It’s the big question, and it is, of course, daunting to start out afresh in any field, especially one like UX!
It’s ever-changing, with many tools and ways of working to learn and adapt to, all with their own subtle differences. Although everyone’s journey will, of course, have different twists and turns, the aim of this article is to clear some of the blockages in your path to UX success, similar to how you will go on to map out a smooth pathway for the user as they journey through the interface you develop…
If you’ve gone ahead and clicked on this article then it’s probably safe to assume you’ve already decided you would like a career in User Experience Design or UX. You’ve left-swiped through the many options, from Graphic Design to UI and decided UX is the best match for you, an instant right-swipe – you’re technical yet creative, user-focused, and willing to test and iterate to ensure the smoothest possible course for the user – It’s a match!
Well done, choosing your career path is already one big hurdle you’ve already leapt over! So, now please read on for some of the essential steps you should take to kick off your career in UX Design:
1) Read, read and read – soak up that good ol’ knowledge.
Reading – it’s an obvious one, simple, yet very effective. Let’s assume for a moment you have very little or no experience in UX design – reading work from a variety of authors allows for differing perspectives, and it’s an easy way to get a general, well-rounded view of what UX is all about. Also, a massive plus of reading is that it’s practically free, there are so many great second-hand options out there and a lot can be read online. I’ve compiled a list of the absolute holy grails to get you started:
Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, by Steve Krug, (2013) This book is a classic that many would recommend, but it really is as good as everyone says! Originally released in 2000, this book was revised in 2005 and 2013 and is still relevant today. This book with its very real name is a great one for fleshing out the fundamental principals of UX.
Smashing UX Design: Foundations for Designing Online User Experiences, by James Chudley and Jesmond Allen (2012) After Krugg, this would be the best next step. This one provides an overview of the different tools and techniques used in UX, which serves as a brilliant reference point, one that you can leave in your bag and know that you will keep on picking up again and again.
The Design of Everyday Things, Don Normon (2013) Normon’s book is a must-read that can be enjoyed by anyone, from the average consumer to somebody interested in looking into the very depths of how products and systems are made. It takes a deep dive into the psychology of why some designs work and some don’t, and establishes the rules to make sure yours has that winning ticket.
But, If books really aren’t your thing – don’t fear! There is a wealth of blogs online, granting quick access to quality content. The ones I feature here also have the added bonus of having a weekly newsletter you can sign-up to:
2) Take a course – learn the hard stuff, from the experts.
Although I would love to say you can do it all yourself, taking a course is a great way to get both a practical and theoretical understanding of UX. A course will give you the hard knowledge that you’ll need ranging from specific tools and resources to key approaches and methods, you’ll be able to try these out in a controlled environment and then receive honest feedback from the very best in the industry. Without a doubt investing in a course early on will help you to excel quicker in the long run, and you’ll meet like-minded people on a similar journey to you. There are several reasonably priced courses around that don’t take up too much time, find out more about the Beginner Course at the UX Academy, London on this link.
3) Experience, experience, experience.
Practice, practice, practice, it does make perfect – as they say! At the start, the most important thing to do is to take as many opportunities as possible and keep practising your work. Although this can be tiring, it can also be fun as you take on different projects and then work out which ones you enjoy the most. At this point, it may be necessary to take on low-paid work or even the dreaded free gig, just so that you can begin to flesh out your portfolio and get feedback.
At this stage, I would also really encourage you to expand your network. An easy way to do this is to join one of the UX communities out there, such as https://mobileuxlondon.com. Here you can find networking events, UX conferences and meetups, or simply talk to people in the same situation and even find a mentor – someone that has been in the field for a while and can help you out with any questions and give advice.
Once you have a few examples of your amazing work in the bag, you will have much more confidence to approach the kind of companies and projects you want to work for.
And then the fun really begins…