How to Start a UX Design Career? Best Practices for 2021
Hello designers! In this guide I will walk you through every step that will get you closer on becoming a ux designer. There’s no better time than now to begin learning ux design. After all, LinkedIn ranked it as one of the top 5 in demand jobs skills of 2020, with more and more job opportunities expected to open up each year.
This is a complete guide, that’s why I recommend you to grab a cup of coffee and take notes. I know that you probably feel overwhelmed by the amount of information that is out there and you probably don’t know where to begin, that’s why I’ve curated a list of ux learning resources and some useful tips that I have learned over the years. Here’s a short note before diving in:
Just start out! Take it easy and don’t panic, you don’t have to know it all.
Fun fact is there are no shortcuts or any secret sauce that propulsates you quicker than anybody else. You’ll have to be dauntless when you begin this wonderful journey, curious and seek new challenging projects that throws you into the unknown, and that’s how you grow.
It takes a lot of practice, patience and the most important key – your passion. Projects come and go, you will fail some and win many others. Dealing with criticism is another key aspect, but you will learn it the hard way. Hope not.
I know that most of you have their own fears and that’s okay, we’re all human after all. Here are some common ones I have faced with and I know many of you resonates with me:
Nobody will hire me because I have no experience.
Why choose me? There are plenty of designers out there, better than me.
What if I’m not good enough?
I don’t have an affinity for this area.
You will find the answer of each one, reading this article.
Due to the popularity of learning ux design, there are countless different methods of instruction available for students to use:
Tools to Master
With all of this available, it can be challenging to know the best method of how to learn ux design. We’ll take a closer look at some handy resources, here:
Get a UX Certificate
I think this is the most powerful way for you to get credibility in the eyes of employers. Usually a certified course takes a few weeks at least, and requires an extra effort because you have to pass exams for each chapter and finally you will receive your ux certificate. It requires you to invest time, energy and money, but this is the best investment you can do for yourself.
The only bootcamp that I strongly recommend is IronHack. Here you will learn about design thinking, ux, research, how to master Figma, and many others. It has many good reviews and It takes up to 9 weeks full time or 24 weeks part time without any previous IT background.
Don Norman’s – The Design of Everyday Things
Steve Krug’s – Don’t make me think
Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden – Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience
William Lidwell’s – Universal Principles of Design
Joel Marsh’s – UX for Beginners: A Crash Course in 100 Short Lessons
Many designers choose to learn from youtube because it’s free and accessible. These youtube channels are the best in my opinion because they are made up with teams of certified professionals who practice and teach people as a daily basis.
1. The Futur
2. UX Mastery
3. NN Group
4. Human Factors International
A very useful way to absorb valuable information is through workshops. The guys from Dribbble host some cool ones on their learning page. They are quite expensive, but you got the chance to interact and study from your favourites design leaders in the world.
You probably heard about this one too. If you want to see live experts in action, this is definitely a good choice. Type ux in the search bar and you get tons of results. Starting from ux fundamentals to user testing and ideating.
Beside the fact that awwwards is being an authority in the design field for many years, here you can find ui inspiration, design articles and of course amazing ux/ui design workshops. They also provide videos on how to animate your ui elements and create amazing presentations, so it is good also for ui part.
Tools to Master
There are many great tools made by talented people and I apologize if I’m not mentioning some of them here, but I have chosen to work with these ones and in time I get used to them. I will strongly recommend to you guys the following:
1. UX Pin
A very good tool that allows you to create simple and complex use cases based on a high fidelity prototyping. They’re providing a native design system / language all vector based, so you can scale every component without losing its quality. You can collaborate with other team members. It is very complex and easy to use.
An enterprise software that allows you to prototype like a pro. It has very cool interaction attributes like conditions, triggers and actions in order for you to build amazing products.
A complex tool that allows you write, plan and collaborate with your team. It’s very cool overall, I am using it for two years now and it helps me get things organized and be much more productve. It’s browser based, so it accessible for everybody.
Browser based app that enables you to wireframe any idea. Helps you avoid any situation where your design get rejected. I think any designer should start ideating using wireframes.
This one’s got a lot of attention lately. It is an online tool for collaboration between teams. From scenario mapping, strategy, planning to brainstorming and ideation, this tool embodies the right amount of what you need. I strongly recommend it.
6. Survey Monkey
This app helps you make your research by creating surveys that enables you to collect data about your prospects and existing users. We all know how important this aspect is in ux design.
2. UI Design
Now, that you have a clear understanding of what ux design is, you won’t be able to go further with the ideating part of a project if you don’t know how to handle the art of ui design. But what exactly is ui design, and how is it different from UX design?
User Interface Design (ui design) is a subsection of User Experience Design (ux design). While UX is focused on the user’s overall experience, with a complex process that begins with stages like empathy, research and defining the problem, ui deals with structure and appearance, basic the actual interface that users interact with it.
