When most people hear the term “user experience,” their thinking tends to lean toward technological contexts, such as browsing websites or interacting with apps on their smartphone or tablet.
Interestingly enough, the UX journey extends far beyond the reaches of a computer screen. Every talk you have with your cashier at a retail store and every nice meal you cook with ingredients purchased at your neighborhood supermarket is a type of UX interaction.
Due to the accessibility and impact of everyday user experience interactions, design thinking is increasingly emerging as a relevant tool for people from all professional and circumstances to understand the world around us and create innovative new solutions that meet people’s needs. UX designers are in high demand right now for their aptitude to build and analyze of solutions that will make life a little bit easier and more enjoyable for everyone.
People who understand human behavior tend to thrive in the field of UX design. As a former speech therapist, I’ve seen my how my experience developing human-centered learning plans has directly impacted my successful career change intro UX design. No matter what your background is, you can learn UX design if you possess the right balance of empathy and analytic aptitude. You don’t have to have a four-year degree to succeed in the field, nor do you need to have been building coding and design skills for the past decade. UX design is truly an industry for anyone who wants to ensure users have a good experience when interacting with their app, website, or brand.
If you want to teach yourself UX design, consider these top five tips to get started:
1. BEGIN BY EDUCATING YOURSELF ON THE BASICS OF UX DESIGN
Before you launch headfirst into a new career, educate yourself on the basics of UX design and its relevance in the professional world.
Start by developing some core concepts:
All companies—from the small business owner wanting to drive more consumer traffic to a national organization launching its latest software update—rely on UX design. Take time to discover what kind of UX design job you would be interested in, along with what career goals you aim to accomplish.
2. DON’T BE AFRAID TO START SMALL
Maybe you have no past coding or design experience—that’s okay. As I said, there are a range of career paths (such as speech therapy, teaching, and the behavioral sciences) that develop transferable skills relevant to UX design. Draw on your past experiences and skill sets to discover where your talents are strongest and which skills you’ll need to work harder to build. Consider starting small and learning UX fundamentals. This way, you can build upon your foundational knowledge and begin finding job opportunities. The Hipper Element’s carefully curated collection of 31 articles about UX design will give you a quick overview of the basics.
As you seek junior UX roles, don’t be afraid to assert that you are a designer. Remember—no matter how seasoned another designer may be, they still look at someone else’s talents and skill sets and wish their own were something more. We all compare ourselves. You are a new designer, to be sure, but you’re still a designer. Own that.
3. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE UX DESIGN TOOLS AND RESOURCES AT YOUR DISPOSAL
One of the great things about the UX industry is, most of the time, designers don’t need to have experience in specific software programs or technologies. It’s more important they know how to apply their skills across a set of tools. Start building on the core concepts by familiarizing yourself with UX designer’s toolbelt and put these ideas into practice while gaining experience in ONE of these tools. Here are some resources to get you started:
4. ASSIGN YOURSELF PROJECTS WITH SET DEADLINES
One of the most difficult aspects of the job-hunting process is showcasing your experience—especially if you’re transitioning into a new industry. In the UX design field, you will need to have a portfolio to show potential employers. If you haven’t had any prior jobs in the field, this will be challenging.
Begin building your own design portfolio by assigning yourself projects with deadlines to not only build up your experience but learn to work under pressure. Design wireframes and user flows and work your way up to high-fidelity mockups. Volunteer to do some pro bono design work for a not-for-profit in need of help, or try your hand at redesigning other websites or apps. This will show companies you interview with that you are not only a hard worker and self-started, but skilled at what you do as well. I always recommend Briefbox to emerging designers who want to practice their skills and build out a portfolio—it’s an engaging library of design briefs with fun project ideas that you can work on on your own.
According to our web design course instructor Amy Eastment,
One thing I always encourage junior UX to do when they’ve got an empty portfolio: pick out a random, silly idea that they are interested in, and run with it. Do user interviewing, design the workflow and wireframes, do the mockups, do the usability testing—and document your approach to it all. It doesn’t matter if it’s not a real, feasible product—it matters that you cared enough to practice design on your own!
5. CONSTANTLY SEEK OUT INSPIRATION AND SUPPORT
All art is iterative. Even the best designers draw inspiration from others to hone their craft. Don’t try to be ashamed to start with imitation. Consume whatever design work you can get your hands on and never stop seeking out peers and find mentors who can guide you through this learning process. Here are some of my favorite sources of UX inspiration until you find your own:
Interested in building a career as a web designer? Learn more about UX, UI, and other front-end design jobs with our free guide to web design roles: