New to UX and considering it as a career. Help!


#1

Thank you for taking the time to read this post.

I have been looking into UX for about a year or so and now find myself in a situation where I am seriously considering it as a career choice. Just for some background info, I have a B.A. in Business and have been out of school for a couple of years. My most recent role was a project coordinator position where I learned some project management skills but definitely not in the digital world.[I] I have no significant experience with design or digital media[/I]. There is a 6 months intro to UX course that I am considering joining in January which will cover information architecture, user research, interface design, user experience design so I will get a taste of all the different areas. I was also considering starting a side project around this time to expedite the learning process…

[B]But before I part with my hard earned $$$[/B] and run off attempting to become the world’s next best UX designer, I would love to to hear some of your insights and was really hoping you can help me answer these 5 questions which would make things a LOT clearer for me.

  1. I was wondering if this transition is realistic for me and what kind of time frame I would be looking at before I really get going in UX?

  2. I am aware that the salary and job prospects are pretty good for experienced UX designers at the moment… How do you think the market will look in the couple of years? A choice like this is not all about the money, but it definitely is a factor. Do you think the market is catching up to the shortage of good UX designers? Do you see salaries increasing? Decreasing?

  3. Will I eventually need to learn coding skills besides basic HTML/CSS and a bit of jQuery?

  4. Out of the roles within UX which role is easier to transition into first? My main interest lies in design and the creative process that accompanies it but user research also seems interesting. Could you do both? Or would you choose one or the other?

  5. Finally, what kind of roles could one transition into after being a UX designer? I guess I am wondering about what the typical career path would look like. I have heard of UXers becoming good product managers and creative directors to name a few. What are your thoughts?

I really, REALLY appreciate your help. Oh, and I am from Canada just in case location effects any of the answers…

-rau5


#2

Greetings :), I will answer my opinion on your questions, but others may be able to give you more of an idea.

  1. UXers tend to come from multiple disciplines, and I have heard of people who have transitioned from business. In terms of whether it is possible, I think it is more about whether you have the soft skills already rather than what discipline you started out with. So in terms of soft skills things like: empathy, a drive to continuously learn, creative thinking/thinking outside the box etc. In terms of time frame, it really does depend on a few things. For instance whether you do a short course or a longer one, whether you complete an internship or try to get a job straight out. Suggestions are to get as much experience as possible, even if it isn’t in paid positions. Have a read of Matt and Luke’s “Getting Started in UX”, it is really helpful for the kinds of information you are probably looking for.

  2. Like most jobs, salary tends to depend on experience and the company you work for. Yes I would say that UX is probably better paid starting out then some other jobs, I think that the market is still looking for good experienced UX designers, but there are also a lot of people starting out now. It will take a wee while for those learning now to get up to the skill level that the market wants, so I think later on this gap may get smaller but that is just speculation. Again I’m not too sure about salaries but I wouldn’t think they would decrease too much.

  3. It depends on what job you are going for. Technically we do not need to know how to code. Some of us come from that background, and it can be good to know technical limitations when coming up with possible designs, but it also depends what area you want to go into. For instance if your company has developers, then if you can get them involved in the design process, this can be an equally good thing to do, especially for better involvement in UX throughout the workplace. If you want to learn to code then go ahead, but it should be more of an interest thing, because I’ve found when jobs are more focused around this, you get less focused around the actual design ideation and users (which we are all about!).

  4. I would say the generic UX designer role, as with this one you generally do a bit of everything and it can be a good way to find your niche. It also is not hugely specific in any one area so you don’t necessarily need to have the level of experience that a role such as Information Architecture might require. It depends on the size of the company as well, as if it is small you don’t tend to get them paying for specialised UX roles, they would prefer someone who can do more than one area.

  5. In all honesty I like UX so much I can’t see myself transitioning out of it (although you never know), but I think designing in general, product managers, marketing… anything that involves creativity, working with people, and possibly organising (if you are an organised person).

Hope this helps :).


#3

Hey Rau,
Welcome to the community. Sounds like you have an interesting time coming up. I’ll send a couple more seasoned UXers the way of this thread to give you their opinions, but Natalie has pretty much nailed it.

I think that one of the biggest things to remember is that ‘UX’ is such a broad catch all term. There are many different roles and opportunities, you just have to find your niche.


