Beginner’s UX journey: Kickstarting the learning process and taking action ASAP

Since I decided to move to UX after doing almost 10 years of web development, I haven’t been happier. Here’s some of the lessons I learned while starting on this new path. I hope they will help other beginners find their way into the field.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Disclaimer: I’ve tested my approach on multiple occasions and it proved to be working well so far. It’s something quite personal and it may therefore not work for you, but you still may want to give it a try.

Phase 1: Gaining overview of the entire process

My approach consists of three phases. When I begin learning something, I usually start by reading a lot about the subject. Medium is a great source of information about UX, so you may want to stay here a bit longer.

Here are some tips about making this work better and not become a random reading binge:

  • Try to find out how the process looks in entirety. Do this as fast as possible, because this will give you a piece of ground on which you can then expand your knowledge and drill into the details.
  • Make notes in bullet points. I use Bear app for Mac to do this. I tested multiple apps in the past and Bear seems to be the best one for my needs. I don’t use pen and paper notes a lot though, as I find it difficult to change and update them constantly.
  • Use multiple levels of indentation. This will allow you to review your notes and add more details to each piece of knowledge as you learn. I find it really useful to ask questions and answer them below, while increasing the indentation level by one. My notes typically look like steps and often reach 8 levels of indentation. This also helps with the habit of noting and forgetting because you stay in one note for a long time and update/iterate/rework it constantly. Iteration will become a second nature for you soon as you dip deeper into UX.
  • Notice the gaps in your notes and fill them. You will quickly run into things that aren’t clear to you. How do I actually create useful personas? How do I conduct good interviews and what kinds of data do I need to collect really? Once you get the overview, go step by step and fill all the gaps with additional research.
  • You can apply a common pattern of information layout to every step. I decided to ask myself the following questions: What is the input I get here? What is the output of this step? What are the deliverables? Which tools do I use here? What kind of knowledge is useful here? And many more. I then drill down the details, search for and test different tools, etc.

Phase 2: Starting your first project

It’s crucial for you to start creating and practicing what you have learned as soon as possible. The best part is that you can choose anything you feel interests you. You won’t always have that choice when you find a UX job, though.

Here are some tips on making this part the best experience possible:

  • Don’t try to be perfect. You are learning, so nobody expects you to know everything from the go. And there’s a lot of knowledge to learn, I promise. But that will come with time. Give it a try.
  • Be aware of possible bias you may introduce. Since you will most probably choose a topic that you know already and are passionate about, you may assume some things about the topic because you have your own knowledge and experience in that field. Please read my article on reversing assumptions to find more about this and how to avoid it.
  • Assume you will work in a team, even though you are working by yourself. This means a lot of meetings and presentations. Try to imagine yourself in this situation and prepare for this. It’s possible that in the future, during each step of the process you will present your work and findings at least once or more times. Practice presentation skills.

Phase 3: Increasing output

The last phase of my introduction to any new field includes a prominent increase in output.

In case of UX, this will be both deliverables and user tests, surveys and interviews.

I will focus on tightening my workflow and learning as much as possible from iterating, making mistakes, noticing new things and testing various tools and methods.

I’ve written about this yesterday actually. It’s so important that I would like to be asked about this during job interview in the future.

In this phase I put my errots into working faster, learning faster, switching tasks and most importantly: shipping. The goal here is to make everything become second nature and for me to be able to deliver good quality work consistently.

Hope my tips will help beginners to get on track in UX quickly. There’s a lot of effort that you will have to put to achieve all this, but it’s all well worth the sweat. Please mind not to get too attached to outcome during this initial stage. It’s more important to be consistent than perfect or awesome, especially in the beginning.