Overwhelmed! New to UX – where to start, what goals to set


#1

Hi everyone,

This is one of my first posts so here’s a quick introduction: I’m Malin, I’m a graphic and web designer from Sweden living and working in the UK. I’ve been into webdesign for almost 10 years but UX only for about 3 years but haven’t really taken it seriously until now. I’ve realised that as much as I enjoy designing, my main interest lies in solving problems, creating solutions with a goal in mind and basically analysing my way to the best outcome. I also have a big interest in psychology which is one of the paths that led me to UX.

Now, my problem is, that there is SO MUCH information and I don’t know how to begin. So far I’ve read books, lots of online articles and taken courses. But the more I read, the more information I find, and the more I realise how big this mountain is to climb and how little I really know. I’m not asking what books to read or where to learn; I just feel like I need a strategy; a plan that ultimately will lead to a job in UX. For example, how early should you start to specialise? I’m working on improving my general knowledge in UX but sooner or later I want to find a niche. Right now I’m working for an ecommerce company and I love designing with CRO in mind – but how soon is it wise to start specialising?

What I would love to know is, what did your learning strategy look like? Did you quit your job to spend time learning UX on a full time basis? Did you learn about general UX processes first, then found a niche? Did you decide yourself what areas to focus on, or did you let your job and your job tasks guide you to them? Did you learn more through practical experience and tasks, rather than just theory and studying?

If you have any input, please write! I’m open to all advice, whether you’re a newbie or experienced :slight_smile:
Thanks,
Malin


#2

Calling @Experienced and @Teachers


#3

Hi, Malin! It’s great to have you here. Hopefully we can help get you pointed in the right direction.

Welcome to the Dunning-Kruger effect. Know that this is perfectly normal, and actually a sign that you’re learning quite a bit. The more you know, the more you know how little you know. It’s humbling, but very common. Rest assured that many of us have dealt with something similar.

As soon as you’d like. You’re at a wonderful stage right now where you can learn what you’d like at your own pace. Don’t be afraid to explore a niche that seems interesting. The sooner you learn where you want to go, the sooner you can set yourself on the right course.

One thing I love about UX is that so many of us come from such varied backgrounds. Everyone’s story is seemingly unique. You’ll find quite a few people who specifically studied for it, but also quite a few more who fell in love with UX and pursued it as both a passion and career.

I fell into the latter group. I studied UX while homeless and working at a call center, gathering what knowledge I could between calls and by the dome light of my Ford Escort wherever I happened to be parked for the night. My goal was to make the internal systems my call center was using more user-friendly for the other reps, so I kind of already had a niche. My learning was very practical, and my job and tasks guided me through the process. My more expansive story is here: https://podtail.com/en/podcast/making-ux-work-with-joe-natoli/episode-05-doug-collins-there-is-no-plan-b/

I hope this helps! I’m sure others will have a lot to contribute. Feel free to ask any follow-up questions you may have.


#4

Anymore these days, I think UX designers are expected to be able to rationalize design decisions in terms of why something is the better way to go. It’s not enough to be a stunnning motion and visual designer anymore, or a designer who can code; you have to be able to talk about your designs and defend them and explain how they’re appropriate for the human problems they address.

So you can continue designing, but maybe try and make a habit of understanding why you’re making certain design decisions. Understand what good practice rules of thumb you’re following, what the design rationale for putting things on the left vs. the right, or for having a certain visual hierarchy. Be able to understand and describe a design idea as a cause-and-effect hypothesis that can be tested. This will help you connect your efforts as a designer to human goals and outcomes, and also help people you work with be more confident in your work.

I learned through a combination of both, with emphasis on practical experience. Failure is a great teacher, especially if you’re in a position where you can (or are forced to) try doing things before you think you’re “ready.” I didn’t know anything about designing A/B tests the first time I designed one and as a result the results were too confusing too be actionable. I also didn’t know about “facilitator effect” the first time I ruined a usability feedback session by agreeing with the participant and egging them on.

You can study a while, pursue an academic degree and I think that builds up some credibility, and I do think it puts some prospective employers more at ease. Certainly in larger enterprises I think you’re more likely to climb a ladder and get promoted with a graduate degree of some kind, and even though I’ve done a lot of user research there are many user researcher positions I’d never qualify for because they require a PhD. There’s a level of training rigor from academia that is part of what makes those candidates more appealing.