UI without UX is like beauty without brains
Both UI and UX design elements interact with each other in order to create a positive experience for users.
You’ll have to embrace every stage of the process, because each one of them, is equal important no matter what the order is. You will have to gain insights and learn about the people you’re designing for, in order for you to be able to offer them a solution to their problem.
So, How Do You Learn User Interface Design? First of All You Have to Learn to Observe Good Design.
How do you notice good design if you don’t have experience? My suggestion is to visit online communities websites like dribbble, behance, awwwards and pay attention to shots from the best designers in the industry. Try and do this as a daily basis.
If you take a look at any designer’s work, start from bottom to top. You will see that their first shots are not as creative as their latest ones, but with persistence, work and dedication their work become better. This is not going to happen over night, but you will get there, if you work hard and smart.
There are countless visual and structural elements that professional designers use in ui design in 2021. Some of the key features include:
All of these UI design elements need to come together to create one cohesive image. No single design element exists in a vacuum separate from other design choices when it comes to ui design. By learning the essentials of UI design and understanding aesthetic design, it’s easy to build up strong ui skills.
Master UI Design Tools
Creating the actual visual output, requires for you to study the basic fundamentals of these tools. My favourite ones are Figma, XD and Sketch.
For optimizing your design environment I encourage you to explore some ui kits, see how they’re done, maybe create your own, so you can reuse it on multiple projects. You have to find the best practices that make your life easier, that’s why you should learn how to work with symbols, auto-layout, typography, styles and so on.
I know that some people still work in photoshop 13, argumenting the idea that the design software represents 10% of the final result and the major part is coming from our creative brain. I agree, but let’s embrace technology and make the most out of it, especially if it reinforces our creative process don’t you think?
Replicate Other Designs
If you are really newbie at user interface design, and you just done some tutorials, if you don’t practice, you will forget everything you learned. Just pick some designs that you like on dribbble and copy them as they are, in order to get familiar with your favourite design tool. Do this for a while and you will become a pro, you will know all the keyboard shortcuts and this is really helpful if you want to accelerate your process.
Once you get to master a tool, just create or take some ready low fidelity wireframes and apply a new fresh design, but this time without copying style from other fellow designers. Ask some experienced designer to express their opinion and suggestions about your outcome.
3. Less Theory, More action
Okay, now that you have a solid base, we can move on to the next step, the action phase.
When it comes to learning ux design in 2021, having a strong foundation in the fundamentals of ux theory is a good start. However, if you’re truly trying to effectively develop professional ux design skills, trust the age-old adage —“practice makes perfect.”
The most essential secret to learning ux design is by actively using everything you learn as soon as possible. In other words, don’t get caught up in reading too much and forget to hone your hands-on skills. Here’s a list of what you can do in order to obtain a job in user experience field.
Join Online Communities
Find instagram, facebook or any other social groups and seek out internships, or volunteer on small projects in order to truly develop your design potential. Ask designers to join you on their side projects as a coworker and you will gain experience and a chance to steal from them.
The main key aspect here is to seek work opportunities everywhere. Even if you are an introvert and this might sound uncomfortable as hell, you can ask for work on Linkedin for example. Make a post where you present yourself and your experience so far, emphasize your abilities, ask for help and make a promise.
Create Your Own Projects
Find an idea and turn it into a ux project. Let’s say you want to build a fitness mobile app that helps busy people eat better and exercise. It all starts with empathy. Open Notion tool and write down questions like: Who are these people? What are their struggles? Why they lose motivation?
Do your research. Go to google play or apple store and search for competitive apps and see user’s opinions. Make two lists; Complaints and Nice to Have and fill out under each one. And you keep going with the process of user experience design, and after you have the wireframes of each use case then you start the ui design.
Build Your Portfolio
A valuable resource that will help you book more jobs as a ux designer is through your portfolio. Therefore, it’s crucial that all beginners and student designers initiate developing their portfolios as soon as possible. Create a Dribbble or Behance account and add projects like I mentioned above, to it.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to reach out for feedback from other ux industry professionals. Seeking out weak points in your design may seem painful, but can overall improve the quality of your work. After all, it’s better to get constructive criticism from friends and mentors, rather than from clients, in order to help you learn more about ux design.
Learning ux design is an endless process – there will always be more things to learn, apps to develop, and challenges to overcome… but that’s precisely what makes learning ux design so rewarding. Above all, beginner ux designers should actively pair learning the basics of ux design with hands-on experience in order to accelerate their progress.
Get started on putting your practical design skills to use with our premium ui kits that give designers everything they need to creatively and effectively complete new projects for their clients!
What are your struggles when starting a career in ux design field? What would you add on the list?
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