So, you want to become a UX Designer, huh?
There are so many perks of working UX: creative and fulfilling work, flexibility, variety – not to mention the high salary. But how do you take that first step onto the UX ladder?
If you’ve been thinking about a career change into UX, you may be wondering if now really is the right time to do it. Is the UX job market still booming? Don’t worry, UX Designers are still very much in demand, and the outlook is pretty exciting!
If you’re curious about becoming a UX Designer, but have no idea where to start, you are not alone. There isn’t some kind of magic formula and most of the time, many people fall into UX Design later on in their careers after working in fields, such as Product Management, Marketing or Software Development.
The ability to change is in your hands and if you want to build a career as a UX Designer, then you can absolutely make it happen and this is how you’re going to become a successful UX Designer.
There’s never been a better time for a fresh start. Are you ready for yours? Let’s go!
What Is UX Design?
It’s important to start by saying there’s no commonly accepted definition for UX Design.
User Experience Design is a concept that has many dimensions, and it includes a bunch of different disciplines, such as Interaction Design, Information Architecture, Visual Design, Usability, and Human-Computer Interaction. But let’s try to get a clearer picture of what it really means.
UX Design is the process of designing products that are useful, easy to use, and delightful to interact with. It’s about enhancing the experience that people have while interacting with your product, and making sure they find value in what you’re providing. For example, when we want to turn on a light in our room, we interact with a light switch. The design of the switch, including the colour, material, and physical appearance may impact how we feel about the interaction.
UX is not new. In fact, the term has been around since the early 90s, Donald Norman brought it into widespread use when he worked for Apple as a Cognitive Scientist. Don Norman was interested in all aspects of a user’s experience with a product or service, including Industrial Design, Graphics, The Interface, and Physical Interaction. To encompass all of the different elements that determine how a user feels while interacting with a product, he came up with the term “User Experience”.
What Is The Difference Between UX & UI?
UX Design refers to the term User Experience Design, while UI stands for User Interface Design. Both elements are crucial to a product and work closely together. But despite their professional relationship, the roles themselves are quite different, referring to very different aspects of the product development process and the design discipline.
The main difference to bear in mind is this:
UX Design is all about the overall feel of the experience, while UI Design is all about how the product's interfaces look and function.
UX Design is all about identifying and solving user problems, and UI Design is all about creating intuitive, aesthetically-pleasing, interactive interfaces.
What Is The Difference Between UX & CX?
User Experience Designers focus mainly on a user's interaction with a single product, while Customer Experience Designers are focusing on the consumer's experience with the organisation as a whole. CX looks at the whole experience including all channels of the brand, whereas UX is more specific, tending to focus on a particular app or website. UX and CX do work together though. It boils down to what is a user and what is a customer. A customer may specify and buy a product, the user uses the product. There is overlap though. For example, a parent buys a toy for a child. The parent experiences CX and the child UX.
What Do UX Designers Actually Do?
Good and bad user experiences don’t just happen by chance! They are the result of either good or bad design. And this is where UX Designers come in…
Now, we are going to learn how a UX Designer approaches their work.
A UX Designer thinks through the way people use something, whether digital or real-world products, processes or interfaces and then designs or redesigns elements of that experience to be more user-friendly.
A UX Designer can, for example, help define customer experiences for SaaS (software as a service) companies, like Spotify or Netflix. They can be critical members of teams that build applications or other experiences in healthcare, government, or education. They may also choose to specialise and dedicate their career to UX Research or UX Writing.
How do UX Designers work on a day-to-day basis? The answer to this question, as with many questions, is: it depends. A UX Designer’s responsibilities can vary dramatically from company to company and sometimes even from project to project within one company. Despite the variety the role offers, there are some general functions a UX Designer can be expected to perform irrespective of the company they work at.
UX Designers are generalists who cover a little bit of everything in the entire design process. As a UX Designer, you’ll understand your users’ needs, generate ideas to solve their problems, prototype designs and finally test them with users.
As you would imagine, a UX Designer conducts all kinds of UX activities to perform their job well. As a UX Designer you would:
✔️ Conduct user research through interviews, observations and other research methods.
✔️ Analyse and identify pain points from the users’ perspective, based on your user research.
✔️ Generate ideas through ideation techniques such as brainstorming to solve the users’ needs.