#4

Hi rau5,

Natalie has given you some solid gold answers. Here’s my 2 cents worth too.

  1. Yes, that kind of transition is relatively common. Most people come from a design or digital background, but the business/project angle brings a lot of people too. You’re definitely not alone. A background in Business with some project management experience sounds like an excellent start. The side project in tandem with the 6 month course will fill the most fundamental gaps. A realistic timeframe for you to get started is pretty short - a few days would be enough for you to be able to apply the basic practices and principles (iterative, user-centred design, etc). It’s all upwards from there. If you can demonstrate sound knowledge of these, backed with some evidence such as a portfolio of your side project, then you may be able to land a position that has UX responsibilities (perhaps a role that also shares one of your strengths in business or project management skills). However, a dedicated UX role would need some solid experience and evidence.

  2. As much as I would like it to look like it does now, I can see a few possible changes as things mature. I think neither business appreciation of user-centric techniques nor the expectations of customers will go away any time soon. Much of the design thinking legacy UX inherits or operates within has been around since the inter-war period, so it’s not so much a peaking fad as much as part of the evolution of (predominantly digital) design. With your idealist hat on you might expect:
    [LIST]
    []An increase in dedicated UX roles as more companies and organisations actively engage with UX
    [
    ]An increase in the number of people transitioning into UX roles from related roles (and conversely leaving UX for other roles)
    []People entering specialist UX fields directly from tertiary level education.
    [
    ]A broader expectation by employers that people working in digital design and customer-facing roles have some experience in, or good awareness of, UX. It might be fair to say that digital designers of all kinds will increasingly consider business needs and a user-centric approach in general.
    []Similarly, people that ‘build’ stuff will both generally broaden as well as narrow their skill sets - freelancers and niche employees will have better capabilities (and higher client/employer expectations) across smaller projects. Developers will have resources and skills that might cross well over into traditional ‘design’ territory, allowing products and ideas to get out to the world quicker. But also narrower: industries and companies will continue to develop their own expectations around skill sets that are deeper or more advanced in particular fields.
    [
    ]Further specialisation of UX roles, particularly within industries, ie UX research
    [*]A spreading of the UX salary bell curve as employers get more discerning and the range of UX skill sets and experience gets broader. Essentially: excellent UXers with a good track record will probably continue to earn a good salary. The bottom may open up as employee competition and employer expectations increase, driving some salaries down from where they are now.
    [/LIST] 3) To add to Natalie’s points (and not counter them), even over the past 10 years web design has been getting more complex than HTML/CSS/jQuery. At the moment they’re probably a bare minimum for anyone going anywhere near web interface design. All the related libraries and technologies that branch out from these, including things like Git, are going to be useful skills for both freelancers and people working in roles next to developers. I would say coding skills are going to be pretty important for the foreseeable future (20 years at least?) as the world grows and takes better advantage of computing. I kind of think of it as part of being digitally literate, not an optional skill - for people working as ‘builders’ of digital things at least. I’m definitely not saying UXers all need to be programmers; we just need to have a decent understanding. We’ll see a massive skills shortage of programming ability over the next decade or two. Currently the number of Computer Science graduates is diminishing, not increasing as it probably should. Code.org has some great arguments for this stuff.

  3. The role you transition into first will be very much related to the one you’re closest to as it’s very difficult to jump into something you’re wholly unfamiliar with. For each of developers, graphic designers, product owners, filmmakers, business analysts, etc this will be completely different. To answer your #4 question directly, and assuming you’re working solo or in small teams, I would suggest that you do user research AND design iterations regardless of your actual role. I agree with Natalie’s suggestion that you start general and get experience across things before you choose a specialty. Some people go as far as to try and get work in agencies, where even the types of projects are broad too. However, if you could only choose one, I’d suggest the user research option as thats where the real learnings stem from.

  4. Check out my article on UX Matters: Beyond User Experience: Onward and Upward Beyond planning your career from generalist to specialist (if that’s what you want) I think it’s going to be difficult to map out exactly what opportunities or new interests you’ll have in 5 years time. At the moment things aren’t terribly restricted, and I think (and hope, for UX’s sake) that it’ll be that way for a while yet.

I hope that helps!


#5

How did you go, rau5? Did you take the course?