Ultimate Start Guide for Beginner UX/UI Designers
UX designers earn an average annual salary of $85,000 in the US.
If that isn’t enticing enough for anyone to switch careers and start designing user interfaces, there is flexibility, creativity, ability to work with real people. And, of course, the satisfaction of doing something worthwhile.
But where do you start? Right here. Consider this as a blueprint to your success as a UI/UX designer.
Whether you are just starting out, shifting careers, or looking for a boost to your existing career as a UI/UX developer, this is the ultimate guide you’d need.
Read this post till the end, bookmark it for future references, and you won’t need to Google anything else ever again.
1. Is UI/UX the right path for you?
No matter how lucrative the career option seems, it is important that you identify if it is right for you or not.
The best way to do that?
Ask yourself the following questions.
Do you have the skillset? Or are you willing to learn/develop those skills?
Let us start by enlisting the skills that you need to become a UI/UX design.
The skills are divided into three categories.
- Industry skills like user research, UX writing, wireframing, and prototyping, among others.
- Soft skills like collaborating, communicating, curiosity, and critical thinking.
- Crossover skills like business acumen, coding, web development, research and analysis, and customer service to broaden your horizon and grow.
If you have a few of these skills and you are sure you can learn/inculcate the others, you kick off your career as a UI/UX developer. The learning curve is sure steep, but the rewards, monetary, and non-monetary would more than compensate for your efforts.
Does UX/UI align with your long term goals?
As UX/UI designers, you have not one but several options. You can work for a company as a salaried employee and get a steady income. Freelancing is always an option in this design tech realm. And of course, you can branch out into fields in the UX umbrella-like voice design, virtual reality, video games, and mobile applications.
To understand if UX is the career option for you or not, you need to list down your long term career goals. And then compare if the above options can offer you what you need or not.
If you answered affirmatively to both the above questions, you can venture into the UX/UI universe.
2. Start by educating yourself.
As Benjamin Franklin rightly said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
In the context of UX, you have to invest time, effort, and money (that’s optional!) in learning the basics.
UX involves a lot more know-how of basic principles, theories, and case studies than what meets the eye.
You can either go for free or paid online courses from reputed and recognized platforms. And if you are feeling particularly inclined towards regular modes of education, you can pick classroom courses as well.
Our top picks include:
- Coursera – Coursera has a solid collection of UI UX courses that can even be availed for free. You can choose from self-paced or time-bound courses for free. For the signature track, however, you’d need to pay.
- Skillshare – If you want to have a sneak-peek into UI/UX’s academic aspects before investing, bite-sized courses on Skillshare can help. You can register for free and enroll in any of the limited free options. The lessons can be taken from anywhere using mobile or web devices.
- UX Academy – If you need interactive teaching, UX Academy’s Beginner UX course is the one for you. You get live online lectures every week with small class strength to facilitate focused learning.
- Udemy – For a quick hands-on experience, you can enroll in Udemy’s User Experience Design Fundamentals Course. The course comes with video lectures as well as assignments to help you understand everything right from the basics to the implementation.
- CareerFoundary – CareerFoundry’s UX Design Program offers a flexible, online course that can get you job-ready. With CareerFoundary, you get access to the learning platform, a personal tutor, an expert mentor, and a chance to work on actual projects also.
If you are looking for classroom courses in the US – the following universities and institutes offer on-campus UX UI design courses.
- Bentley University, Waltham, MA
- Flatiron School, New York, NY
- American Graphics Institute, Boston, MA
- Eastern Washington, Cheney, WA
- Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
How to find the right course?
While choosing a UX/UI design course, you should look for the following aspects in the course –
- Project-based learning and hands-on experience
- Career support
- Expert curriculum
- Human support (Especially in the case of online courses, find out if you would be getting any support from experts or not)
- Portfolio building
Find a course that matches your needs and also your budget.
3. Learn the Tools of the Trade
We live in a world that is constantly changing and evolving. Depending on just one degree or strategy is never enough.
You need to be constantly evolving. To keep yourself updated with the latest happenings, you need the top tools of the trade by your side and resources that you can refer to.
Here are all the links (reading resources and web development tools) that you’ll need to stay updated, competitive, and functional in the dynamic world of UI/UX design.
Blogs and reading resources
- UX Magazine – Finding location-based listings of workshops, conferences, classes, and even jobs.
- UX Myths – Debunking most common myths
- Design Talks – 500+ talks from UI/UX conferences from across the globe
- UX Booth – Content about analytics, content strategy, universal design, accessibility, interaction design, and more.
- Beautiful Pixels – Examples of best UI designs across platforms
- 50 User Experience Best Practices
- UX Storytellers – Connecting the Dots
- The Guide to Wireframing
- The UX Reader
- Bright Ideas for User Experience Designers
- Pidoco – Online tool for wireframe and prototyping
- Ninjamock – Web-based tool for simple prototyping
- io – Tool for designing and prototyping
- Marvel – Prototyping tool for linking the screens together.
