If you’re curious about how to become a UX designer, then you’re in the right place!
Though it’s a new(er) position, UX design has quickly become in demand because it adds a human touch to tech. It’s driven by numbers and research, but still gives you room to be creative while helping users solve a problem.
After a record number of people changed careers because of the pandemic, you may have wondered if a career in UX is right for you. Becoming a great UX designer will not happen overnight, but knowing where to start is half the battle.
So if you want to know how to become a UX designer, CreateApe is here to help! We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to get you on the fast track to mastering UX.
How to Become a UX Designer in 7 Steps:
- Study Hard!
- Mastering Design Thinking and UX Best Practices
- Learning the Tools of the Trade
- Your First Project
- Practice, Practice, Practice!
- Build Your Portfolio
- Finding Your First Job
But First, Some Basics
What is a UX Designer?
So, what is a UX designer, and what makes the job so attractive? They’re like a web designer, but so much more! Instead of just making cool designs for a website, a UX Designer creates everything the user experiences from end to end.
Think about the last website you visited that was super easy to use. There’s a good chance a UX designer was behind it, planning everything out meticulously.
UX designers base their design choices on several hours of research, evaluation, and user testing—finding that sweet spot between what their client wants and what helps the user through conversion.
What do I Need to Become a UX Designer?
A computer and an internet connection…and that’s it!
About 82% of UX designers surveyed by the Nielsen Norman Group hold a bachelor's degree or higher (according to this March 2022 article from coursera.org), but you don’t NEED a degree to become one. UX design is so new that there’s not really such a thing as a bachelor’s of UX design (although a degree in graphic design or a similar field definitely wouldn’t hurt).
Chances are that the quality of your portfolio will matter more than your education level when searching for UX designer jobs.
Like with any job, the hard and soft skills you bring to the table make a big difference. Anyone can learn the UX process, but these qualities (along with design prowess) separate the wheat from the chaff.
You love thinking about why humans do what they do and what drives their actions on a website.
Your ability to understand and empathize with your users’ needs will leave them feeling satisfied with your designs.
From research to the actual design, recognizing patterns and certain user behaviors will help you identify potential problems before they happen.
UX design is usually a client-facing job, so communicating ideas and finding compromises will make the UX design process as smooth as possible.
Your initial design WILL go through several stages of iteration until you get an MVP, so be open to new suggestions and prepare for an odd curveball here and there.
Not every project is the same, so always think about simple, but innovative ways to help your user.
How to Become a UX Designer in 7 Simple Steps:
If you’ve read through everything above, meet all the criteria, are truly passionate about UX, and can stay patient and persistent—then your path to becoming a UX designer starts here (congrats!)
Follow these 7 steps to learn how to become a UX designer.
We hate to sound like your math teacher, but research and studying are a HUGE part of the job. You can prep yourself for all the research you’ll be doing by learning the ins and outs (and the not-so-fun parts) of the job. If you really enjoy reading and reporting about user experience, this is the perfect job for you!
Thankfully, there are a plethora of resources out there that’ll help you dive deep into the world of UX. Books are always a good place to start but you have a variety of multimedia options to choose from.
CreateApe’s Picks for UX Design Books and Sources
- Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal and Ryan Hoover
- The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
- Designing Products People Love: How Great Designers Create Successful Products by Scott Hurff
- Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug
- Designing User Interfaces by Mike and Diana Malewicz
- User Friendly: How the Hidden Rules of Design are Changing the Way We Live, Work, and Play by Cliff Kuang with Robert Fabricant
- Laws of UX: Using Psychology to Design Better Products & Services by Jon Yablonski
- Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
- Just Enough Research by Erika Hall
- Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden
- Rework: Change the Way You Work Forever by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
These resources will show you how to become a UX designer at the ground level—helping you learn the basics of UX, methodology, and how it applies to everyday life. Give yourself a solid foundation of knowledge to build off.
As always, networking is a great way to get ahead in any job. Take a chance to expand your professional network early on by asking for advice and making friends in the UX field. Chances are there is a UX-pert out there dying to share their wisdom with you!
Mastering Design Thinking and UX Best Practices
You’ll hear the terms Design Thinking and UX Best Practices a lot. Let’s break down what they mean and show where they overlap.
Design thinking is a strategic, but human-focused process where UX designers draw up concepts after getting to know their users. This is how they create solutions that work for real people.
Design thinking is the iterative process of how you’ll approach your designs. Basically, you’ll rinse and repeat until you have an MVP (minimum viable product.)
UX best practices act as guidelines for building the actual design. Think of these as general rules for building a usable website.
Tech advances and UX trends may shape best practices as time goes on, but there are always a few consistent rules you can fall back on.