✔️ Select the most promising idea(s) based on their feasibility, desirability and viability, among other criteria.
✔️ Prototype designs, which can range from simple paper sketches to high-fidelity and interactive digital mock-ups.
✔️ Provide and solicit critique on your designs as well as the designs of your team-mates.
✔️ Conduct usability and user tests to determine if your design(s) can be further improved.
✔️ Push a design solution out into the world that will benefit both your company and your users.
What UX Deliverables Will You Produce As A UX Designer?
While each company, and indeed, each team within a company expects different deliverables from a UX Designer, the most common ones are:
✔️ User research reports
✔️ User personas
✔️ User journey maps
✔️ “How might we” statements, which capture a problem that your design aims to solve
✔️ Paper prototypes
✔️ High-fidelity pixel-perfect mock-ups
✔️ Usability reports
✔️ Heuristic evaluation reports
✔️ User testing reports
✔️ Design pattern libraries, style guides or design systems
UX Designers Have A Big Impact
People are spending more and more time on digital platforms. The experiences users have while they engage with those digital platforms so frequently and the intuitiveness of the design of those platforms can have a huge impact, whether on a business’s revenue or a patient’s health, depending on the application of that UX.
It’s the UX Designer’s responsibility to make sure the digital experiences for people who are living their lives online not only drives them to a desired goal (like putting an item in a cart, or effectively tracking their health), but also that users find these experiences easy, effective, and maybe even delightful!
9 Ways To Become A Successful UX Designer
UX Design is a great profession for people who are technically brilliant and amazingly creative. Being a successful UX Designer is not a simple tasks, as it needs a lot of patience, determination, hard work and willingness to improve every day. Being one of the highest paid professions today, this is one of the most demanding job profiles as well, so you need to enjoy your activities and have a passion for it at the same time.
Are you looking forward to being a successful UX designer and mark a difference in this competitive arena? These tips and wise strategies will help you for sure.
1. Learn The Right Skills With A UX Training Course
Learn the fundamentals of UX Design before jumping straight into the deep end. In the beginning, self-learning is a good way to, especially by following along with some YouTube videos. As you move forward, it’s really important that you participate in a credible UX Design like our BCS Foundation Certificate In User Experience to help you fill in the gaps and invest time to develop the right skills.
2. Get Excited About Solving Problems
This is an essential function of design: finding, defining and solving the right problems. If you’re a natural problem-solver, that’s great, you probably already do it instinctively. But even if you’re not, it’s a skill that can easily be educated through exercise. How? Constantly and consciously try to spot problems around you, pay attention to the products, services, people you encounter, create the habit of questioning and understanding what doesn’t work well and why.
Problems should be seen as opportunities, especially in the design world, since solving them should be your core mission. An important point to be made is that solving any problem starts with understanding it really well. It may seem common sense, but it’s not that common. Often UX Designers fail to explore enough, research thoroughly and deeply understand the challenge.
To avoid this, a reflex that we recommend building is what we call the Why Reflex: understanding problems is supported by asking as many questions as possible (in the relevance realm), with a particular focus on Why’s. If the problem definition is not right, then, obviously, the solution can’t be either. This is why too often so many products and services fail - they’re solving wrong problems or no problems at all.
3. Tell The Right Story
A great designer should be able to communicate their ideas to the team efficiently. A better understanding can make a difference in the final product and the way it engages the audience. Building storytelling skills can help a UX Designer become a great communicator as ideas are better conveyed in the form of stories. Creating storyboards and immersing deeply in the brand stories can help a designer to a great extent. Always remember, it’s one thing to have a good idea, it’s another to be able to enchant stakeholder and users to gain buy-in on said good idea.
4. Learn The Tools Of The Trade
Learning the tools of the trade should go hand-in-hand with mastering UX methods and processes. Employers will expect you to be comfortable with the big-name tools like Sketch but it’s also a good idea to experiment with others, too. Every UX Designer has their own individual preferences, so play around with a few different options and see which ones you like best.
What do you need in your UX Design Toolkit? Here are some of the most popular tools for various phases of the design process:
User Research Tools: Lookback.io, Typeform, ReFramer
Wireframing & Prototyping Tools: Sketch, Adobe XD, Figma, Lunacy, InVision, UXPin
User Testing & Usability Testing Tools: UsabilityHub, Hotjar, Optimizely, Usabilla
5. Build Your UX Portfolio
Your UX Portfolio is your golden ticket to the UX design industry: it demonstrates all the skills you’ve learned and provides really valuable insight into how you work as a UX Designer.
