UX Design/Developer - Career Advice

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#1

[SIZE=14px]Hi all,

Long time lurker and finally signed up, hoping you can help me with your expert advice :slight_smile:
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[SIZE=14px]Quick summary of myself: I am in my late 20’s and have been working in IT consulting for the past 5 years (IT systems for banking). I am looking to do a bit of a career change into UX design as it’s an area I am interested in. I have a degree in Computer Science and have a good understanding of the software development life cycle and some programming knowledge (although I haven’t used this as much as a full-time developer). I understand HTML5 and CSS3 although this is self taught in my spare time and not at an expert level. I am also looking at learning Javascript as it seems very popular and a skill many jobs are asking for. I really enjoy design and have an artistic side and believe UX design or UX Development would suit my interests.

A few questions that would really help me:

  1. I noticed many people come from front-end development backgrounds before going into UX design. Should I be looking to take a similar path? Do you think it will be difficult for me to get into such a role as currently my background is very much requirements/ testing/ customer-facing and considering I am older than most graduates I can’t help but feel I will find it difficult as I feel I am “late to the party” so to speak.

  2. I am currently reading a book on UX design which focuses on how customers interact with a product (website/application) and their behavior. I’m finding it an area of interest and would like to learn more. The problem that I am facing however is that although I may be learning new material, where do I go from there? I really have no idea what to apply for or whether I will be ‘laughed’ at for applying for a job that they expect a whole another level of experience or skill-set.

  3. My plan is to do the following. Continue reading content focused around UX design. Continue to build my skills in HTML5 and CSS3. Look into learning Javascript. Embrace my skills by creating websites that use good design techniques from what I have learnt from my reading and then use this in the form of a portfolio. Does this sound like a good approach?

  4. Should I apply for junior job roles? Although it seems some of my experience is transitional I am willing to take a pay-cut to achieve my goal. Competition seems very high for these positions but I am driven and am willing to put the work in.
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    [SIZE=14px]I really am currently at crossroads on what to do. My current job is ok but I know deep down it’s not what I want to do for the rest of my life. On the other hand I really have no idea how I can get into this new field and whether it is likely I am going to find work…
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    [SIZE=14px]I live just outside London. Any advise or insights into this field will be greatly appreciated.
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    [SIZE=14px]Thanks for the help and your time. Any advice (however small) is really appreciated.[/SIZE]


#2
  1. No, I don’t. Your skills and background are valuable for other reasons, and it sounds like you have the knowledge to pick up the front-end stuff if necessary. You do need to be careful when applying for jobs to be clear about your skills and expectations though. Some people advertise for UXers when they want developers.

  2. The psychology side of UX is as important as the technical or design side. Focusing on that area is a solid game plan.

  3. It sounds like a good approach for a web designer/developer, but it doesn’t really seem to include UX. I think it makes sense to do that stuff as well if it interests you, because it will definitely help you in the job market, but it would make sense to focus on some UX training as well. We have a long list of online options here (both paid and unpaid), a great deal going [URL=“http://uxmastery.com/review-uxtraining-com/”]here, and a list of more formal degrees [URL=“http://uxmastery.com/resources/degrees/”]here.

  4. That is one option, but without a portfolio you might have trouble. Are you currently in a position to remain in your job for a year, work on some online training, and put together a portfolio?

If you haven’t already, have a read of this article, and possibly [URL=“http://uxmastery.com/get-started-in-ux/”]this book, if you have a budget for research. :slight_smile:

I hope that answers some of your questions. Feel free to fire through more when they crop up. :slight_smile:


#3

Hi Hawk,

Let me start by thanking you for your time and detailed response :slight_smile:

I especially like the uxtraining link as I have had difficulty trying to find a training resource online that focuses completely on UX design.

I am currently able to stay in my current job for now and learn in my free time. That shouldn’t be a problem. A question I do have however is that if you was in my shoes and you wanted to get into UX design what would your path be that will give you the best chance of finding a job when your current experience is not in UX design or front end development?

I do have a budget for training material (books etc are not a problem). Unfortunately with my current job demands I would unlikely be able to find the time to go on a full-time course however.

