Whether you’re making the leap into a career change, or leveling up your current skill set to land that next promotion, you might be wondering if an online coding bootcamp is right for you. The good news is that General Assembly offers a range of beginner-friendly class formats (from full-time immersives to flexible, part-time schedules), and we have a course that will fit your specific career path and interests.Continue reading
UX & Design Category Archives - General Assembly Blog
Top 5 Industries Hiring UX Designers: Where to Find Your Next Career Opportunity
There are two narratives dominating hiring right now. The first (and much louder) narrative is that tech workers are being laid off right and left. From the headlines, it’s easy to assume that new designers can’t compete for the few UX design jobs that exist.
The quieter discourse is that the labor market is stable, and growing at a healthy (albeit slower) pace. Let’s look at what the evidence says.
- Unemployment in professional and business services stands at 3.5% in the U.S., 22% lower than in January 2022
- Companies in the U.S. added 517,000 nonfarm jobs in January 2023
- More B2B SaaS companies increased their headcount than decreased it between November 2022 and February 2023
If you’re looking for entry-level UX designer jobs, there are lots of reasons for optimism. However, look beyond tech and software companies to deepen your pool of potential employers. Companies in diverse industries are hiring UX designers and you might miss out on your dream job if you only look at tech startups.Continue reading
UX, Visual, or Product: Which Type of Design Is Right for You?
Great design is the cornerstone of every company’s marketing and sales strategies. The average person spends 417 minutes online. That’s a whopping six hours and 57 minutes per day, consuming online content day in and day out. Companies need to build visually appealing and intuitive websites and a great-looking product or service.
With these requirements, the demand for UX, Visual, and Product designers is high. With companies like Forbes and Medium naming these creative tech careers as one of the most in-demand tech jobs in 2022 and 2023.
With that in mind, this article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of UX, Visual, and Product Design, understanding the main differences between each to help you determine which design type is the best choice.Continue reading
Looking for a new career? Here are the 3 most promising tech jobs of 2023
The tech industry experienced mass layoffs and budget cuts in 2022 that have many tech workers who were once flying high worried about job security. Despite the gloomy news, however, the labor market for tech talent continues to be strong. While big tech firms are making headlines for drastic cuts, tech talent remains in high demand across other industries.
For example, industries like finance, healthcare, government and automotive, all of which have yet to fully digitally transform, are hiring tech talent. The City of San Francisco—a verifiable tech hub that should, in theory, have unlimited access to tech talent—recently shared that its vacancy rate for IT workers is 21%.
For workers willing to look beyond big tech, well paid opportunities continue to abound. At General Assembly, we help people break into a career in tech so they can increase their wages and land a job with great benefits and working conditions—ultimately, improving their quality of life.
Despite today’s economic landscape, we still believe this is a path to prosperity and that opportunities abound for tech workers. In fact, not having a technical skill set could leave you less secure in your career going forward as everything goes digital.Continue reading
UX Fundamentals: 4 Key Elements of The UX Design Process
When you use a product such as an app or a website, you judge that experience by logic and emotion—how it made you feel.
The functionality and the aesthetics have the potential to make you frustrated or happy. It’s not enough for a product to look good—it must also solve a problem or provide a user with actual value.
User experience design, or “UX design,” is a method of thinking and a design technique for building products and solutions. When designing a product’s functions and interface, UX design considers the end user’s needs, goals, frustrations, and motivations.
Why learn UX design?
- LinkedIn named UX Design one of the top 5 hard skills companies need in 2020
- Design-centered companies are more profitable. A study by the Demand Management Institute found that design-centered companies like Apple, Intuit, and Disney outperform the S&P 500 Index by 211%
- Glassdoor named UX Design in its Top 50 Best Jobs in 2022, ranked #11 in the UK and #24 in the US
Current UX designers, or anyone looking to break into a UX design career, need the knowledge and fundamental skills to design a great product.Continue reading
What is UX Design?
