought a 35mm film camera so I can learn how to develop film and I have a little woodshop in my garage that I’ll go out and build stuff with. I made my desk that’s in my office and my son wants me to make him a new bed and a sandbox. Design is amazing but you gotta have a life too.

9. Have fun.

We get to design cool stuff all day! Have fun and enjoy yourself. Not everyone finds their purpose and can have their dream job or career so don’t take it for granted. If for some reason you aren’t happy then make a change. Life is too short to be miserable so if that means you need to change companies or jobs or careers then do it. You owe it to yourself to wake up pumped because you know you’re going to have fun doing what you love.

10. Believe in yourself.

If you don’t believe in yourself then how can anybody else believe in you? You got this! You can solve any problem and face any challenges that will come your way. As designers, we are problem solvers. Use your skills and put your best foot forward to keep progressing and growing as a designer. The only thing stopping you from achieving your dreams is the limitations you place on yourself. Break down those mental blockers you have up. You’re not an imposter. You’re exactly where you are meant to be. If I can do it without a college degree and without attending a Bootcamp then why can’t you? I believe in you so it’s time you believe in yourself too.

You made it!

You finished this list. This isn’t an all-encompassing list by any means. There is so much more to learn in UX so don’t stop here. Keep striving for knowledge and information to keep improving on your UX journey. Please feel free to share what you have learned or comment with any questions if you want to know more.

Hi! I’m Jarvis. I’m a UX Designer based in Oklahoma City, OK. Let me know if you found this helpful because my goal is to extend a helping hand to the next generation of designers. Also, reach out if you have any questions or want to talk design. I’d be happy to chat. Let’s connect! Twitter | LinkedIn

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Identify. Refine. Connect. We are committed to creating a path to success for UX professionals and Decision Makers searching for top talent to increase equity and wealth in the black community.

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Jarvis Moore

Jarvis Moore

I’m a self-taught UX Designer just looking to extend a helping hand to the next generation of talent.

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