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So You Want To Be A UX Designer?

Thanks to the emergence and popularity of mobile, we’ve seen a renewal of interest in UX in recent years, as designers have been forced to create sites and apps for smaller and more diverse screens. In turn this has led to huge demand for skilled UX designers around the world and of course prompted many people to consider choosing it as a career.

UX design is a fairly broad discipline too, so there are plenty of opportunities to be found in specialist areas. UX design can be applied to any digital product, but it can also be applied to real-world products.

If you want to get into UX design, there are a couple of routes you can take. You can go to college and get a degree; although there aren’t many degree courses around at the moment, there are some to be found. Check out this list of universities offering UX-based courses if you’re interested in taking the academic route.

You don’t have to take a degree though. In the design community there are plenty of people who are self-taught. However, one positive aspect of learning with others is that it’s useful to bounce ideas off others and discuss with lecturers. With this in mind, if you’re thinking of going down the self-taught route, then do make sure that you join plenty of discussion groups and forums.

Online Courses

There are also online courses to consider. Lynda do some UX tutorials, and this will set you back £14.95 per month for access to the videos, or you can choose to go premium and have access to all courses and the ability to download course materials and project files for £18.95 per month. Learnable also offers UX courses and these will cost you $15 per month for access to all courses, videos and eBooks, or you can choose to pay $99 for the year, which allows access to everything and to download videos, eBooks and courses.

You should also check out the following sites for a wealth of tutorials and articles on all aspects of design.

  • SitePoint – articles and tutorials on everything web design and development. Partner site to Learnable, SitePoint also has a large and active community.
  • Smashing Magazine – excellent resource for UX articles, books and tutorials.
  • Hong Kiat – freebies for designers, UX articles and tutorials and general design resources.
  • Tuts+ Web Design – articles, books, tutorials and more than 500 video-based web design courses, including UX. Prices for courses start at $15 per month.
  • Webdesigner Depot – articles, freebies, courses and eBooks for designers.

Do I Need to Learn Code?

Not unless you want to. However, it’s useful for every designer to know HTML and CSS, and for UX, a little JavaScript is also useful. Not only will this help you when it comes to design, but it will also help when discussing projects with other members of a design and development team. If you understand the basics of back-end development then you’re in a much better position to know if a choice you make is going to be viable.

Getting Started with UX

Once you’ve decided what route you’ve taken into learning, it’s time to get started on the basics. First up, knowing the difference between UX and usability and UX and UI – an area in which many newbie designers become understandably confused.

UI is the interface which the user interacts with in order to get to where they want to go.

UX, on the other hand, is about how the design makes the user feel. So if a site is slow to load, then a user will soon feel frustrated. If certain colours are used they can inspire different feelings such as happiness and trust. If a site has no testimonials or social media engagement, then a user will also feel less trust than if it provided this social proof. UX can inspire a user to take the steps you want them to on a site, or it can turn them off and make them leave.

Usability is something different again. It’s about how easy the site is to use, as the name suggests, and it often uses conventions to carry this out. For example, in many sites you will notice that the logo sits in the top left-hand corner of the page – this is a convention. Logo placement is something that we’re now all so accustomed to, we expect to see it there and it throws us slightly if it isn’t. That’s a very simple example, conventions are used throughout a site, in navigation especially.

Check out The Hipper Element for 31 daily lessons on the fundamentals of UX design to give you a good base on which to launch the rest of your learning.

Do You Need a Mentor?

If you’re not going down the academic route, then you might want to try and find yourself a mentor who’s in the business already. This can be very rewarding and a practical way of learning that allows you to draw on the expertise of another.

If you’re based in the UK, then check out this mentorship matching service where you can choose a mentor and develop a learning plan with a clear start and end date. This allows you to set targets and goals and set out a clear path with the end in sight. The service also provides supporting materials such as contracts and guidance on how to use them.

Other Resources

UX design is great in that it doesn’t require you to purchase expensive software in order to get going. Tools-wise, you can start out using a simple sketchpad and pencil to create basic layouts. However, this is 2015 and you may want to make use of what technology has to offer instead, and there are plenty of wireframing tools on the market to help you.

You should also look into:

  • A/B testing tools – for testing page elements to see which users prefer.
  • User feedback tools – for gathering feedback from users in the testing stage of a design.
  • Analytics – for analysing how visitors are using the site and making improvements.

UX design is a good career choice right now as there’s huge demand. This is unlikely to change anytime soon either. Web design and other web disciplines have become all about the user and with the influx of new devices that’s sure to come about due to the Internet of Things and wearable technology, it’s likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future.

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