“UX” has become a buzzword that UX designers are often asked to define. The discipline of user experience is broad and reaches across many other design disciplines so its meaning can seem elusive. And for UX designers, it can be hard to explain in a few words.
UX Design Focuses on the User
User experience design focuses on designing for how a user interacts with an organization, whether through its services, products, website, or more. This kind of design centers on the user — their needs, goals, frustrations, and motivations.
Who is the user? A person! What type of person? That depends.
Great UX design seeks to understand the person who will be using the product, website, or service. This is really important for a specific reason: Rather than expecting a person to adapt to the specifications laid out in a website, app, or service, a UX designer considers the needs of the person they are designing for, and creates an intuitive interface that adapts to the user.
UX design is human-centered. This type of design is a mindset. It keeps the user at the center of what we do so that the user’s experience can be the best possible.
What’s great about this approach is that users who have a positive experience when interacting with a company or organization are more likely to reward that organization through additional visits, sales, or referrals. A positive user experience can be an economic driver, benefiting everyone.
UX Design’s Origins
We can see some principles of UX design that reach as far back as 4000 BC. Feng Shui is the Chinese philosophy of arranging a physical space to optimize the flow of energy. Much like a UX designer might design an app interface to be intuitive and easy to use, feng shui experts arrange the physical space of a room in the same manner.
We can see other principles of UX design throughout history. When computers entered the scene, human-computer interaction and usability became important disciplines to help people have better experiences.
It wasn’t until the 1990s when Don Norman, a cognitive scientist working at Apple, named this field “UX design.” Norman, who authored The Design of Everyday Things, felt that earlier disciplines of usability and human-computer interaction were too narrow. He wanted a term to describe a role that would encompass a broader range of skills to design human interactions.
Multiple studies from organizations such as McKinsey & Company, the UK Design Council, and others, have found that companies that prioritize design see a financial benefit. This is partly why so many people have taken an interest in UX.
Since user experience design is broad and encompasses several different disciplines, it’s understandable why so many people have questions about what UX design includes and how it relates to graphic design, visual design, product design, user interface design, or marketing.
Common UX Design Myths
Unfortunately, misunderstandings about user experience design have led to assumptions and confusion. You’re likely to run into an employer who believes they understand UX design, but in reality, they only know about one part in reality. Or, you might have a client that says, “I just need some UX.”
It’s the UX designer’s job to figure out how to educate and inform those around us so we can eliminate these misconceptions.
Myth #1: UX is the same as UI design.
This is the most common misconception I run into. Organizations still think of UX as being focused on the user interface design of a website. They don’t always understand that the UI can improve with solid user research, information architecture, and user testing.
User interface design is a small piece of the overall UX puzzle. Before a UX professional even begins to design the interface, they should have solid research and an understanding of what problem they are trying to solve. Designing a user interface before researching user needs can lead to assumptions that confuse or frustrate your users.
Myth #2: UX is just for digital products.
User experience has been embraced in the digital world, but it’s not just for websites and apps. The foundations of user experience design can be applied across a broad range of industries and be useful for a web designer in developing services and physical products.
Myth #3: UX is just usability.
Usability is an essential component of UX design; it uncovers flaws and defects in the product or service. However, it’s just one part of UX design’s seven major sub-disciplines:
A UX designer spends time empathizing with users through interviews and observational research.
Quality content is a core component of a successful design. Designers must audit and create clear content that people find useful and helpful.
Content must be organized so that it’s understandable, findable, and meaningful. Information architecture helps users understand their location within a design and what to expect. It informs many parts of the UX design, including the content, interface, and interactions.
By designing for accessibility, a UX designer ensures that all users can access and interact with a service or system regardless of their personal abilities. Accessibility is more than just checking for color contrast. It’s about designing to accommodate a wide range of people.
Nielsen Norman Group defines usability as “a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use.” It also refers to using testing to improve the user’s experience as they interact with your product or service.
Users are more likely to have a positive experience with a design that they enjoy using; designs that are aesthetically pleasing and consistent. UX designers often also need to ensure that the interfaces they design are beautiful and visually clear.
