Sep 14, 2018

13 things they won't tell you when you want to become an UX designer


There are two times in your life when you see the truth. 
Two times when you realise who’s got your back and who’s going to stick that knife on your back.
Two times when you will know who wants you to succeed and who wants to fail you.
  • One, when you lose all your wealth.
  • Two, when you decide to change career.

Over the past several years, I’d been fantasising and preparing for this move. And then one day, the opportunity fell into my lap. I was going to be an UX designer. 
As a writer, I knew there are only a couple of ways I could grow and fortunately none of them really wet my lips the way UX made. 

I’ve met starstruck youngsters who’d give an arm and a leg to be a technical writer. Part of the allure was in the fiction that we lead super glamorous work-lives. A lot of them thought we got paid for nothing. Ofcourse unless you are Dan Bilzarian, that isn’t true.
But that’s a post for another day. 

And then I was beyond thrilled when I was told I’ll be working closely with the UX design team. 

It took me a couple of bad designs to realise how unprepared I was sometimes, and then there were times when it felt natural. 

This post could be a good starting point for those looking to dip their toes into UX. 
  • Read. Perceive. Explore. Learn: As I’ve always said, the best designs are invisible. Devour information. Translate ideas. Learn. Create. Dream. Think. Do.
  • Become a people-person : If you aren’t one already (or if you are an introvert), then this could possibly be the wrong boat. 
  • Buddy up: There can’t be a substitute for a great mentor. Stay open to criticism and feedback until you find your design voice. And maybe even after as well. Through it all, ask a million questions, unlearn, and learn.
  • Push yourself : Sure its exciting to see those rounded shapes and colours bring your creations to life. Mark my words: Your designs will be rejected/challenged/critiqued/straight-up discarded. Your success will hinge on how excited and grounded you remain after all the rejections. 
  • Never be cocky : After meeting enough cocky designers who pay lip service to mentoring newbies, I can’t underline this sufficiently. Promise yourself that you’ll remember your first faltering steps so that you won’t be that pretentious veteran to a newbie in a few years from now.
  • Humble yourself : I’ll leave the interpretation open. A very important virtue and a vital followup on the previous statement. Your designs are only as good as your users think they are. 
  • Stay confident : This could be contradictory to what I just said, but you’ll have to believe you have what it takes to design intuitive interactions even when the brickbats come flying in. It is okay to doubt yourself. Go walk it off and come back with renewed resolve.
  • Create multiple design iterations : Pro tip - When you begin, it’ll be difficult to think of multiple design layouts for the same screen. But make it a habit and you’ll become versatile. 
  • Keep it tight : As you learn and grow, remember to make an inventory of everything you’ve done. Document. Record. Reuse. You’ll thank yourself for being organised and systematic.
  • Paddle like a duck. Glide like a duck : Deadlines could be tight. There will be whimsical requests and adhoc demands. Keep calm and glide on.
  • Be patient on purpose : I know this is beginning to sound like a page off the manual for Monks, but yes, you’ll need to be patient, persistent, and purposeful. 
  • Have problems. Solve them : This is the heart of every great invention and useful design. Keep a pocket notebook and pen handy. You’ll never know when inspiration will strike. 
  • Love your Job. Get a life : Blame it on a society that worships performance over quality, I think it’s important to have a healthy work/life balance. You don’t want to end up peaking too early. Sometimes, you’ll have tons of work to do, sometimes none. Learn to say ‘No’.

Many times, prospective employers would ask me ‘Why did you jump from being a writer to design?’. I would reply ‘Why not? These are the same things I’d tell an aspiring writer.’ ‘Design isn’t very different from writing. When you create a manual, you do the same things you’d do when you’re creating a design - Interview, research, iterate, review, deliver. Repeat. ‘

Again, this is by no means the perfect list of what you need to do, but things I wish someone would have told me when I started. 
So here, it is - Enshrine the process. Love the process. Succeed. 
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