I have been thinking of a portfolio and content to include. An idea was looking at current apps that offer similar products to customers but appear to be rated/reviewed differently. For example on-line shopping apps (some that have 5 stars and some that have 1 star) and assessing the customer responses on the app store to investigate why some users are not happy and why customers are happy. I would then conclude my findings and sketch an example of things I would do to make the app more user-friendly and a better experience. Does this seem a good idea?

A problem I feel I have is that because I am currently working in an environment that aligns with UX design then I will not be able to base my portfolio on actual ‘real-life’ examples that returns a result (like an increase in customer traffic or higher reviews). Could you see this being a problem from a potential employers perspective?

Again, thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate your advice.

Sam


#4

Unless I had savings that I could live off, I would remain in my current job and upskill on the side. Most importantly, I’d build my portfolio. Take a look at the kinds of work that @MTUX is doing in the full immersion General Assembly course in this thread. It’s a full time course but his posts should give you some idea of the kind of direction that you should be heading.

I have taken a lot of part time UX courses over the last couple of years and some are fantastic. You can read my reviews of them here.

It does, but the key thing to remember with a portfolio is that it’s not necessarily about the product or idea, but about the process. You could make an amazing portfolio about products or apps that don’t even exist. I did some research a while back and looked at some great portfolios. Have a read of this article for some inspiration (and insight into what makes a good one).

And no thanks necessary – happy to answer as many questions as you have.


#5

Hi Hawk,

Thanks again for your response. I really like the way MTUX has presented their work and it gives real insight into how they approached each step and got to the end result. I will definitely be taking this on board for when it comes to the time of creating my own portfolio.

Also the part-time course review list you have provided is EXCELLENT. This is just what I was looking for and will give me the guidance I need to understand the approach and thought process of a UX designer.

Do you mind giving me a walkthrough of a ‘day in the life’ of a UX designer? For example, imagine you have applied and accepted a new UX design job and you have just settled in and ready to go. The company might be a well known online store and they want to improve their app as current feedback from customers has been poor. What steps would you take and what would be expected from you?

I would presume it would be something along the lines of:

  1. Introductions and getting to know your team (possible other designers, developers etc).
  2. Observe and review the current app, making notes of its content, navigation and pages
  3. Point out good and bad points once the current layout has been mapped
  4. Review current customer feedback and try to understand what the customer is thinking and reasons to why they are not happy
  5. Redesign an improved app layout based on the research above
    ​6) Storyboard the content that should be presented on each page (what the user will be presented with and how they should be able to navigate etc)
  6. Present the new design(s) to the business to seek their approval and to take into account their feedback and accept the new design
  7. Developers to start developing a working app
  8. App is developed and ready to be ‘played with’ to identify any obvious flaws or design problems
  9. Obvious problems amended and the app will be ready for testing
  10. Testing completed and outcome reviewed. This could lead to possible redesign, changes or further development.
  11. Application presented to the business to seek their feedback. Again this could lead to possible amendments.
  12. Once happy, the app may be tested on a small pool of people to gather their feedback and as a form of user testing.
  13. Feedback is reviewed. Any regular occurrences of negative feedback is rectified.
  14. Possible further development and testing (if needed)
  15. Preparation for the app to go into production.

Is this kind of along the right lines? Sorry for the long post, I’m just interested in exactly how a UX designer works and what they are expected to undertake in working environment.

Thanks again,

Sam


#6

No worries Sam.

I have to admit that I don’t work in a ‘normal’ UX role. I am a professional community manager (I have a technical background but these days specialise in the psychology of community platforms) so my ‘day in the life’ will be very different from that of someone working at an agency, for instance.

I’m going to call in @Natalie_Eustace and @ASHM who will be able to give you greater insight here.


#7

Hi Sam,

I’ve been away at UXNZ so I’m a little late to this one but I’ve had a quick read of what you’ve posted so far.

In relation to the day in life stuff, I can honestly tell you that no two days are the same. That list you have come up with is absolutely a list of things that could happen during a typical day but it really depends on what you are working on. I can see a common theme of working on an app, but if you were a user researcher like me or if say you were working on a product or service that list could be a bit different. I’m not going to list every possible activity that every single role in the incredibly vast field of UX that a professional could encounter in a typical day but I will tell you what they all have in common.