UX designers who work on a product or system must also consider how that system behaves. Interaction design considers how the system behaves when the user interacts with it to understand what to do.
As you can see, good UX design covers more than usability alone. Depending on the specific role or organization, UX designers may need to have other skills as well.
UX Design Process
A UX designer often manages all of these sub-disciplines as part of the total UX design process. This process is not linear. In fact, it can feel quite messy. It typically looks very similar to a design thinking approach and has five key phases:
In this phase, a UX strategist seeks to understand the people they are designing for. By developing empathy with the user base, the design team can learn about frustrations and motivations that will help them create better solutions later on.
UX designers use these tools as part of the empathy phase:
- User Interviews
- Stakeholder Interviews
- Empathy Maps
- Proto Personas
During the definition phase, the design team figures out the problem they are trying to solve. Armed with a solid understanding of the user, the design team creates insights from that data to address their core needs. The design team should try to spend as much time as possible in this phase, because it’s a key step before ideation begins.
UX designers use these tools as part of the definition phase:
- Affinity Diagram
- Point-of-View Statements
- User Scenarios
- Customer Journey Maps
- User Personas
- Heuristic Evaluations
- Competitive Analysis
- Problem Definition
Once the problem has been identified, the UX design team can start developing ideas to solve that problem. Ideation is all about generating lots of ideas. It’s important to start by thinking of all the ideas you can before narrowing them down to those that are feasible.
UX designers use these tools as part of the ideation phase:
- Mind Mapping
- User Flow Diagrams
The UX design team then decides which of the ideas generated in the previous step to prototype. Prototyping allows the team to communicate the idea, advocate for ideas, and test feasibility. A prototype can be simple or complex. It should be created rapidly so that the idea can be tested.
UX designers use these tools as part of the prototyping phase:
- Low-Fidelity Prototypes
- High-Fidelity Prototypes
- Site Maps
- Interactive Prototypes
In the testing phase, a UX design team is trying to find out whether their prototype works or not. This is a time for evaluation, and a time to go back to the users to see how the prototype meets their needs.
UX designers use these tools as part of the testing phase:
- Usability Testing
- Testing Recommendations & Report
Because this approach is non-linear, sometimes a UX designer will loop back and forth between phases. A UX designer doesn’t always use every tool within all of the phases, but they’ll typically use at least one or two.
What does a UX designer do every day?
A UX designer’s job will vary depending on the role or company. Some companies look for generalists who have experience across all or most of the sub-disciplines described above. Other roles will be more specialized. A UX designer may focus on research or just on prototyping if needed, depending on the position.
Typically, a UX designer works with a team. Sometimes the team will have other UX designers, a product manager, and developers. This team may be responsible for designing products used by customers or internally within the company. Sometimes a designer will work on a single project for months at a time, or they might juggle multiple projects, especially if they work for an agency.
A UX designer is responsible for creating the deliverables of the phase they are working on, keeping their work on time according to the project schedule, and presenting their work. They may need to present to the rest of the design team, internal stakeholders, or clients.
Deliverables created for these audiences can vary. According to a 2015 article from Nielsen Norman Group, UX designers were most likely to create static wireframes and interactive prototypes, followed by flow charts, site maps, and usability reports. When presenting work, interactive prototypes were most common. These deliverables are the most accurate representation of the final product.
In addition to creating wireframes and prototypes, a UX designer may:
- Plan user research
- Identify the target audience
- Interview and survey users
- Analyze qualitative and quantitative user research
- Create a content inventory
- Design a style guide or add to a design library
- Conduct usability testing
- Analyze usability testing results
UX design is like an umbrella that covers multiple areas, and a UX designer is expected to be familiar with all areas. Because UX design is so broad, and because the term itself has become popular relatively recently, it’s often misunderstood.
At its foundation, good UX design is about putting the user first. By empathizing with the user, a UX designer can create products and services that anticipate and meet users’ needs. The UX process isn’t linear; great UX design is an iterative process that continues to loop back with the user to test and improve the design team’s ideas.