Your gut will tell you if that’s where you think you want to go.

Meanwhile, it’s never too soon to start specializing. Just follow the trail of what really speaks to you.


#5

Like others, I “fell” into this job, but about 18 years ago, so have been doing it for a while. :slight_smile: I personally didn’t start to specialize until 5 years ago, and then I chose to specialize in an industry rather than a particular UX niche. I am very much a generalist and I like it that way. I feel like it offers me a lot of freedom on different projects. For my UX learning strategy, it is forever ongoing. I am still learning many new things and I find it invigorating. When I started out, it was very practical - how to do deliverables. Later I got into articulating decisions and more soft skills. Now I focus a lot on the industry I am in (education) and how I can use learnings from the field to incorporate into my work.

Hope that helps!


#6

hi @malin_liljeblad

IMO opinion @dougcollins already provided (as usual) a bunch of great advices so I will add just a thought form my side.

I believe you are on the right track because of the questions you listed:

Generally speaking, I don’t like the labels in general and in particular when it comes to the design. If you have a thing about how things are made you are a designer, end of the discussion. Said that, If you have the feeling that the user-oriented topics are fascinating you then a good starting point could be working on all the main steps of the product design process (eg benchmark, analysis, personas, card-sorting, lo-fi design, hi-fi design etc) putting more effort in walking in the end-user shoes. I’m sure you will quickly understand which step you like the most and start from there you will be able to shape your role as a designer.

Good luck and never give up :slight_smile:


#7

Thanks a lot @dougcollinsI’ve really enjoyed listening to the entire episode. On Wednesday, May 16, 2018, 11:07:24 PM GMT+2, dougfunnie83 support@uxmastery.com wrote:

dougcollins Experienced UXer
May 16 |

Hi, Malin! It’s great to have you here. Hopefully we can help get you pointed in the right direction.

But the more I read, the more information I find, and the more I realise how big this mountain is to climb and how little I really know.

Welcome to the Dunning-Kruger effect. Know that this is perfectly normal, and actually a sign that you’re learning quite a bit. The more you know, the more you know how little you know. It’s humbling, but very common. Rest assured that many of us have dealt with something similar.

…how early should you start to specialise?

As soon as you’d like. You’re at a wonderful stage right now where you can learn what you’d like at your own pace. Don’t be afraid to explore a niche that seems interesting. The sooner you learn where you want to go, the sooner you can set yourself on the right course.

…what did your learning strategy look like?

One thing I love about UX is that so many of us come from such varied backgrounds. Everyone’s story is seemingly unique. You’ll find quite a few people who specifically studied for it, but also quite a few more who fell in love with UX and pursued it as both a passion and career.

I fell into the latter group. I studied UX while homeless and working at a call center, gathering what knowledge I could between calls and by the dome light of my Ford Escort wherever I happened to be parked for the night. My goal was to make the internal systems my call center was using more user-friendly for the other reps, so I kind of already had a niche. My learning was very practical, and my job and tasks guided me through the process. My more expansive story is here: https://podtail.com/en/podcast/making-ux-work-with-joe-natoli/episode-05-doug-collins-there-is-no-plan-b/

I hope this helps! I’m sure others will have a lot to contribute. Feel free to ask any follow-up questions you may have.


#8

Hi Doug! Thank you so much for your reply :slight_smile: I listened to your podcast at work today (while multitasking – although it didn’t go as well as I expected, became a bit too engrossed in the conversation :joy: ).

You really put into words the reason I’m here; that UX is about attitude more than anything else. That eagerness to ask why, study and try new methods, find efficient solutions/processes, and ultimately, make life easier for ourselves. One thing that I’ve experienced differently to you though, is that unfortunately I haven’t met many people with that same mindset. I know there’s plenty of them and I know a few, but they’re not always easy to come by! And in the working environment (here in the UK) I’ve also noticed that it’s not always appreciated, questioning processes and the reasons behind them. Many employers just want you to keep your head low and not ask any questions. From what I gather you experienced that at the call centre, but you stayed determined :slight_smile: Thankfully in UX, this way of thinking is not only appreciated, but key, which is another reason I’m here.