  • Working with your team
  • Learning from your team
  • Doing whatever needs doing to get the project done - being fluid and not constraining yourself to a specific role
  • Looking for opportunities
  • Creative problem solving
  • Acquiring new skills through on the job learning
  • Understanding the user
  • Understanding the goals of the business
  • Understanding technological constraints
  • Working with stakeholders

It’s all about collaboration, getting things done and working towards creating a product/service/app/website/thing/+more that balances user needs, business requirements and technological constraints. That’s what’s expected of us.

Every environment and every role is different and the best thing you can do (in my humble opinion) is be open, flexible and fluid.

Ashlea


#8

Hi Sam,

Sorry I’m late to answer this as well. I absolutely agree with Ashlea :).

I can give you examples from the three different types of experience in UX roles that I’ve had. The first was more research based, I came into a company for an internship and was put to work on a specific project. I had direction from my manager, but it was very much the beginning ideation phase of a particular solution that would work with an existing product that the company had. So I was working with developers, a product manager, financier and business analyst to try and understand the existing product and the way that it worked, as well as the customers. I completed a competitor analysis both of the existing product and of the particular solution my project was around. I was involved in creating journey maps, a full day workshop with current customers who may also use this solution and also phone calls to overseas customers. This project was a great example of completing research up front as it actually turned out that the larger market in America (where the main audience was thought to be) would actually have no use for this particular solution because it wasn’t a problem for them to begin with!

After that project finished, I basically started working with the UX team for RFPs, proof of concepts in terms of designs to win certain projects. This involved a lot of learning around the financial area and insurance in order for me to understand the work area. This was quite fun and different as there was limited time to actually research and involved a lot of quick ideation around the problem we were being asked to solve (if it was actually the correct problem and whether what they were asking for was the best way of going about it), sketching, mood boards, then presentations of the process we took to get to a possible solution. Now this is more agency style as it is what you do to win the proposal. Most of the time your end result isn’t what you would go with if you won the proposal, you would do a lot more digging, research, ideation and refining.

My last and current role involves porting an existing product (made with silverlight which is now becoming unsupported) to a web solution - although unfortunately it will have to be able to work alongside the old product until its functionality is completely fleshed out… As part of this we were involved in a 3 day workshop which prioritised and scoped the features in the current system and mapped them to proposed workflows. We had to become intimately familiar with the existing system and documentation and try to understand the reasons behind some of the functionality and workflow. We’ve been using Material Design “guidelines” and our devs work with Material Design and Angular in order to create the front end workflow, behaviour and functionality that we design. After the workshop we had a series of interviews with users in order to create personas which we could then incorporate into our user scenarios and even in our UAT scripts and testing. Now we are completing series of sprints where we complete ideation and think through particular features, their workflows and all the touch points in the system, trying to improve them while still tying in with the existing system.

So on a day to day basis I will currently be doing anything from:

  • Meetings
  • Going through designs with Business Analysts or our testers
  • Completing UX reviews of the dev work to date
  • Ideating and designing the upcoming work and creating assets that can be handed over to our BA’s
  • Talking with our product owner around ideas and designs and any questions that get raised
  • We work a lot with Jira, which sucks up a lot of my time responding to questions on bug or improvement tickets

Two words I will specifically pick out from what @ASHM said is flexible and fluid! I can’t tell you the number of times we have had to quickly iterate on a design solution because something comes out of the wax work that SMEs forgot or were too busy to specifically pick up at the times they were walked through. One thing I’m learning is to pick your battles. You will always have things that you want to fight for to get in, but unfortunately you have to figure out those that will have the best outcome for the user as you won’t be able to get them all. The other thing is that UX is a particular hard role as everyone can be a critic. Everyone can look at a design or an idea and give an opinion about it, you are on the front line and have to be good at handling that.

Whew, sorry to write an essay, hope it gives you an idea :).

In terms of your above questions, the best way to get experience I’ve found is by being immersed in the environment that gives you the learning, whether it is a job or course (although I would suggest job for the experience). So if you don’t mind the pay cut, it could be good to look for a job in the area, but you need to be the one who decides what is best for you :).