How to start your UX Design career. In a good and affordable way.

By Michael Nunes | Chief Creative Officer at Monday

I’ve been working on user experience for a decade now, and there’s one question I get asked a lot: how can one shift their career to a UX design role? And it’s not only designers asking this, but a lot of project managers, engineers, or even marketers, who also want to get hands-on UX Design.

Personally, this gets me excited. The more different backgrounds entering and wanting to know more about design, the more it will enhance our transformation and capabilities to help people, businesses, and our community.

In this article, I will show you how to do that shift from your current role, and how to do it in an affordable way.

1. Start learning from experts

First of all, I recommend you browse a few online courses, as those will help you get started on UX Design. Said online courses have major advantages, such as you being able to take your own pace and also by some of them being taught by major UX Design players. Oh, and they are usually cheaper than the physical courses.

Here are some of the most recognized online courses:

The Interaction Design Foundation is a 17-year-old nonprofit community founded in Denmark. In addition to the online courses, they also offer free of charge content about design.

You can find UX courses from — Web Design for Usability, User Experience: The Beginner’s Guide, User Research, and many more.

Udemy is the leading global marketplace for teaching and learning, connecting all students everywhere to the world’s best instruction — no matter where they are.

Udemy is a true case of great online courses that stretch from A to Z areas, and it also has worldwide recognition. You can find Courses like User Experience Design Fundamental, UX & Web Master courses.

Who hasn’t heard of IDEO? IDEO has a learning program called IDEO U, an online school where anyone can unlock their creative potential and solve complex problems through design thinking. Here, you can learn from the best on how to be an expert on Design Thinking, Prototyping for Digital Experiences and other courses around Human-Centered Design.

2. Never stop reading

If you don’t have the money to spend on a lot of books, just use Medium. You’ll find tons of awesome articles about UX Design. Believe me, you have excellent content and it’s all for free.

Some popular UX blogs and some of my favorites ones:

3. Books: ‘Gotta catch them all!

As you can imagine, there are a lot of great books out there about UX design but, obviously, I haven’t read them all. Nonetheless, I’ve had my share of good reading, and these are the best of the best (in my opinion) to help you gain more knowledge to make the shift.

One of my favorites, and if you happen to have read other articles that I wrote, or if you are following me on LinkedIn, you already guessed it. The Paradox Of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz. In this book, you won’t be reading on how to create the best UX strategy. What you — surely — will learn, is how choice impacts our lives, either in a good or in a bad way. This book won’t be a one time only read, I assure you. It will help you understand and interiorize the importance of analyzing and will reflect on how we can elevate people’s lives.

Link: https://bit.ly/2Gg45fz

A great guide to have by your side. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a Designer or a Product Manager, this book teaches you simple-to-advanced methods that you can use in your work right away.

You’ll find awesome stuff, like: How to define and validate your target users through personas and customer discovery techniques; Devise UX Funnels that increase customer engagement by mapping desired user actions and many more important methods.

Link: https://bit.ly/2YR4AnC

One of the heavyweight champions of UX books. In this Jim Kalbach book, you’ll find the best methods to implement UX strategies and to understand the underlying principles of diagramming, and also discover how these diagrams can inform strategy. If you’re a Product Manager, a Designer or a Business Owner, there you’ll learn how to help your business (or your projects), how to know your business goals, and how customers’ perspectives intersect.

Link: https://bit.ly/2GdLuRe

An old one, but still a must-have one. This book, by Steve Krug, is as straightforward as its title, a friendly introduction to why some interfaces work or “make sense” for users while some others don’t. You’ll find a lot of useful information about usability and on how you can use it on your projects. It still strikes me that some UX “tactics” are just common sense, but applying the right UX in the right context, in advance, is not so obvious in many product teams.

Link: https://bit.ly/2JLE3Bz

4. Tools for our craft

It’s important to learn how to use some of these tools that I’ll be talking about. But keep in mind that if you’re already working as a UI Designer, some of them are already known to you.

Paper prototyping is a technique that allows designers and non-designers to create, and to test, user interfaces quickly and cheaply. Don’t forget — it’s easier to change a prototype than to change the final design. Sketching helps testing ideas, rather than focusing on the visual part of the project.

The user flow is a series of steps that users take to achieve a meaningful goal, they are the path taken by a user on a website, or an app, to complete a task. This flow shows us the user’s entry point through a set of steps towards a successful outcome and final action, such as purchasing a product or subscribing a service.

User flows also help us better understand what type of emotions or feelings the users might have using our product.

With intuitive tools for ideation, design, prototyping, and design management, the InVision platform gives you everything you need for digital product design — all in one place. The most known tool InVision is recognized for is its prototyping aspect. It helps us create easy and low-cost prototypes. This way, you’ll be able to test, in early stages, what’s working (or not) in your project.

5. Skills you need to start working on. They will help you create better and lovable projects.

Observe the world around you. In my opinion, one of the more difficult skills, and maybe that’s why it’s one of the more important ones, is observation. It’s a behavior that will help you to better understand the differences in social groups, cultural practices, and other people’s way of behaving — whether they are online or offline — and all the problems they may face in their daily lives.

If you haven’t heard of it yet, UX Design goes hand-in-hand with empathy. The ability to empathize with the user is a key skill for a UX Designer.

I truly believe in it, but this is just my opinion. If you want to make a change in people’s lives, you have to empathize. As a UX Designer, you need to think, to understand and to solve problems for the people using your products. In other words, you need to design for the user, and not for you. Want to know a little more about empathy? Here’s one of my previous articles on the topic: Empathy: Let’s improve design by creating empathy with consumers.

As a designer, it’s important to learn how to facilitate design sessions. You don’t have to be the superhero of said design sessions, but this helps you practice empathy, your listening skills and acknowledge people’s’ true pains and ideas. The job of a facilitator is to conduct design sessions, and these sessions might be through Lighting Decision Jams, Value Propositions, UX Strategy guides, and many other exercises.

Just a little advice… You’ll have to learn how to be very neutral in your thoughts and actions. So, no gestures (such as nodding) or saying if they are right or wrong. 😁

I hope that this article has provided you with some ideas and insights on how you can get started as a UX Designer. As I said previously, this is my personal opinion on how to shift your career in an affordable and easy way — for you, and off course, for your wallet! 😉

Thank you for reading

We really do want to hear from you! Get in touch

Monday is a Business Design Consultancy based in sunny Lisbon. We co-create with ambitious leaders to build better businesses. We use strategy & design to transform businesses from within.

This core philosophy stands at the center of everything we create. Clients include: Mercedes, Red Bull, Banco de Portugal, Mars, Imprensa Nacional Casa da Moeda, Philips, Jogos Santa Casa, Guloso…

We co-create with ambitious leaders to build better businesses. We use strategy & design to transform businesses from within.

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