Evergreen UX Best Practices
- Know the difference between UX and UI
- UI-Everything users interact with on the page
- UX-How users feel while interacting with the page
- Know your audience
- Keep content short and scannable
- Simplicity and clarity are paramount
- Consistency between screens=intuitive navigation
- Make your designs accessible for all your users
Learning the Tools of the Trade
Coming into UX design with some software knowledge isn’t a bad thing, but you’ll have plenty of UX design tools to choose from (and a bunch of free video tutorials and crash courses online.)
The trick is to choose the software that works best for your skill level and gives you the biggest bang for your buck.
At CreateApe, we’re pretty big fans of Figma because it’s a web-based app that allows for real-time collaboration. But it’s an excellent option for beginners because it’s cheap, easy to use, comes with plenty of tutorials, and lets you do anything from wireframing to prototyping.
CreateApe’s Favorite UX Design Tools:
- Adobe XD
There’s no shortage of video tutorials for these programs on YouTube, or you can take a crash course on LinkedIn learning. But if you really want to sharpen your design skills, sign up for a Boot Camp so you can get hands-on experience working with these popular UX design tools.
Your First Project
Once you've brushed up on design methodology, learned your way around some UX design tools, or finished a Boot Camp, you’ll probably be eager to take on your first project and start making money. But, like all things, practice makes perfect!
Start your professional career by taking on a personal project, making sure you’re following the design thinking process from start to finish. This also shows that you understand UX best practices and can apply them in real-world situations.
Do you have an awesome idea for a mobile app? Now would be the perfect time to put your user research skills to the test and create a prototype around your findings.
Or maybe you noticed a significant roadblock in navigating a website. Come up with a solution to make it more intuitive and user-friendly, then do some A/B testing to see which works better.
Use this hypothetical project in your portfolio. Recruiters/potential clients will be impressed with your creativity and ability to follow the UX process from start to finish.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
We may sound like a broken record…but the more hands-on experience you get, the better designer you’ll become. And the better chance you’ll have at landing some awesome UX designer jobs.
Try to get experience with as many different clients in different industries as possible. This will test your versatility as a designer, and you’ll learn to build solutions that work for all different kinds of users.
A 60-year-old Grandma and a 21-year-old computer programmer don’t have the same set of capabilities or knowledge of online platforms. Knowing how to cater to different personas will help you with both niche products and products with a wide range of users.
Plus, a diverse list of clients in your portfolio shows your adaptability and overall understanding of the user’s needs.
Building Your Portfolio
Building your UX portfolio goes a little deeper than just showcasing your finished product. Your potential client wants to see HOW the final product came to be.
Don’t be afraid to go into detail and show them how you applied your research and testing to the design. Cherry-pick through all your projects to showcase your best work, then explain why you chose that project in particular.
Did you turn a complex concept into something streamlined and easy-to-use? Were you designing a web app for a group of users that weren’t very tech-savvy? Or did you get INCREDIBLE feedback from user testing sessions on a particular project?
When showcasing your design choices, don’t be afraid to talk about a hurdle you encountered and how you overcame it. After all, UX design is all about solving problems.
Make Sure Your Portfolio Includes:
- UX Research
- Product Evaluations
- User Flows
- User Testing
- Information Architecture
- Different Versions (and where/why you applied changes)
- High-Fidelity Mockups
- Graphic Design Work (Especially if UX research went into it)
Finding Your First Job
Now that you’ve studied hard and built a solid portfolio, you’re ready to start applying for UX designer jobs!
The good news is that UX design is super in-demand, so you’ll likely have plenty of open positions to choose from. The bad news is that all those positions with a really high UI/UX designer salary will probably require a lot of project work before they hire you.
But don’t despair just yet! There are plenty of freelance job boards out there for you to get some client work under your belt. Hundreds of exciting projects are posted every day on websites like Dribble and Behance (where you can also showcase your designs on your profile.)
Who knows…maybe you’ll impress your freelance clients so much that they’ll bring you in for ongoing work (hopefully with that super high UI/UX designer salary we mentioned )
You can also look into open positions at your current company. Show your employer some initiative by doing a redesign of their website, and how this new position can really benefit their company in the long run.
And finally, don’t limit yourself to just UX design! There are a lot of jobs that fall under the UX umbrella, and the skills you’ve learned could translate well into another position.
Other Similar Positions:
- UX Researcher
- Usability Analyst
- Information Architect
- UI Designer
- UX Writer
- Product Designer
- UX Strategist
- UX/UI Developer
So, What’s Next?
Like anything else, you’re not going to become a UX-pert overnight. But UX design is a useful skill to have in our new, tech-forward world—and it’s more than worth the time and effort.
Learning how to become a UX designer could be your next move towards a more meaningful career, and there’s a wealth of information online to help you along the way.
Want to work for CreateApe? We don’t blame you. Check out our job openings!