8 Best UX Design Portfolio Examples
The UX portfolio website has superseded the business card as a UX designer’s most essential professional networking tool. Especially these days, as the UX design industry pivots abruptly to a predominantly remote profession, UX designers communicate their professional identities virtually through their online presence to navigate the constricted job market successfully.
In my middling work experience as a UX designer over the years, I’ve been involved in countless UX designer portfolio reviews on both sides of the hiring process. Having personally benefited from industry mentorship in my own career, I’m excited to share what inside intelligence I can back with the design community, to encourage emerging UX designers to represent themselves more effectively to hiring managers and potential clients.
As with any other good user experience, a UX portfolio website should consider the user’s mindset during a visit. Bear in mind, companies typically automate their hiring processes using HR software, with workflows designed to evaluate as many qualified applicants as quickly as possible. Conciseness is merciful to reviewers digging through a pile of applications. The reviewer expects immediate access to all the information they need within the online portfolio to accomplish their evaluation. Within twenty seconds, the UX recruiter should understand your pitch, get a sense for your work, and have your contact information at their fingertips, ready to take the next step in their hiring workflow.
For full disclosure, I’ve pulled all of these examples from my own personal orbit, and included friends and colleagues who I respect and want to uplift. Let’s explore my thought process when looking at how each designer’s site uniquely succeeds and looking for patterns to model a great UX design portfolio.
1. Total class: Liya Xu
Liya Xu is an accomplished UX designer and Amazon alum, now returning to graduate school to study design management at Pratt. She leverages her technical know-how combined with her visual sensibility to craft excellent applications. Really, check out her work.
This online portfolio example has the character of a fashion spread, with well-selected attributes and succinctly written content. She allows the viewer plenty of breathing room in the empty space of the layout, to process the impact of her UX portfolio content. The case studies fall in reverse chronological order, most recent and impressive work at the top. A visitor gains immediate access to an example of work “above the fold,” peeking up from the bottom of the home screen. The experience conveys an overall modern, professional effect.
2. Authenticity: Seka Sekanwagi
Seka Sekanwagi works at Cash App as a UX researcher and has a well-rounded background in product design, interaction design, UX, and UI. His degree is actually in industrial design, crafting objects and tools, and bringing that same human-centered mindset to his design work. A genuine empathetic interest in other people drives his user research, questioning the meaning behind core user needs and translating them into tangible quality improvements.
The imagery and copywriting of Seka’s design portfolio establish his credibility while expressing his individuality. Selectively-edited messaging demonstrates the level of thoughtfulness that goes into his work output. He formats his work qualifications in simple typesetting, reducing the cognitive load on the visitor, and inviting them to review his qualifications at their leisure.
3. Perfect Pitch: Roochita Chachra
Roochita Chachra is an Austin-based UX designer and recent General Assembly immersive graduate who is highly active in the local creative community. Roochita enters UX design from the adjacent worlds of graphic design and digital marketing and is transitioning her career focus to allow her more opportunities to conduct user research, prototype, and problem-solve.
Whenever repositioning for a new avenue of design work, it takes self-restraint to hide old projects and work samples that don’t reflect your updated professional image. A UX design portfolio needs to represent the type of work you’re looking for, not just what you’ve done. Roochita focuses hers on the UX design process, and supports it with plenty of explanations and artifacts to show the output.
4. Pure Enthusiasm: Ljupcho Sulev
Ljupcho Sulev approaches his UX projects with a passion and a positive attitude. Originally from Macedonia, he works for SoftServe out of Sofia, Bulgaria. I had the opportunity to collaborate with Ljupcho on a project, conducting user interviews and analyzing research side-by-side for weeks. His sunny disposition brightens the spirits of his team members and elevates the work.
Ljupcho’s profile is sparse and direct. He highlights his career achievements by pairing photography with bold infographics, letting his enthusiasm pop off the screen. The minimal digital portfolio design aesthetic allows the content to take priority over the visuals.
