How to get started with UX Design.

If you've been living in Katerini, Greece, before the evil year of 2020 where the world ended, you’ve probably seen a handsome, big & tall guy wandering around with his old-school motorbike or his new-school bike.

Monday at 9:00 am swimming in the beach, Tuesday at 12:00 pm at my favourite local bakery, Thursday at 2:00 pm at my favourite local bakery, Friday at 3:00 pm at my favourite local bak..err, I meant supermarket.

The above hours are not consistent and they don’t seem to have a specific pattern, except that they are all working hours. And that thing with the bakery.

It’s only natural for some people to wonder “What the fuck this dude does for a living".
Some people are asking me directly and some of them are really interested to know more about how I started doing what I do. When I say “some people”, the conversion rate is almost 3%.

When I tell them that I’m a self-taught digital designer who is working remotely the last 10 years, the question “how can I do what you do” is very popular and it’s not coming only from young people in their 20s that are studying or just finished their studies in an IT related field, but also from people in their 30s - 40s who are doing something totally irrelevant with UX and Design.

So can a person who is not related in any way with the fields of design, the internet and computers in general, become a UX or UX/UI Designer?

My answer is yes. Let me explain.

It’s hard but not impossible and I hope this mini-guide I’ve prepared, will help the seeker of the UX truth as she’s wandering in the strange paths of Google.

1. I hope you know your English

This is about my Greek friends and also everyone in a non English speaking country.
Ignore everything that you’ll read bellow and start learning English now.

In a class-room, with online crash-courses, with a tutor, I don’t know, find a way.
What I do know is that if you don’t know how to read, write and talk in English in a very, very good level, you’re not going to be able to learn the craft or work in this industry.

The Bibliography, all the online-courses and everything related with UX and UI Design is in English, so learn that shit.

2. What is Internet? What is web design?

Learn your history for the thing you want to learn. Google is your friend but I’ve also gathered a few useful links here, which I believe you’ll find them useful. Do I need to use the word "useful" for a third time? I don't think so.

What’s the internet and how it works?

Furthermore, you’ll have to learn a few things about the history of web design, how this beautiful, magical world started, what phases did it pass and where it is today.

The Web Design Museum is a good way to start.

3. Web Designer? UX Designer? UI Designer? Product Designer? Staff Designer? Service Designer? Data driven designer? CX Designer?

Don’t worry, things are not as complicated as they look, we just like to invent new titles for our work every 20 months. To give you an example, I now call myself a Product Designer, but I remember the good old days (just a year ago) where I was just a plain UX & UI Designer.

The truth is that however people are calling themselves, 99% of them design stuff that play in laptops/desktop monitors/tablets and mobile devices.

The rest 1% maybe will design a couple of stuff that are going to play elsewhere too, like smartwatches, Fridge screens, TV’s, Cars etc.

You need to focus on learning the basics first and that’s designing for mobile devices & computers. Just ignore everything else for now.

4. Books, School, Online Courses, How will I learn?

And the answer is: A little bit of everything. If you are in the advantageous position to live in a city where UX Design classes are taking place and you have the time and you can afford it, I’d say go ahead and enrol.

Before you do that though, I suggest you start with these 2 books.

The design of every day things is an absolute must. Even if you get bored in the way and quit your UX path, this book has the power to make you a better person.

Don’t make me think. It should be illegal to design stuff for the web if you haven’t read this book.

Personally, I’m learning faster with online videos. I use online courses for all the new things I want to learn and I haven’t found a better place for learning UX Design from Interaction Design Foundation. It’s got a lot of paths, but I’d suggest to start with the path of UX Designer and then see any video that contains the word “design” in it.

Another source of knowledge with online courses from known designers is Skillshare. The premium subscription costs around a hundred bucks per year and it gives you access in their complete library. For example, a very good course is the UX Design Fundamentals: Everything you need to know and more.

5. Find mentors

The ability to have access to one or more people and ask them about things you don’t understand, is very important.

The amazing thing about this, is that most designers are not keeping the knowledge for themselves and they will gladly help you, so don’t be afraid to get in touch with them and ask your questions.

At least up until yesterday that we weren’t living in an apocalyptic dystopian movie or inside a PlayStation Exclusive like "The last of us" (Or Jumanji, I don’t know), we used to have a thing where a few professionals were gathering in a local cozy place and talked about our craft and people could attend and ask questions and then meet each other. There was free pizza and beer as well.

This thing was called "a Meet-up" and it was the best way to actually meet a mentor and ask your questions. Right now, some people are organising them online, with tools like zoom or Google meet or even Discord (!), but I think we’ll see a more mature digital version of your old local meet-up very soon. Watch this space as I'm going to be adding relevant digital Meet-Ups about UX and Design.