With regards to finding a niche, right now I’m keeping my doors open, but I have definitely developed a week spot for ecommerce UI design and UX, and CRO. I’m just worried that it would be difficult to find a job specialising in a business type rather than field (such as UI / research). Plus, many ecommerce sites are built with templates that already have finished/optimised interfaces – rather than using in-house developers (like my current employer). I believe it’s best to be realistic and keep my eyes on the target which is in the long run to get a job in UX. What do you think? Do you know if we have any UX/UI designers or researchers specifically working in the ecommerce business, on this forum?

Again, thanks for you input, much appreciated :slight_smile:


#9

Hi :slight_smile: Thanks for your reply!

I think you’ve put the head on the nail on why I want to move from graphic design to UX design… I realise I didn’t explain it very well in my initial post. I love designing, and want to continue with it in one way or another. But my experience in the trade is that, there is no budget for thought-out design anymore. Take branding for example. I love branding. When I create a visual identity, I first want to learn everything I can about the company and their audience, figure out the message and how to say it. But no one has the budget for that part of the process anymore! Instead, I’m expected to pump stuff out, without any sort of background information. A lot of the time, it doesn’t even matter if it even looks good! And I’ve realised, I cant work like this. And realising this, is how I got into UX. When I design, I can’t do a half-ass job. I need to do it the right way. Ask all the questions, get all the info I need. Then I can start designing. Once I’ve created an identity, THEN I can pump stuff out. But the initial step in process for me will always be briefing and research. And what appeals to me in UX, is that this is the standard way of doing things!

Thanks for your input and your reassuring words. I hope that I will become more confident in UX the more I learn and the more I get to practice what I learn. But I’ve realised I have a long way to go. But hey at least I’m on my way :sweat_smile:


#10

Interesting! Thanks for your reply. I’ve been playing with the idea of specialising in a field rather than a UX niche. I would love to specialise in ecommerce, and do both research and testing as well as working on the design. But, my main priority is to get a UX job, and I’m not sure whether it’s more desirable to have a niche, or to try and be more of an all-rounder, and more flexible!


#11

Thanks for you reply! I think I’ve got a long way to go before I’ll be able to decide which direction I want to take. I think it would help to actually work on a team and be able to see what everyone do, how they work, and then try and find out where I will be most usable. The job I’m in right now are miles away from a employing a full UX team, unfortunately :confused:


#12

For your first job, it is better to be a generalist as it gives you more opportunities. But you can focus on an industry in your portfolio if you want.


#13

let’s be positive!
Being the only designer, it does not matter the company size, sucks.
On the other hand, if you have to manage the design process by yourself you will be able to better understand which step(s) of the process you like the most and/or perform the best.
It will be easier, when you will start looking for a new job (do not underestimate the market trends in terms of design jobs), to be focused on what you really want to do as a designer.

Maybe this article will give you some hints how to move forward in your design career: https://getpocket.com/a/read/1307859189


#14

Hi Malin,

I am just wondering if you are available for an interview for my project.
The interview will take only half and an hour… You seem to be a perfect candidate for me.

Let me know…


#15

Sounds interesting :slight_smile: Why don’t you send me a message with some details about your project!


#16

I’ve realised that as well, that at least this way I’ll get a chance to learn everything I can (and won’t have to harass anyone with questions when I don’t know what they’re talking about :sweat_smile:)
Thanks for the article, will have a read!


#17

I’m not able to view the article, must be save under your private account… could you send me a direct link to it? Thank you :slight_smile:


#18

you’re right!


#19

Wow! That’s a lot of ground to cover by one person :astonished: But yes, I do believe it would make our jobs easier if we had a good understanding of all processes and tasks. Very useful and interesting article, thanks for sharing it. It’s given me a good overview of what I need to learn more about, bullet by bullet! Now I just need to start ticking them off… :slight_smile:


#20

You can as well read some nice articles about UX design. Find some great content on the web and learn on your own. At least some useful informations and facts you will find here: https://www.netguru.co/blog/ux-is-not-just-about-user-experience-popular-misconceptions-about-ux-design I hope you will enjoy this lecture!