In a fast-growing tech industry, the bragging rights for the best user experience can give a company quite the competitive edge.
For that reason, the demand for innovative UX designers has never been higher, and it’s the perfect time to begin a career in the field.
But what’s the best way to break into the industry? Well, there are a few different approaches, and many times, landing a job in UX comes down learning the ropes and showcasing your work. We’ll take a look at these points and make some recommendations to get you started.
There’s more than one way to dive into UX design.
Learning UX design can be done a few different ways, from dabbling in free software, to paying for online courses, or even pursuing a formal college degree. Truthfully, there’s no right or wrong way to learn the basics.
You can find a nice list of some of the free software out there by visiting: http://www.uxforthemasses.com/25-free-ux-tools/
That being said, many employers do require a degree as a means to weed out less qualified candidates, even if your skills are exemplary. The most desirable degree—the gold standard—is in HCI, Human Computer Interaction. That’s not to say that your degree needs to be in UX specifically- in fact, courses in this area can be scarce because of how new the discipline is, so you’ll likely be looking at some combination of a few related areas such as graphic design, web development, and computer science. There are also certificate courses from General Assembly, AGI, and Bentley University to name a few.
It’s never too soon to start building your portfolio.
As you learn, don’t underestimate the importance of retaining evidence of your development as a UX designer. Down the road, you’ll need to reference your work and your growth when pursuing career opportunities. It may be a good practice to save each project you work on- even if it’s just for fun- so you have a complete portfolio ready to go.
Putting together a portfolio of your work will be essential in helping prospective employers understand your individual style and skillset. This is going to require you to assemble some comprehensive case studies to demonstrate the logistics of your thought process, from design research to prototyping to solution. This could either be work you’ve done before or mock scenarios to demonstrate your approach in optimizing user experience.
You should also make sure to include a strong narrative for each case study you produce; you’ll want to tell a story, with words and pictures, and provide evidence of your end result. Examples of your work will likely be the conversational foundation of your interview with a prospective employer, so make sure you can speak to your actions and reasoning in each case study you provide.
This may seem like a lot of work if you’re just getting your feet wet in UX, but organizing your portfolio early on can save you the headache of scrambling for samples of your work later on.
As with learning anything new, practice makes better. Don’t be discouraged if your first attempts at employment are unsuccessful. Continue developing your skills, and network with others in the industry. Sometimes it’s that one connection that can open a door to a world of opportunity.