Is it a good idea to switch from Web Design to UX Design?


#1

The big picture:
I’ve been a generalist for the last 7 years doing everything possible to keep alive my little creative agency comprised of me, my girlfriend and occasionally a copywriter from another city. I do most of the creative and technical work while my girlfriend handles the clients and some social media accounts. We mostly offer primary branding and web design services but over the years I’ve done many things from logo design to print design, packaging design, web design and when it comes to coding I’ve tried many CMS and eCommerce platforms but finally settled on WordPress (CMS) and Prestashop (eCommerce) using mostly HTML, CSS some JS and PHP. Now 7 years is a lot of time in the digital era and I feel like we’re not going anywhere with this and our bank accounts tell the same story even though we try to keep up with the latest trends in our field.

The problem:
Our current clients base is mostly small to medium local companies which are not willing to spend much money on branding and web design. It’s enough for my small agency to survive but not much else and so we can’t grow as a business and we can’t increase our revenue.

The goal:
The main goal is to be able to move to another country, a more civilized European country to be exact, because we are tired of the crap, the corruption, the people and everything else in our country (we live in Romania by the way).
In order to afford this move we would need to make more money and be able to work remotely.

The solution:

  1. Here comes UX Design. An option would be for me to get a remote job as a UX Designer. In order to achieve this I would first need to get educated in UX Design and create a portfolio, which could take quite some time. Then of course there’s the part of finding the right job which won’t be easy for sure.
  2. Another option would be to team up with another UX Designer under the name of my current agency and provide UX/UI design services remotely. The problem here would be finding clients all the time and keep a constant work and cash flow to make the business reliable. And I’m not sure how hard it is to find clients for UX services. On the other hand this plan could start working right away as soon as I find a suitable partner and some clients.

The question:
What do you think about the two solutions above? I could really use some advice/opinions at this point from the veterans in the field.

Thanks in advance!


#2

Hey @dpcdpc11 and welcome.

Sounds like a tricky situation to be in. I can’t answer specifically in that the market in every country is different, but you’re right about option 1 taking a long time, and depending on where you are, junior jobs aren’t always prolific.

Option 2 sounds like it could work quite well in the immediate term while you do your training with a view to Option 1 in the longer term. You already have the structure and processes in place to market and find clients.

You could also consider pitching to clients that haven’t considered UX or don’t think it’s accessible to them. There are lots of businesses out there that recognise an issue, but don’t have the resource to hire a full time UXer.


#3

You could start using user-centred methods in your current client work. From my own experience it doesn’t have to be a massive step, and you have the advantage of controlling the implied changes in your own time. It also wouldn’t exclude you from working in partnership with others, and would help develop experience and work history for you to rebrand or pivot your services at some point in future to be much more UX focussed.

User-centred design services have done a better job of connecting to business value, so can often charge higher rates. I don’t know much about the scene in Romania, but I suspect that the competitive market for your skills would still value the better conversion rates that come with user-centred approaches. The pressure on short term gains would be higher. Does that sound right?

Remote UX design is possible, but I find it much harder. Mixing with people (stakeholders and customers) is much easier face to face.

Two quick tips based on your post above:

  1. Separate your thinking about user interface design (UI) and user experience design (UX). It’s difficult to juggle things appropriately using the shorthand ‘UX/UI’.
  2. +1 for getting some experience under your belt before you start specialising in UX. You should still start practicing user testing in your current project work tomorrow. It’s just that there are a lot of web designers that simply search & replace ‘web design’ with ‘user experience design’ but haven’t bedded in some of the different ways of thinking, and you can tell from a mile off.

Most of all, good luck! It sounds like you’ve got a plan starting to form, and I’d love it if the UX Mastery community can share the journey with you. :slight_smile:


#4

Hello @dpcdpc11,

From my perspective, I actually didn’t see any problem. Instead, a lot of opportunities which requires a good investment. Investment in terms of skills. Currently, your skillset is good enough to sell it to big clients. But you need to polish it.

