How to start doing stuff in UX, a tale of a few steps

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The process of making things always fascinated me. For UX, I try to think of it as the process of knowing the process of making things. It’s confusing, I know, but bear with me.

So how do you end up doing UX Design when you practically know nothing about it?

Well, first of all, you start with Photoshop. At least I did. Working on a few projects, designing some print materials, ads, brochures, magazine layouts and business cards. When hitting the advanced stuff, I switched to Illustrator. A few logos, some stationeries and more business cards. Slowly switching back to Photoshop for some web template making. Doing some back-and-forth with the developers arguing that your psd files are not quite ok. Learning from your mistakes and some poor design choices you had to make for the sake of clients and probably yourself.

The next step is getting a $3,000 computer. Nah, you are fine with a cheaper one, don’t worry. So, the next step is to start reading like crazy everything about UX and Digital Design. Read on your commute, read in the bathroom, read on your way to the grocery store. Make sure you know what people in the industry are talking about and doing. This is essential. You will almost never reinvent the wheel, so be sure that you consume knowledge like there is no tomorrow. Even if you are still going to invent something better than the wheel, knowing all the other wheels in the business is mandatory.

Another step on your journey is finding a designer that you like and take a look at their portfolio. Follow their social media accounts and try to learn a lot from their approach and feedback. If you find one said designer and have the opportunity of working together or becoming friends, be sure to pick their brain about any issues you encounter. It’s really life saving. And great for human interaction (don’t just sit there in a dark corner at your local Starbucks browsing Pinterest).

Ok, but what about the actual work? How do you start doing stuff?

The best way to keep yourself inspired and pumped is to start with fake projects. Either do a redesign of your favorite website or think about a cool mobile app for sending flowers abroad. You can pick the brief. It’s really nice for practice both your UX and UI skills.

If you don’t want to delve into the aspect of visual design, then just do the user flows and wireframes for a project. Pick a task, like editing profile settings, and see how you can implement that as quickly and as efficiently as possible in a mobile app. Then simplify. When you’re done, cut it in half and see if that is what you would find usable in a product.

Don’t forget to enroll in a few classes (be they on-line or in person). There’s a smorgasbord of options for you to choose from, from free basic & intro classes to more expensive courses & programs. Find out what works best with your schedule and, of course, your budget. Classes are a great place for you to try your skills because they provide you with multiple projects to work on.

I, myself, found one such program at NYU which turned out to be very useful. It really opened my eyes to new possibilities for my career. Not to mention that it introduced me to a great group of smart, eager, like-minded professionals, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working long after our last day in class.

I guess the key takeaway from all of this is to start somewhere. You can start learning Sketch or Photoshop, you can enroll in an online course or just start by drawing some ideas on a piece of paper, the thing is to not be afraid to make mistakes, or as Bob Ross famously put it: “Just happy little accidents.”

Good luck!

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