User Experience Design (or UX Design) is very popular. Many people want to be UX Designers and everybody wants their products to have a great user experience – which means the field is growing rapidly in many ways. To top it all off, the thinking of what makes great and successful UX Design continues to evolve as technology and our interactions with the world around us does the same.
With the struggle to clearly define the term ‘UX Design’ comes the additional struggle of determining how to best to educate and bring along the next wave of designers. There are a multitude of educational options available, all with their respective pros and cons. You can get a degree in Human-Computer Interaction from various colleges and universities. You can take courses of varying lengths at schools like General Assembly or Center Centre. There are also shorter online ‘teach yourself’ options like Springboard, Udemy or even Lynda.com if you’re trying to take on the career change challenge in your free time. Some hiring managers will prefer one method over the other but at the end of the day, you’re the one putting in the time and money so you need to do what works best for you.
I believe that even before you make a decision regarding your choice of education, there are things you can be doing to set yourself up for success. As someone who has recently made the transition in to the field of UX Design, I would like to offer some general advice and guidance to others looking to make the same change. Below are some key points that I believe helped me make the transition while keeping ‘Imposter Syndrome‘ as far away as possible.
1) TAKE IT ALL IN.
Depending upon what field you’re coming from, you’ve either got a lot of catching up to do or a really decent amount of catching up to do. Before going all in on pursuing a UX career, I spent lots of time watching presentations and reading books to help clarify my understanding of what UX was. That way, when I did commit to a choice of school, I was able to focus on the details and not feel like I was drowning in a sea of new terminology and ideology.
Adaptive Path hosts a conference in San Francisco every year called UX Week that is filled with great speakers. The best part is, they record them all and post them here so that everyone can watch them. One of my favorite talks from the 2016 edition was from Jamie Levy called ‘What the Hell is UX Strategy?!’.
Stuck in traffic or just want to give your eyes some much needed rest? Listen to great podcasts like UX Podcast, The UX Blog, UX Pod or pick one off this list of 16 from UserTesting.com. And like I have said before, you can also use Twitter to reach out to other designers, authors, podcasters, etc.
2) BE HUMBLE, OPEN AND CONFIDENT.
UX Design is an expansive and multifaceted field based on empathy and collaboration. The infinite amount of human interaction that this work requires could be seen as a stumbling block for people accustomed to a more isolated working situation, but here are some ways to navigate it all.
When interviewing people as part of your research, observing individuals testing your prototypes or dealing with team members and stakeholders – humility is key. A Wilding once said “You know nothing” and she was spot on. Assumptions and arrogance are lethal to the UX process! Being able to get out of your own head and in to the shoes of the people you’re designing for is directly tied to how successful your designs will be.
On a related note – being open to new ideas, feedback and criticism and outright failure is essential to finding the right solutions and keeping your team together to design another day. Designers who are unable to truly listen to users or who become too attached to their precious and flawless ideas, end up not designing for very long.
Lastly, be confident! If you’re putting in the work, feel good about it! Sure, there is always going to be someone with more knowledge or more experience but you’re still a valid person with thoughts and feelings. The truly beautiful thing about this field is that everyone is still learning and growing as a designer. The UX design community is so supportive that anyone who is humble and open will be met with open arms and all the help they could ever need.
3) TALK IT OUT.
I was super excited to make the leap in to UX Design. I thought that it was all of the things that I loved about the work that I had done in the past but in one convenient place. I had found my calling. It wasn’t until my first day of class that I realized “oh shit, I have to get up and speak about my work!” I had watched presentations at conferences and gone to events with speakers but that wasn’t representative of the everyday gig of a UX designer, right? WRONG.
Being able to talk about the work that you’ve done and presenting it to clients is everything. Being able to talk to clients about what you do, what you can offer them and why they need to hire you is literally what stands between you and paying your bills. I am a fairly introverted person, I don’t like networking and public speaking has never been a desire of mine. If you’re like me, then this part of the equation is also going to take some work.
My advice to you is to find your local UX MeetUp(s) and talk to the people around you. Ask questions or talk about that blog post you just read. Some of the biggest advancements in my personal development came from Peer Review themed MeetUps (which I can not recommend enough if you have access to them). Whether it was being unexpectedly called on first to present in-progress work or even just asking questions / offering feedback from my seat in the audience, it all played a huge role in helping me find my voice.
There is no blueprint for becoming a UX Designer but these are a few things that you can do that will set you up for success. Embrace whatever your previous experiences are, no matter how irrelevant that may seem, they will help make you a designer with a new/unique perspective and those are needed on every team. Ask a million questions and never stop learning. Remember: You’ll be fine, we’re all here to help.