If you haven’t been hiding underneath an analogue rock, you would have noticed the latest trending buzzword UX (User Experience) thrown around your workplace and the increasing need for it. So why are so many companies now, more than ever investing in UX? And how can you break into this highly talked about field?
What is UX and why should I care?
If you were to ask five different people what UX is, you would receive five different responses. The brutal truth is that UX as an industry and discipline are still very young and immature. And, this is where I come out with my controversial statement; many companies are taking this opportunity to employ graphic designers and put a UX label over the role. A graphic designer or someone who does UI (User Interface) design is not a UX Professional, full stop! There is so much more to UX than UI. Which is a sign that there is still a lot more that can be done to educate those around us.
Image source: uxisnotui.com
UX or User Experience, is a term created to capture what we as humans feel and perceive and the way we interact with a product be it physical or digital or both. UI is only a very small part of what UX can offer. When done well, UX can provide that competitive edge for a product because it takes into the consideration the most important person: You – the user. With the help of the full spectrum of UX Design process; including but is not limited to research, ideation, prototyping, testing and iteration, you can create the right product for the right user and be that point of difference in your competitive market.
We as humans are capable of understanding and distinguishing between a good experience and a bad one. There is a reason why people love the Apple products and gravitate towards them over their competitors. They not only provide a great end-to-end experience for their customers, but understand what we as the user want and more importantly, need. As a result, generations who were not brought up with computers are able to use iPads and iPhones with ease and with little to no guidance.
Have you thought about a career in UX?
If you enjoy the psychology behind how people think, feel, and behave when using a product and want to make a difference in improving an experience, you’re already on the right track. No matter which field you have previously come from, above all: passion, curiosity and empathy towards the user is the key to being a good UX practitioner.
My four top tips to break into UX
Tip 1: Part-time or full-time courses
Places like Tractor, BillyBlue, General Assembly, Lynda, and Open2Study offer courses to help upskill you so you can transition from your current role into the UX space.
Tip 2: Read – Widely and frequently
If you don’t have the time or money to invest yourself into a course, read everything and anything related to UX, and do it often. Two great websites to start off with are Nielsen Norman Group and Boxes and Arrows. If you enjoy reading books, ‘Don’t Make me think Revisited’ by Steve Krug and ‘Practical Empathy’ by Indi Young are a great start.
Tip 3: Network
If you are in a capital city, you are in luck! In Melbourne there is a meetup or community event on almost every weeknight. Why not create an account with Meetup.com, search for UX and sign up to events, hackathons, workshops and book clubs. This is a great place to connect with people who have similar interests and it allows you to stay up to date with what other people are doing within the industry.
Tip 4: Build a portfolio
Work on a project you love, whether it’s a real or made up project, work on something you’re interested in. There are also many non-for-profit charities and hackathons that would not only help you put a project together, but also allow you to give back to the community. Keep in mind that it doesn’t need to be polished to be good, the most important thing, is to be able to tell a story and your thought process behind your solution.
And remember, there is a little UXer in all of us, just embrace it!