The Big Billion Boys
Before your polish and upgrading your skill, It’s better to understand who requires this skill? Why they requires the skill? How much they paying for it? For more concrete answers to these questions, pull out a market auditing workshop along with your team members. After this workshop, you will get a clear picture of about your future clients. With the clear picture, you can take skill upgrading decisions and move forward for it. For getting the grip of the market, you can start with websites like angel list, we work remotely, etc

Getting Ready
the current market you can see a lot of requirements for visual designers who can do the job of a webmaster also. And a lot of UI/UX designer and Front-End engineering requirements. If you combine your skill and the market requirements, it’s clear that you are on track. But you need to fill some gaps.

Restructuring the thought, not the title
"Is it a good idea to switch from Web Design to UX Design?", I prefer you to restructure the sentence to “Is it a good idea to include Human-centric approach while designing for the Web?”. what I mean is you don’t need to switch, just start practising.

Which mountain should I climb first
User Experience is a big topic with a lot of subjects like usability, research, visual design, etc. So first you focus on learning and understanding Usability. Being a Web Designer it will easy to get into the grip.

What gear I need
For baby steps, I prefer to start with the book Don’t make me think by Steve Krug. Also, read Design of everyday things by Don Norman. These two books are considered as the holy books.You can find more books on a big book list thread in UX mastery, But I prefer to start with these two books and rest you can refer once you get the grip.

The Hardship
Just reading books and articles about user experience won’t help you
becoming a master. For that, you need to think, engaging, observing and implement, iteratively.

The Showbiz
While studying and practising new things don’t forget to showcase the knowledge that you explored and acquired through different channels. You will get a lot of constructive feedbacks, which will help you in gaining confidence, exposure and the drive to the next level.

These are just my thoughts.
Validate it more and you can do it.
All the best for the team.

Have a Nice Day!


#5

Thanks for all the great advice guys!

After reading all your replies I think I’m not ready to jump on the just UX bandwagon just yet, at least not entirely. You are suggesting to include a human-centric approach when designing websites. But we have been doing this for years now but we never named it. Every website we make, we try to get into the client’s client head and give him the best user experience possible. After all, website are made for people and not for search engines!

After having a long talk with my colleague, we’ve decided on the following plan:

  • find a market niche outside our country (because of the higher prices) which we could exploit. Considering our experience we think our best choice is to focus on presentation websites (built on Wordpress) for companies that provide services (like accounting, financial, business consulting etc).
  • redefine what we mean by “web design services” by focusing more on the human-centric approach.
  • set new prices according to the market. These should be higher prices than we currently charge our local clients.
  • try and get new clients from this niche either by emailing them directly or by getting exposure of our portfolio. From our experience with past clients, neither of these 2 methods were very successful. Most clients we had come by word of mouth. Any advice here would be useful!
  • add some new members to our team if clients start to come in. An English speaking copywriter and a web developer would be a great addition to the team.
  • evolve with each new project pushing our skills to the max each time.
  • expand our portfolio with new quality projects in order to attract better paying clients.
  • expand the current niche to reach even better paying clients.

What do you think about this new plan?

By the way I’ve started reading “The design of everyday things” about 3 month ago and I still didn’t finish it. It’s a pretty heavy read and Norman is going too much in details on each topic. Hopefully I’ll get to finish it.

Have a great week ahead!


#6

Exciting! You have a plan!

Make sure you stay in touch and keep us in the loop. I feel invested in your plan now. :slight_smile:


#7

Awesome! All the Best!


#8

It’s good idea. You can’t improve any big website with just web design. UX is perfect for increasing conversion rate and other similar things. It’s good opportunity to find big and stable clients. You should learn Google Analytics a lot for understanding behavior of your visitors. You can hire UX designer and he will share experience with you. It’s the best way if you want to avoid common mistakes. You can try to read something like http://agentestudio.com/blog/ecommerce-web-design by yourself but it’s hard way.
It’s not the standard “design” but it’s very interesting work. Good luck!


#9

I definitely think you’re on the right track. Based on your skills and experience it sounds like you could really ramp up your agency offering with UX design skills. One more thing you might think about is offering your Wordpress services to agency partners in the U.S. and Europe with an emphasis on providing good UX. Almost anyone can build websites, but those who do so with a clear understanding of how to satisfy business needs and user goals offer far more value to clients. Wishing you all the best in your journey!