6. Don’t be afraid of all the UX knowledge

If you search “What is UX Design” on the web, you will find endless stuff & methodologies, things that a UX Designer should know and should be able to do. And that’s probably all true but here are two tips:

a. No one started working as a UX Designer knowing all the methodologies, the theory and best practices of UX Design.

b. With over a decade of experience doing this, I can tell you that I haven’t practiced all the methodologies and UX techniques I’ve studied so far. I’m always choosing what I’ll do, based on the needs of the project I’m involved and there are always things that I’m doing again and again more often than others and I’m pleased to tell you that these things are less than 10.
So yeah, don’t feel overwhelmed.

Anyone tells you something different, two things might be happening:
They’re either lying to you or they work in a very-very-very-very(!) big company.
And they probably worship Satan.

7. What about equipment

If you were looking for an excuse to get the newest MacBook, learning UX isn't going to help you. A decent 5 years old laptop or desktop should do the trick. If you’re using a PC, you’ll learn how to design stuff on Adobe XD or Figma. If you’re using a Mac, you’ll learn Sketch or Figma. And that’s a great opening for my next section:

8. Software & Tools

Don’t focus on tools. They change every 2-3 years like our titles and until you get to a point that you actually can produce something, they might change again.

In general, you need to know a design tool like Sketch or Figma so you can design your interfaces in low, medium or high fidelity pixels. We used to do all that in Adobe Photoshop, but that's kinda old now. Here’s what’s new:

Sketch
Adobe XD
Framer X
Figma

To be honest, If I was starting today, I'd choose Figma because it's free and it does everything you will need.

Then you’ll need to learn how to connect the screens you design in these tools and create something we call a static prototype. You’ll be able to show for example how a menu or a modal window appears and how can you navigate from one screen to another and other cool and beautiful tricks. This way you’ll be able to show to your partners, co-workers or clients, how what you designed will behave when it’s going to be built.

That’s always a good way to gather feedback from everyone involved and spot mistakes in design and your first assumptions early on, before you even get to the development production cycle, saving a few thousand bucks.

Sketch Cloud, Figma and Adobe XD have their own interface so you can do that directly from there, but there are also other tools you can use, that offer more features like InVision and Marvel.

For all the above, online video courses is again your friend and Udemy is a good place to find videos from pros, explaining the tiniest of detail for every tool.

If you decide to learn Framer X, Athanasia did a wonderful job with her tutorials and you can watch them for free on YouTube.

You can also check designcode.io where you’ll find quality tutorials for Figma, Sketch and Framer X.

9. Do I need to learn how to code?

Fuck no. You absolutely don’t have to know how to write any sorts of code in a production level. What you do need, is to understand how the things you design work, because you know, you are designing for them. You’re not building them.

So in order to be able to design for screens and the web, you need to understand their behaviour and that means that you need to learn html/css & Javascript in a level that helps you visualise your designs in a browser and have a good grasp of what is and what isn’t possible.

10. How long will it take to learn all this?

If you’re an normal person who needs to work for a living and know your English, you’ll need approximately 18-24 months to reach a junior level, spending at least 3-4 hours per day.

If you don’t know English, you need to add 12 more months to that, at the very least.
There are no shortcuts. I said it in the beginning, it's not impossible but it is hard.

11. Bonus material

You need to develop strong feelings about the field of UX, otherwise you’ll quit early.
The fact that you somehow realised that this profession has a lot of demand and it gives you a certain freedom and you can make more money than you’re currently making is not enough.

To give you a simple example, download an e-book in your computer and start reading it.
You’ll soon realise that spending a lot of hours in front of a monitor is not the easiest of things. Your attention span (which is already low) will be tested, you’re getting sleepy and you’ll probably come to the conclusion that reading the same book in its physical form (or on a kindle) is much easier.

Some people are doing it because they are passioned with design, others are doing it because the love technology and its interaction with humans.

I’m doing it because I’m in love with the internet from the moment I used it for the first time and I feel honoured to be part of the group of people that are shaping it even by a little bit at a time.

I hope you are ready. You can do this!

Updates!

Update v1.01: It’s not ready yet but I can tell you that this course is going to be gold just from its website  https://radicaldesigncourse.com

Update v1.02: That's not ready either but Matt is a great designer and I'm sure that his course is going to be the real deal https://shiftnudge.com

PS. If you have any more questions, I’d be happy to help in anyway I can. Also, if you have anything you think it’s going to help people learn UX, please give me a shout on twitter or email me.

PS2. This article was first published in Greek on
medium

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