How to Become a UX Designer?
User Experience is a fairly young field and the ways to get to it are still unclear and flexible. At events like conferences you can easily notice that we all come from different backgrounds. That is a great advantage when it comes to teamwork – people with diverse backgrounds may achieve more groundbreaking results. On the other hand, it might be confusing for potential candidates who aspire to work in this field. How to start? It’s important to acknowledge that this job demands many different skills, including a lot of soft skills that you can’t learn at school. Check out our insights on how to become a UX designer.
UX Designer job characteristics
First of all, let’s define who is a UX Designer. There is no doubt it depends on the industry, team size, and team members so in this article I will focus on how it works at Polidea. Here UX Designers are responsible for a couple of stages in the design process. At the beginning of a project, they conduct what we call the Discovery Phase which includes usually 3 days of workshops with our clients. Therefore it’s necessary for them to know and be able to adjust the workshop tools that are helpful to moderate the discussion – Personas, Empathy Map, Customer Journey Map, Service Blueprint, MoSCoW and others.
After the Discovery Phase we proceed to wireframing. Starting with sketching user flows and finishing with a structure of wireframes during that phase UX Designers are building the information architecture. The next stage is meant to verify the designed solution – we build interactive prototypes to conduct usability tests with users who match our target audience. This may work in very small iterations or in contrary – we can test a big part of the product at once – even one usability test is better than nothing. To conclude a UX Designer has to be able to plan and conduct discovery workshops, design wireframes, build an interactive prototype and test it with users. For a Junior UX Designer it would be definitely too much but he or she should still have a good understanding of the process and be ready to learn it in detail.
Communication as the key element of UX designer’s work
As a UX designer you’ll be often responsible for the communication both with your client but also the development team. Articulating your design decisions will be crucial to build trust in both spheres.
Team spirit that drives the project
Designers work in teams with other Designers and Developers, Testers, Product Owners and Project Managers. Listening to others, appreciating their effort while brainstorming together is very important.
Creativity leading to change
Creativity is crucial when it comes to working as a designer – that one is pretty obvious. But being creative is actually taking ideas, concepts and patterns that exist in one or more domains, and combining them to create a concept in a different area.
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.” – Steve Jobs
Empathy as a must for UX designers
Empathy is the capacity to place oneself in another’s position, to see the world through other people’s eyes. According to Kathryn Whitenton empathy is the most important skill required for UX professionals especially since “You are not the user” is one of her most repeated sentences. It takes a lot of empathy to get out of our personal bubble and realize that our user might have totally different habits and preferences.
Curiosity and questions to be asked
“Why?” is known to be the favorite question of all designers. There is a reason for all kinds of behaviors, you just need to dig deep enough to get there. Learn more about the method of Five Whys. IT is one of the fastest growing industries those days and being a part of it means that you need to keep up with all the changes that are happening. UX Designers should be curious of their users to answer their needs. They should understand clients perfectly to get the brief right and meet the business goals but also the industry—to monitor new tools, patterns and devices—all to make sure that the design is not outdated.
Education and strong background
When it comes to the question of “what to study to become a UX designer?” there is no right or wrong answer. At Polidea the most common path leads through Industrial Design, which gives students a strong sense of the design process— as vital for product designers as it is for UX designers.
You can also consider some of the suggestions below:
Interaction design workshops can help a lot in getting to know the basics of Design Process, especially conducted by professionals working in this field. You can find some amazing workshops at private schools like CIID, but also during conferences like EuroIA.
Post-graduate design studies are a good solution for people with a degree in a relevant field and want to invest in learning UX from the basics including design theory.
Luckily IT is still an industry open for self-taught professionals. When it comes to UX design it helps to have some previous work experience in graphic design or field research, but thanks to so many books and online resources it’s possible to catch up with UX design.
Cognitive science or Psychology turns out to be a great introduction to UX design, especially when one wants to focus on user research or user testing which don’t require such strong graphical skills.
Hopefully these recommendations will answer the question of how to become a UX designer. Remember that there are many ways to achieve your goals and you should never stop learning,