5. Scannability: Aimen Awan
Aimen Awan is a UX designer with a background in software engineering and information experience design. Aimen optimizes her case studies for the viewer to scan quickly, with summaries at the top denoting her role and responsibilities on the project. Scrolling down the page, project artifacts illustrate the design process, increasing the fidelity successively up to the final product.
When developing a UX portfolio for a job search, take a lean approach like Aimen — gather feedback and iterate on your design. We designers are all susceptible to over-designing our work, nitpicking well past diminishing returns.
The most useful digital portfolio feedback comes from submitting actual job applications and gauging the response, so the earlier you have something ready to share, the better. Think of it as a user test — submitting a batch of applications and fishing for feedback from hiring leads or a potential client. Every response is a valuable piece of data and should help you refine your messaging and presentation.
6. Approachability: Ke Wang
Ke Wang writes his UX portfolio with a tone of casual levity (with bonus points for rhyming) while his About section reads like a social media status update. He pulls it off because his case studies scroll through examples of his overwhelming talent and work.
Website design covers some crucially important goals which require some entirely human skills. Relating to the website visitor in an approachable way is the hallmark of intuitive user experience and a good heuristic of success.
7. Clear Storytelling: Phill Abraham
Phill Abraham is a graduate of General Assembly’s User Experience Design Immersive course. Like many other UX designers, Phill arrived through a circuitous career path, with a background in psychology and experience in documentary film. He is actively involved in the local design scene, building out his book of projects.
Each case study shapes a compelling narrative of Phill’s design process. A project from his experience as a documentary filmmaker bolsters his UX portfolio and speaks to his capability to perform as a professional. Documentary is, after all, a quintessential form of user research. Phill applies his storytelling sensibility in presenting the case studies, outlining his thorough process step-by-step. As the website visitor scrolls down the page, they experience a neat narrative arch outlining the scenario, the design process, and the final product.
8. The Resume Homepage: Samantha Li
Samantha is a design manager at Capital One and an all-around UX champion. An active organizer within the design community, she mentors students and early-career UX designers working to break into the industry. Her own UX portfolio website outlines her career journey in the form of an extended resume and is as dense as a novel. An evaluator doesn’t even have to click to find all of the relevant information.
The resume homepage is a great design pattern for more established professionals with a long list of accomplishments. As a best practice, scrutinize what you publish diligently. Password-protecting case studies helps avoid any disputes over showing sensitive client work, and you may need to censor any personal data that may appear in your photographs and artifacts.
Job hunting poses challenges even for design professionals with advanced experience. Candidates need to squeeze their credentials into a digestible size to communicate their entire work history to reviewers in a short window of attention. The importance of every element of the online UX design portfolio becomes amplified, and dialing in the nuances of messaging makes a difference in getting noticed. Emerging UX designers face an uphill challenge as they’re fleshing out their portfolio projects. UX professionals in the job market are judged by their list of accomplished projects, which is frustrating for early-career UX designers who may be struggling to get their foot in the door with shorter resumes. The only course of action is bootstrapping through some initial projects — side projects, student projects, volunteer work, and ultimately paid UX design jobs — to demonstrate applied skills. A great UX portfolio effectively communicates your ability and value to potential clients.
User Experience Jobs: 7 Options & How to Choose a UX Career You Love
If you have ever done a quick job search for “user experience design,” chances are you’ve seen a number of titles and descriptions that aren’t always as simple as “UX designer.”
User experience has a variety of specializations, and as a job seeker and practitioner, you should know the skills and applications that come with each. Understanding these differences will help you decide your UX career path and and help you find the appropriate job to fit your interests and skill set.
7 Must-Read UX Design Books
If you search on Amazon for books using the key phrase “UX design”, more than 1,000 titles will appear. That’s a lot of titles to wade through if you’re looking to read about user experience! One of the most difficult parts of making a list of the best UX books is that there are so many awesome ones out there. I could write a must-read list that goes on forever.