- Justinmind – For high fidelity prototypes
Mobile app prototyping
- Mockplus – Preview designs on actual devices
- POP – Taking your ideas from paper to the screen and towards actual prototyping
- AppCooker – Prototyping app for iPad users
- Framer – Can be used to create designs with coding
- Adobe Fireworks
- Adobe Dreamweaver CC
- Adobe Illustrator CC
- Adobe Photoshop CC
Usability testing tools
- GTMetrix – Free tool to test reasons for slow site speeds
- Usabilityhub – Remote user testing
- Attensee – First impression testing for UI designers
- UserEcho – Allows you to survey users.
- Loop11 – Scenario-based testing to enhance UX design
- Optimizely – for A/B testing.
Communicate and Contribute to Grow
Following are some design-based social platforms for collaborating and growing your network:
- Product Hunt
4. Keep an Eye on What’s in Trend
Other than these tools, resources, and collaboration options, you also need to keep your eyes open for what’s trending.
Other than skills and know-how related to UI/UX design, you also need to spot trends, preferably before they become too mainstream, to give you an edge over competitors.
A simple way to spot trends?
- Read Trends – blogs that we mentioned above can be your best friends. A majority of your counterparts won’t be spending time reading much. You can read your way ahead of them.
- Talk Trends – Talking to other UX/UI designers, actual users, your clients, prospective clients, industry experts will help you tap on trends on time.
- Watch Trends – Carefully watch user behavior. Critically analyze the success or otherwise of your designs and also of other’s designs.
- Think Trends – Always keep asking yourself where you can improve. And try to think of new things that you can introduce.
Spotting trends and acting on them requires patience, time, and a lot of persistent effort.
To give you a heads up about the trends that can be capitalized on, we have a couple of on-going trends that are expected to rule the UX/UI universe.
- Animated Illustrations – For an audience that has the attention span of a goldfish, you can add motion to illustrations. Animations capture attention and keep people engaged.
- Microinteractions – Things as simple and as blended in the environment like Facebook likes are micro-interactions. And with attention to detail and small aspects, you can enhance your UX design in multiple ways
- 3D graphics – 3D technology isn’t a new trend. Neither is it a passing fad. It sure requires a lot of skills and time. But, if you can do it right, it would be equally rewarding
- VR and AR – Virtual and artificial reality technology is being used in every possible field. And they can be effectively integrated into your design to offer an enhanced experience. From exploring new tools to understanding relevant theories and best practices are a must to make use of these technologies.
- Neumorphism – Just like Skeuomorphic designs are aimed at keeping things as close to reality as possible, neumorphism is a new age skeuomorphism that aims to maintain modern reality. And it is destined to become a key factor in UX designs.
- Asymmetric Layouts – The need to stand out is the seed that germinated into the introduction of asymmetric layouts. But, before you take your asymmetric layout ahead, you need to consider that your user shouldn’t get lost. Keep in simple.
- Storytelling – UX designers need to understand that a very important of User Experience is emotion. And with the right storytelling, you can evoke the right emotions. Visual elements like text font, size, color, images, animations, and UX writing should be used for telling stories that form bonds with users and give way to positive emotions
5. Build Your Portfolio
After having followed all the above steps, you’d be ready to start cashing on your efforts. But, before you can find your first big break client or before you land your dream job, you need a portfolio.
Your portfolio will be your personal website that will showcase your work samples and introduce you as the perfect candidate for the job.
If you have the right portfolio, you can take prospective employees on a visual journey. Telling them what you can do. What you can help them achieve – all with visible examples. Your portfolio is proof of your professional prowess. A ticket to success.
Okay, so here’s the catch.
The infamous Catch 22.
You need to land a job to showcase your “work samples” in your portfolio. And you need a portfolio to get a job as a UX designer.
So, what do you do first? And how?
See, practice is the key to perfection. And there are two simple ways in which you can practice what you have learned from about UX/UI –
- Volunteer – Unlike corporates with deep pockets, charity organizations and not-for-profits would be more than happy to let budding talent do things for them.
You can use platforms like VolunteerMatch to find relevant openings. Also, volunteering your UX skills for organizations would help your network better. You never know who you’d get introduced to as – the one who did wonders for our UX design.
- Do Unsolicited Redesigns – While in most cases, unsolicited advice is seen as an intrusion and overstepping, you can still make it work for your UX career. If you have an idea that can enhance an existing UX, you can redesign it. Other than the sheer thrill of having beaten the experts in your craft, it can also find a place in your portfolio. Also, you can take notes from Jason Li about unsolicited redesigns that will actually work for you.
Once you have enough work to put in your portfolio, you can start reaching out to your prospective employers.
Let’s do a quick recap of the ultimate beginners guide for UX/UI designers –
- Understand if UX/UI designing is the right career option for you or not
- Enroll in UX design courses to get theoretical knowledge (Also, certificates to add to your resume!)
- Find all the tools and resources that you need to work, make work easy, and make your work shine.
- Keep your eyes open for trends that can be tapped on
- Build your portfolio to engage and impress prospective employers
What to Do Now?
You have the key to a fulfilling career in UX/UI designing right in front of you. Your next step should be starting with step 1 in this guide. Get started with unlocking your true potential.
Lesley Haught is a new contributor to IG Webs who has written a well researched article full of resources for those interested to begin a new career in UI/UX design. Copy and keep this article and use it as a reference to a new beginning.
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