How to Get an Entry Level UX Job in 3 Months

Role: Jr. UX Designer / UX Researcher

This blog is a continuation of Find a tech job in 3 months with no prior tech experience.

In this blog, I will describe the Jr. UX Designer/UX Research role. It is the second of three subsequent blogs, in which I detail how to Find a tech job in 3 months with no prior tech experience in pursuit of one of specific 3 job titles:

UI Developer/Front-end developer
Jr. UX Designer / UX Researcher
UI Designer

The first thing to do to develop the skills (and a portfolio) to become an entry level UX Designer (roles typically described as a Jr. UX Designer or a UX Researcher) is to find a real life problem. I describe this process in detail in the UI Developer/Front-end developer blog.

I know this can be challenging and it will require research and exploring, but if you can think of a problem that you have a had in a digital experience, and work to solve that, you will be in a great position to build your UX skillset.

Jr. UX Designer / UX Researcher

Skills: 
User Research (qualitative and quantitative), Persona Building, User Flows, Wireframes/Prototypes

Outcome: 
Screens that compose the vision of the product in a clickable format. These screens can be without graphical enhancements (low-fidelity wireframes) or with all graphical elements (prototype) or somewhere in between, depending on the needs and capabilities of the product team.

Steps:

  1. Learn Qualitative User Research
  2. Learn Quantitative User Research
  3. Persona Building
  4. User Flows
  5. Wireframing and prototyping

Where to learn
We provide amazing free resources in our Facebook group, as well as in our email list which you can join below or on our website. We are launching an Intro to UX course this quarter found on our website.

  1. Qualitative User Research

What to learn

  • Identify a target market and/or specifying a target marketing based on market research
  • Access that target market. Find individuals online or in person through various, creative means. There is no ONE way to do this. Think outside the box!
  • Writing a user script to interview that target market about the problem that you to solve
  • Schedule interview times and meet with that target audience. The exact quantity of participants is less important than actually conducting the research. I want to OVERSTATE this point as many people get all the way up to doing the research — talking to their humans about the specific problem they are addressing with a scripted process — but don’t actually follow through. There are SO many reasons people say why they don’t perform this step, but they all boil down to two core reasons: fear or time/lack of prioritization. And the second one happens because of the first one. I know fear can wear many masks, but the truth is that user research is hard. It’s hard to talk to someone about a problem that you are attempting to solve. You might be worried they don’t have the problem you are discussing or they hate the questions you are asking. User research is uncomfortable. but important. I recommend doing to it first to make sure you follow through with it. Because without it, everything you decide will be based on your assumptions and not your user’s needs. Knowing your user’s need is what leads to a quality product.
  • User testing: Come back to this step after you have completed your prototype or clickable wireframe. Get feedback from users. Have them use the prototype and ask them to perform a specific step. Do they know what to do? What problems do they have? How will you fix them?

2. Learn Quantitative User Research

What to learn

  • Just do a little. This is an endless rabbit hole that you can be hard to retreat from so focus on the goal.
  • First define the question you are attempting to answer. Here are two suggestions if you are unsure of where to start.
  1. New product: Do people REALLY have this problem that I am attempting to solve? How will I define “yes” and “no” to this answer?
  2. Existing product: Why do people keep abandoning the check out process?
  • Choose a method that you will access your target audience.
  1. New: Social media group or online forums where your target audience hangs out. Competitors or alternatives that people are using to solve this problem.
  2. Existing: If you have an existing product, you would use Google Analytics or ideally, a user analytics platform like Pendo or Hotjar.

3. Persona Building

What to learn

  • Name. First or first and last. If possible, use real names of user research participants, but understand that a persona represents a cross-section so not everything you put in that persona with a user’s name will line up with the actual person you spoke with.
  • Image — Stock image. Picture of the person. Hand-drawn by a novice. Hand-drawn/digitally drawn by an artist. It really doesn’t matter, just some image representing this persona.
  • Demographic info — will change based on product. Demographic info could include age, race, and location.
  • Pain/Problem — what is the problem they are having — it should relate to your product — what specific PAIN do they have?
  • Feel — How does that PAIN make them feel?
  • What do to they say they want? need?
  • Might include: Employment status, Hobbies, Likes/Dislikes
  • How do they categorize themselves? Into what community?: Young, Experienced, Hipster, Rebel, Refined

4. User Flows

What to learn

  • I like to use an enhanced version of Ryan Signer’s UI flow. I don’t like his title, but I do like the process for laying out and thinking through what a user should accomplish in their experience in a product. He does an excellent job of describing the process in his speech at Mind the Product.
  • Define what the user sees and what the user does at a particular time.
  • Use an arrow (or two or more) to show what the user sees and does next.
  • In practice will look like this:
  • Once you continue to develop the product concept, it looks more like this
  • There are lots of ways to customize this. The colors are used for emphasis and communication. When you first start, don’t worry too much about color. If you are using this in your portfolio, I recommend adding color. Keep it simple though. The real detail comes in the next phase so don’t “over design” the user flow.

5. Wireframing and prototyping

What to learn

  • The difference between low-fidelity wireframe, high-fidelity wireframe and a prototype => Note: The short answer is that there is a sliding scale of graphical enhancements that begins with very low graphics (and no color) at the low-fidelity level, scaling up to the prototype level where typically there is complete graphical design.
  • You may here “lean prototype” and in that case, a low-fidelity, but clickable wireframe is being described. Clickable or prototypes allow a non-coded software to be user tested.
  • The job role that you are seeking will lead you down which type of wireframe to develop. The more graphically enhanced, the more towards UI Designer you are leaning. You would typically not be expected to develop all of the graphical elements of the UI for a prototype to obtain the role of UX Researcher.
  • Keep in mind that for user testing purposes, a low-fidelity wireframe with ZERO color and a common font is the best way to go. Users can’t help but comment on the aesthetics of a design. If you are testing for functionality it is best to remove the aesthetics.
  • Start by sketching out a screen on paper. One screen per page. Complete enough screens that you have completed a user flow from beginning to end.
  • From there move to a wireframing tool: Balsamiq, Axure and Sketch are three good ones to start with. Invision is great for more graphical options, but it’s pretty challenging for beginners. I recommend one of the other three if it is your first time.
  • Tip: Login/create account flows and check out flows are fairly common. I think they are a great place to start. As you develop your skills you will need more than those in your portfolio. Specifically which screens you need, will depend on the product that you are creating/updating. The important part is not so much exactly which screens you include, but describing in words why you made decisions that you did. HINT: The decision should reflect the actual users of the product and specific research that was conducted.
  • Tip: Go back to the “Usability testing” section of user research. Now that you have a prototype or clickable wireframe, show it to users. See how they respond to different flows and features that you have designed. Update your wireframes based on this. I recommend before and after wireframes with the user research in between. It is the best way to demonstrate why you have made decisions that you have in the UX based on user feedback.

Happy UX’ing!

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I hope you have enjoyed How to get a job as a UX Researcher in 12 weeks. If you would like more free resources on this and other tech skills & tech job searching, join our facebook group.