I chose the following UX titles either because they have played a significant role in the way I view my place as a UX designer or because they address foundational design topics that every UX designer should understand. I’m leaving out a fair number that have been published in all aspects of design, from usability and research to interaction design and how to present and speak to your design decisions. This reading list is intended for you to use as a starting point.
1. Badass: Making Users Awesome by Kathy Sierra
Kathy Sierra’s book is all about the strategy for creating successful products and services. Badass: Making Users Awesome looks at how to look at a product or service from the user’s perspective.
So instead of relying on marketing tactics that might be unethical, we can create products that lead users to champion them with their friends and family. A win for everyone!
The design and layout of the book is unlike that of most — it lays out the argument with a lot of visuals. And it’s an easy read. This has led to some negative reviews complaining that the book is just a PowerPoint PDF. Lay that aside, and the message is strong. It’s a great look at the point-of-view statement and how a well-written one can be influential in creating awesome products that users love.
When you read this book, it will start to make sense why some products do really well in the market and why others don’t. It will help show you how to shift your design strategy so that it can be successful too.
2. Just Enough Research by Erika Hall
Erika Hall’s book on UX research is a joyful and informative read you could probably finish in a single day.
This slim how-to manual, published by A Book Apart, walks the reader through the basics of user research, from talking to stakeholders in an organization through analysis and reporting. Hall’s writing style makes the topic — which can be dry in other books — fun and approachable.
She’s also realistic in her advice to readers. She recognizes the constraints in time and budget that all UX designers face in their day to day jobs, so she proposes how best to navigate these situations and what alternative methods to employ.
Just Enough Research’s current edition was updated with a new chapter on surveys and why designers must be very careful about using these often-abused metrics in their research.
Even if you aren’t a UX researcher, this book explains how you can implement research in your process and spot your own biases so you can design a better user experience.
3. The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
The Design of Everyday Things is a standard on most design-reading lists for a reason. This book was originally published in 1988 with the title “The Psychology of Everyday Things”. It was revised in 2013 with a major update to some of the examples to make it more relevant to today.
Norman’s book lays the landscape for usability in human-centered design. In it, Norman lays out how human psychology affects everyday actions, why it’s natural for humans to make mistakes, and how technology can help rather than cause errors. Norman also explains human-centered design and proposes principles for good design.
I listened to this book on Audible, and a PDF accompanied the audio book so I could view the examples, which are especially helpful in understanding affordances and signifiers.
Vox produced a great video about one of the examples in the book — how doors are designed well, and how they are designed badly. If you’ve ever struggled with figuring out a door, sink, stove, switches, or other interface — the problem isn’t you. It’s the design.
Norman’s classic book explains why bad design happens, what good design is, and the constraints designers face when designing.
4. Designing with the Mind in Mind by Jeff Johnson
Sometimes designers follow a set of rules for designing user interfaces without understanding why certain patterns and methods work. This book changes that.
Jeff Johnson’s Designing with the Mind in Mind lays out the perceptual and cognitive psychology that are the foundation for intuitive interfaces.
For example, how does human perception work? How is the eye structured and how do we read? What can we do as designers to ensure that people can see the information we design?
Johnson walks through an explanation of human vision, attention, memory, and decision-making for a deep-dive into why we perceive the way we perceive. After reading this book, UX designers will have a better idea of why we have design rules so they can make educated decisions about tradeoffs between budget, time, and competing design rules.
5. About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design 4th Edition by Alan Cooper, Robert Reiman, David Cronin, and Christopher Noessel
About Face completely changed the way I think about interaction design. Admittedly, I’ve only read sections of the book, due to its length. Still, it’s a reference when I have questions about how to approach interaction design and UI design.
This book is broken into three parts. It starts with introducing goal-directed design and how to approach digital projects. Then it moves through designing for behavior and form. Lastly, it looks at the differences in designing for desktop, mobile, and web applications.
