UX design is an exciting career track, but how do you get your career off to the strong start it deserves? Aaron Fazulak, CEO of Designation Labs, has some tips for you.
User experience (UX) design is still a relatively new area of focus, as people continue to take traditional and alternative paths to break into the profession.
There is no right or wrong way. There are, though, many great ways to position yourself to start a successful a UX career.
Here are five tips.
1. Build your network and get involved
The first thing you should do is explore the world of UX design. You want to be certain that this is something you want to do for the rest of your life.
Meet-ups and events are a great place to start and learn about the career. Head to Meetup.com and find your local UX meet-up group.
If you cannot find a local group, you can always reach out to people online. Head over to LinkedIn and search for people from your area with the title of UX designer.
I would recommend that you find someone that is just starting out, as they will likely have more empathy for you and your goal of becoming a UX designer. Figure out their contact details, send a short email asking for advice and see if you can get them on a short phone call.
The size and quality of your network will pay off in every aspect of your UX career. Once you are ready to look for a job, you want to have a network to learn on for opportunities.
2. Find a mentor
Next, find and connect with someone that is already in the field of UX design. That is why the first tip is so important, as a great starting point.
Great mentors are hard to find but can add an enormous amount of value. Starting or changing careers can be a difficult journey and having someone to turn to for help and advice is very important.
During your efforts at networking, both online and at local meet-ups, you should be collecting emails and LinkedIn connections. Your goal is to identify great UX professionals and to get a one-to-one meeting with them to discuss your goals.
If you think you may have found someone that would be a great mentor, ask them to be yours. Be upfront.
Once you find someone that agrees to be your mentor, set up a fixed schedule and time to talk with them monthly. Each meeting should have an agenda to discuss what you have worked on and what your goals are for the upcoming month.
Remember: they are volunteering their time for you. The best mentors want to see that you are diligent and focused on starting your UX career. Don’t waste their time, or yours.
3. Read books on design thinking
There are many great books on design thinking. We think it is important for prospective students of our programme to understand design as a field and problem-solving tool.
Many books will leave you itching to get started on your UX career, and here are three great choices:
Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley and David Kelley, founder of Ideo
Change by Design by Tim Brown, CEO of Ideo
Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug, renowned design consultant and author
4. Learn the software tools
Here are three skills, in general, that you will need to have to be an effective UX designer:
- Be able to organise complex information so it is easy to understand
- The ability to design interfaces and experiences
- Be able to present and promote UX processes to internal teams or clients
There are many tools available to designers today to rapidly prototype designs and communicate information. I recommend that you familiarise yourself with these three prior to taking a course or pursuing formal training. Most of these tools offer free trials as well.
- Omnigraffle – Create complex maps and diagrams
- Sketch – Create low- to high-fidelity wireframes
- Axure – Prototype your ideas (web)
- Io – Prototype your ideas (mobile)
5. Take a class or course
If you are really serious about starting a UX career, I would recommend enrolling in formal training on the subject. There are many different online and in-person options.
Do your research, though, as many schools market short, 6-8 week programmes that promise a career in UX. Be realistic with what people are offering and what your learning style is.
Aaron Fazulak is the co-founder and CEO of Designation Labs, a UX and UI design boot camp based in Chicago.