Blog

I'm looking for:

Getting Started in UX Design

The job market for UX (user experience) design professionals has grown tremendously in the past decade. “Boot camps” and other educational opportunities to help people train and enter this field have also proliferated. But what exactly is UX, and is it right for you? And if you are interested, what’s the best way to get into the profession?

UX vs. UI Design

Because the field has grown so quickly, there’s some confusion over who does what. For instance, UX and UI, both essential to the digital product design process, involve very different work. UX focuses on the end-user’s interaction with the company or brand, and its services and products, both digital and physical. UX designers want to understand what drives and influences human behavior in this interaction. They want to uncover the pain points that must be resolved and the overall journey of the customer.

UI, or user interface design, complements UX. UI designers are “behind the scenes,” creating the look and feel, and interactivity of a digital product. Their focus is on the aesthetic experience, how the user interacts, for instance, via their smartphone or tablet, or the touch screen at a kiosk.

The Multiple Facets of UX Design

In this article, we’ll focus on UX design. UX encompasses multiple skills and different roles. That’s part of what makes it so exciting. Consider your personality. Are you creative and enjoy thinking outside the box? Or do you prefer logic and creating structure? Think about yourself as you read these three roles within UX design.

  • Research and strategy. Are you drawn to uncovering what drives the customer? This UX role involves doing quantitative and qualitative research, collecting data that will inform the product design, like what customers want or what the competition is offering. You might interview people and conduct focus groups, for example. Or do research into how users complete tasks as they interact with the product. It involves intuitive, analytical and empathic skills. This role is also strategic because it draws the big picture that drives the whole product design process. 
  • Wireframing and prototyping. The next step in the UX design process is to create a prototype based on what the user research uncovers. This might be a mockup of the web pages, internal platforms, apps, data visualizations and dashboards, or even just the overall direction of the product. This prototype – also called a wireframe – enables UX designers to test the product and get user feedback. You can see too how someone with a logical frame of mind would enjoy this aspect of UX.
  • Development and execution. The last phase of UX design involves building the information architecture (IA) and working closely with the UI team to implement the product design. This is followed by validation: doing testing with in-house staff, stakeholders and end-users and analyzing the results. Overall, the process is iterative, looping back to earlier phases as analytics point to weak spots.

Formal Education and Practical Experience

Education in UX design is available from many different sources both online and in-person including colleges, universities and trade schools who often offer boot camps and certificate programs. If you’re not sure about committing to a program, attend as many free webinars as you can to learn more about the field.

In addition to formal training, employers want to see real work so it’s crucial to get practical experience and build your own portfolio. You can accomplish this via a variety of means:

  • Freelance projects. Contract or gig work is a great way to learn and build your body of work. It can give you exposure to different industries and companies, which can help you refine your search when looking for full-time positions. This could also include pro-bono work. Anything that creates work that you can show to a hiring company.
  • Internships. Formal internships can give you similar experience but with more structure and forethought. Also, companies that have internships often use them to “test” a potential employee.
  • Apprenticeships. Some employers go a step beyond internships. Knowing that UX design professionals are in demand they look for ways to teach and retain inexperienced talent. An apprenticeship is paid, with apprentices doing real work alongside seasoned professionals. It helps build experience and relationships. 
  • School projects. Don’t forget the great projects you did while in school! In fact, choose your assignments carefully, thinking about how they might result in finished work you can show to a potential employer. 

Connections

Networking is another great avenue to learning more about UX. There are over 15 networking and professional communities on LinkedIn, Slack, Facebook and Reddit to help you meet others in the field. Research the kind of work you’d like to do by connecting with current UX professionals. Ask if you can do a quick informational interview over Zoom to find out what they like about their work and how they got to where they are today. Most people are happy to help someone else along in their journey. And, who knows? Their company might have an internship or apprenticeship program, or an entry level job opening. 

Employers want to see what you can do. Even if you think you aren’t the best qualified for the position, go for the interview any way. We had a candidate, for example, that had much less experience than the hiring company requested for an open UX research position. But in the interview, she did a live UX activity with them where she produced real work. The candidate demonstrated such a unique thought process, with so much more creativity than more experienced jobseekers, that she was offered the job.  

UX design is a growing profession that offers interesting work that is much in demand. Luckily, there are many resources available for learning about the field from formal education to free webinars to networking with current UX designers. If you are intuitive and empathetic, curious and creative, and enjoy problem-solving, consider UX design for your next career move.

Photo Credit: Canva

| |