My read of the book focused on designing for behavior, and my biggest “ah-ha” moment came when reading about optimizing for intermediate users. Much of the struggle designers have is in how to manage the different needs between beginners and experts. This chapter explains that we should focus on intermediates. We should guide beginning users to become intermediates as soon as possible, and aim to provide opportunities for advanced users to use our products without holding them back.
This book includes a number of other useful concepts to consider when designing user interfaces. At 659 pages, it might be a little too much to read in one sitting, but it should be in the designer library.
6. Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug
Steve Krug’s classic book introduced me to usability and usability testing, and launched me into my current career as a UX designer. Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability is now in its third edition.
It’s short, easy to read, and a great manual for designers just getting started in usability testing. Krug wrote it based on his 30 years as a usability consultant for organizations including Apple, NPR, and the International Monetary Fund. Even if you already understand why you should do usability testing, chances are you work with people who don’t understand. This book is a great gift for those people. It explains why you should test, how to keep it simple, and how to keep it from being a budget suck. The newest edition has a new chapter about usability for mobile websites and apps, and all of the examples are updated.
If you want to take it a step further, consider Krug’s second book, Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems. This book explains everything you need to know to get started with usability testing with little or no cost. It includes how to recruit, how to conduct a test session, and how to involve your team.
7. Change by Design by Tim Brown
IDEO CEO Tim Brown explains design thinking and how it should be used at every level of a business. This isn’t a manual for designers. It’s geared towards people outside of the industry, but I included it on this list because of the examples.
IDEO is a well-known human-centered design firm, and the examples Brown provides are straight from IDEO’s project list. While sometimes it feels more like a sales pitch, the case studies are interesting examples of how design thinking is applied.
UX designers who read this book can look at design thinking from a perspective outside the industry and use the examples to explain how design thinking can be used in every industry and in every discipline — it’s not just for designers.
I couldn’t include all of my favorite user experience books on this list. There are just too many amazing titles, and I already have about three times as many on my “to-read” list. These must-read UX design books are a great place to get started if you’re looking for some summer reading to help you advance your design career.
5 Tips for Starting a Career in UX Design
Are you curious about how to get into UX design? With so many jargon-filled UX designer job descriptions, chatter about software tools, and contrasting perspectives on the future of UX, it can be challenging knowing where to start your career path in UX design.
It may be helpful to understand that UX design is a vast field with many opportunities and ultimately benefits from your contributions. In the following article, we’ll help you navigate some of these uncertainties so that you can find your voice amid an ocean of options.
Identify Your Passion
Due to the scale and complexity of what it takes to create successful products and services, becoming a successful UX designer requires perspectives from all walks of life. From research to development to management, UX design is a multifaceted field.
Because of this, it’s important to start with you and your passions versus responding to what’s outlined in a job description. It’s critical to self-reflect and ask yourself: What inspires me most? What are my strengths? Where would I like to grow?
Another reason you want to start with your passion is that achieving your goal is going to require sustained energy. For example, not everything you try is going to work as you expect. Nor are you going to get everything “right” the first time. This means you need to stay the course as you learn and that drive comes from within you, not from the outside.
For example, I started in Industrial Design because I had experience making furniture and was passionate about design. I followed popular designers for the time such as Philipe Stark, Philip Johnson, and Jasper Morrison. I saw them as my mentors and did everything I could to emulate some of their thinking.
However, over time, I came to the realization that while I loved their work, they were able to work in a way that was impossible for me. And as I wrestled with this realization, I came to a deeper understanding about myself. What excited me most as a designer was thinking about how people interacted with the product or service. I wanted to understand what was driving people’s behaviors and expectations more than the object itself. The thought of influencing what’s in the world based on people’s feedback became my new interest and has been for the past 15 years.
OK, so I’ve identified my passion but how do I know where it might fit with user experience design? We can learn a lot by breaking down some of the roles within a typical UX design engagement:
- User Research
- Spends time understanding a product or service user, their needs, and expectations.
- Creates a foundation of understanding for other teams (e.g. Interaction Design, Front-End Development) to build upon.
