Pointers for a complete outsider?


#1

Hi.

I’m a Graphic Design student who’s only recently discovered that UX is even a thing, and it’s got me pretty interested. I’m currently trying to figure out whether it’s right as a future career for me - but one of the biggest challenges is trying to find a point of entry. There seems to be no shortage of books, infographics and articles but I’m at a loss as to where to start. Right now my biggest questions are;
-What books or articles should I read to help me, as a complete beginner, to get an idea of what UX as a career is?
-Should I pursue roles such as ‘UX architect’ if I have an inclination towards information gathering and visual design, but very weak HTML/CSS skills? Should I consider other, similar roles?
-What sort of qualifications do I need to get into the field? I’ve read about graphic designers transitioning into UX, but this seemed like it was pretty late into their careers.
-How do I involve myself in projects that I could potentially build a portfolio from?

Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.


#2

Hi Nikolas,
Welcome to the community. We can definitely help you out with that.

At the risk of sounding too much like a salesperson, we have a book that should be of use to you. Get Started in UX answers exactly the sorts of questions that you are asking, with regards to starting a career in UX. You can check it out here.

Earlier this year I ran a free online chat session all about getting started in a UX career and quite a few handy tips came out of it. You can read a transcript of the session here.

That’s probably it from me, but I’m sure there will be others that weigh in with much more valuable answers.


#3

Hi Nikolas,
The book Hawk mentions is very helpful if you want to get an understanding of possible ways to starting a career in UX, such as the process, questions you may be asked in interviews etc. I found it was a great, easy read.
As it mentions, and as mentioned on the forum, if you do not work in a job where you can start applying UX processes and tools, you can offer up your services to a small company, or someone who needs some work done, do it for free even. If you don’t know of anything like that, you can show your process through hypothetical examples, where you for instance take a site, show how you would evaluate it for user experience, and what you would do to solve/make it a better experience for the users. These should be replaced once you have concrete examples of work you complete.

UX mastery have a great big list of books that you can read on their site, and keeping up with UX blogs can keep you up to date with where things are currently at and the topics most in discussion.

Qualifications definitely does depend on the company who you are trying to get a job with. Most of the time having a relevant degree can be good, ditto with a masters, but for the masters it tends to just open up interest a bit more, and is disregarded at interview stage. Other than the great info in the ‘Get Started in UX’ book, some great insight that my workmates gave me was that they look for someone who will research and ask questions first, who they think they will get along with, as well as having a passion for UX. So experience gets you so far, but these other factors can give you the job.

For the job opportunities, again advice given to me, is don’t just look at the title. Organisations often do not know what they want, or what for instance, User Experience involves. So they may advertise for UX but actually want a UI designer. Look at the list of skills that they mention they would like, and if they don’t mention these, actually take the initiative to ask them in the interview. Ask what the role will involve, give them some examples, and it can help increase people’s opinion on your knowledge of the areas as well.

Lastly if you don’t have very much experience, a great way is to try get mentoring, internships, or anything similar like that where you work for a company, follow someone else who has more extensive UX knowledge, and get to learn the process and apply the UX knowledge. This then allows you (with permission and tact) to use projects that you worked on for your portfolio.

Hope this was helpful, and good luck!


#4

Hawk and Natalie both give great advice.

The ‘Get Started in UX’ ebook will help you get into a role, but our first ebook - ‘Everyday UX’ (http://uxmastery.com/everyday-ux/) - actually describes a typical day in the life of 10 different UXers; different roles, different points of their careers, different places - and this might be more of what you’re after. If you want to see what the nitty gritty of being a UXer looks like, the photos, interviews and UX tool pictures in there will give you a pretty good idea.

At the crux of what you’re asking - getting a feel for whether a UX career is going to appeal to you - I’d urge you to consider your soft skills. We’ve put together a bunch of our thoughts on this here: http://uxmastery.com/ux-self-assessment/ Hopefully it’s just what you need! UX Matters also has a great article on UX soft skills - http://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2012/03/soft-skills-for-ux-designers.php

In terms of role titles, I’d be wary of them until you get a bit more experience. Some of them, like UX Architect, are at a level of seniority or imply a lot of experience. Once you’re doing UX work, calling yourself a ‘User Experience Designer’ that has interest in information architecture or user research, etc, should be enough. I’d let your work and reputation speak for you, rather than a title.

The other thing to do would be to get in touch with a respected UX designer in your area and ask if you can have a chat over coffee, or have a quick visit to their office. Hopefully they’ll be friendly and supportive enough to give you some insights once they understand you’re taking your career seriously.

I’m keen to hear what you think of all this, and what else you come across as you’re considering getting into UX. Keep us posted!


#5

I’ll echo the comments above—especially Luke’s point about fancy titles like UX Architect. I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable applying for a UX Architect role (or referring to myself with that title) until I had taken a leadership role on a few large projects (e.g. complex web applications with lots of stakeholders), and felt confident that they were successful, and that the success of the projects was largely due to my process which I am able to repeat.

The title is not important; finding an entry point is. We recommend in the Get Started book that was mentioned that taking some initiative to conduct a few usability tests is one of the best ways to get some experience in establishing that user feedback loop. The thing about user-centred design is that in many organisations, the concept is still foreign.

One decision you should make is whether you’d like to begin your career in an agency or in-house. If there’s an industry you’re passionate about (fashion, finance, music?) then it could be worth trying for an in-house role at a company that’s working in that industry. However if you’re not sure, you’re probably better off starting in an agency. Regardless of which you choose, any role that gets you working in some degree on a digital project is a good place for you to then start bringing user-centred philosophies and techniques to the team. Say your first job is as a graphic designer at a digital agency, and your first job is just creating banner ads for clients who are advertising on websites. You could get some UX experience by volunteering to get involved in the metrics behind those banner ads—how placement affects click-throughs etc. You could try running some guerrilla usability tests to see what people’s reactions are to the ads. There may be a senior designer that you could shadow and start to pick up other techniques.

There are lots of entry points, so I appreciate it can feel overwhelming. But unfortunately there’s no “one” right answer. UX apprenticeships are almost non-existent unfortunately, so you just have to dive in and get some experience and move your way across, is my advice.

Keep us posted! And stick around and make sure you tap into the expertise in this community!