Don’t make the mistake that UX Portfolios are only for experienced professionals. Even wannabe UX Designers can build one using mock projects. This could be an unsolicited redesign of an existing app, or simply a made-up project brief for a hypothetical client.
Ideally, you’ll work on your portfolio as part of the BCS Foundation Certificate In User Experience training course. This way, you’re getting hands-on practice whilst working towards a finished product that you can show to employers.
6. Care About Your Users
To create value for your users you‘ll need to care about them. Your listening skills are of immense importance in your design role. To understand anything, especially people, you have to ask a lot (and the right) questions and then really listen to the answers.
Listening can also mean observing, and not always imply a conversation. Observe your users beyond interviews and surveys, watch them in their natural context. Involve them in diary studies.
Try to explore the entire universe around them in relation to the problem you’re solving. Use Empathy Maps to map out what they say, do, think and feel, use Personas to really understand their needs, their goals, their frustrations, their minds, their world.
7. Sketch, Sketch, Sketch!
Make a habit out of starting conversations with a pen and some paper at hand. Draw your ideas, you’ll structure them better and communicate them more easily. Sketching also favours creativity and connections, thus driving idea generation into new dimensions.
Before choosing a solution, explore as many ideas as possible. Avoid settling for the first solution that comes up, even when it seems perfect and fits all requirements. Always go the extra mile in your exploration, playing around with ideas that seem completely crazy on utterly unrelated to the project.
Also, try to avoid jumping to solutions early in the project. A mistake that most people make in real life practice is to start off with a solution and then search for the problem. Of course, the result, most of the times, is a product or service that no one uses.
8. Visit Usability Testing Sessions
Understanding users is a primary goal for UX Designers. Some UX Designers use personas and analytic data to understand how users interact with a product. While these tools can be really helpful, nothing beats watching real users interact with a product. The more you watch people use your product, the more you understand the problems they face.
9. Understand The Need For Change
Dynamism is yet another key skill to be developed to be successful as a UX Designer. The world is changing every day and there is no point in sticking to a static set of guidelines for your career, forever. You should understand the need for change and bring in novel approaches to satisfy the changing needs of users.
Great ways to stay on top of design trends are to subscribe to UX blogs or join micro-communities on platforms around the internet. LinkedIn, Slack and Discord are modern ways to communicate with peers that share similar interests, minus the spam of large groups. You’d be surprised how quickly the field changes. One day colour gradients are taboo, then Instagram uses it and its in-demand!
10. Bonus Tip: Welcome Constructive Criticism
Deep down a lot of us are afraid of receiving a critique of our work. Yes, it might be stressful to hear that our work is not perfect, especially when we invested a lot of time in it. But looking critically at your own work is important because you’re not designing for yourself, you’re designing for your users.
Thus, let go of your ego and stop defending your work. Remember, there are often more things to learn when we make mistakes than when we get everything right. Taking feedback and constructive criticism isn’t fun, but it’s the only way to improve your skills and make yourself a better designer.
What You Should Do Now?
Once you get started in UX Design, there are so many different avenues to explore. Further down the line, you might choose to specialise in UX Research, Information Architecture, or even Voice design. These are just a few examples of where a career in UX might take you.
In such a fast-moving field so closely linked to the tech sphere, you’ll never run out of opportunities to broaden your skill set and learn new things.
What’s next? If you’re ready to tackle the challenge of becoming a UX Designer, it’s time to start learning the fundamentals with our BCS Foundation Certificate In User Experience training course.
We’ll teach you the Foundations of User Experience including:
✔️ Guiding Principles
✔️ User Research
✔️ Illustrating The Context Of Use
✔️ Measuring Usability
✔️ Information Architecture
✔️ Interaction Design
✔️ Visual Design
✔️ User Interface Prototyping
✔️ Usability Evaluation
As you can see, UX is a fascinating, varied, and highly satisfying career path which could take you in many directions. UX roles are in flux and we predict that they always will be.
You’ve made it to the end! Hope it was useful and feel free to start a constructive design conversation in comments. Thanks for reading!