- Interaction Design
- Spends time detailing the functionality of a product or service for every user scenario.
- Creates site maps, user flows, wireframes, prototypes, and navigation paradigms to illustrate a potential solution.
- UI Design and Visual Design
- Spends time organizing and creating visual elements for interfaces, considering the visual details of a UI design such as color, imagery, typography, brand guidelines, and visual hierarchy, similar to graphic design.
- Creates illustrations and UI design mockups to illustrate potential solutions.
- Spends time understanding what it will take, front-end and back-end, to have a product or service built to function the way it’s intended.
- Creates proof-of-concepts and functioning prototypes making ideas tangible.
- Product Management
- Spends time understanding a specific product, its market, and ways to improve it.
- Creates product portfolios, roadmaps, return on investment estimates, and continuous improvement plans.
- Project Management
- Spends time aligning teams based on established goals, tracks time and budget.
- Creates status reports for stakeholders, project timelines, and project wikis.
Stand on Shoulders
“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”– Sir Isaac Newton
The phrase “standing on the shoulders of giants” originated from Sir Isaac Newton when asked how he had been so prolific in discovering a wealth of governing laws defining how physical objects interact. The same mentality applies to UX designers as well. You’ll want to soak up as much as you can about how others before you have dealt with and defined their challenges.
In my case, this meant putting away the glossy design magazines and engrossing myself in the social sciences: sociology, psychology, behavioral economics, etc. Doing so has allowed me to build on the brilliance of many before me in an effort to stay relevant.
“Stand on shoulders” means coming to the realization there have been many great minds that have impacted the way things are today and by understanding their contributions, you can be effective in how you spend your time building off of their work instead of repeating the same mistakes.
Keep in mind, this does not relegate you to spending hours in a library. There’s a lot that can be learned from a mentor, for example — a UX designer who’s been working in UX design for some time and is willing to offer their insights based on your needs. This too will help you hit the ground running.
Get to Know Your Toolbox
Now that you’ve identified your passion and a UX designer to be your mentor, it’s a good idea to begin experimenting with some of the tools you may have been hearing about. Remember, your goal is to become acquainted and perhaps proficient, but not a master. That will come later as you learn further, gain experience, and the tools of your discipline mature.
When we say tools, that doesn’t necessarily mean software only. There will be many aspects of your practice you’ll need to learn in order to be an effective UX designer. For me, that meant learning different interviewing techniques, fundamentals of body language, practicing active listening, studying storytelling, and presenting to others — all of which have proven to be timeless and fundamental in my career. A short UX design course can provide a good introduction to essential tools, methods, and strategies.
Experiment and Reflect
“Everything is an experiment.”– Tibor Kalman
When it comes to creating impactful products and services, it’s critical to keep in mind that we learn by trying things out and reflecting on what happened. In fact, the process of experimentation and reflection is a core tenet of UX design.
Remember: Words and actions are not the same. You need to put in the work.
As a UX designer, the more you can demonstrate your thinking by creating concepts and putting them in front of others, the more you will capture the interest of a potential employer. Consider taking a UX design course that helps you create projects for a professional UX portfolio. Don’t worry about making it perfect. Seeing the evidence of your thought process not only helps them see your strengths, but also your potential.
So, be bold! Try things out. Experiment.
Rinse and Repeat
As the saying goes, the more you learn, the more you realize how much you don’t. The same is true here. UX design is a vast field with many roads. The more you keep at it, the better you’ll get, and becoming an expert UX designer will take time.
Stay curious, experiment, and have fun!
- UX design is a vast and multi-faceted field, not to mention ever-changing.
- Don’t let current titles, tools, and job descriptions intimidate you from taking the first step.
- Careers require an internal commitment in order to hone your experience and perspective.
- Embrace the soft skills of your practice because tools are not limited to screens.
- Demonstrating your thought process increases your chances of landing your first UX job, and a project-based UX design course can help.
- Since it is impossible to know what’s going to happen, it’s important to take the first step.