Top questions we get asked by viewers
What is UX?
The term UX (“User eXperience”) is used and mis-used to mean many things. At its heart, it’s a focus on ensuring that data about the users of a product is incorporated in a meaningful way into the design and development process, so that the product removes the pain points that people have when completing a task.
Many roles have UX in their title. These can be research roles, interaction design roles, or visual design roles, but we’d most likely draw the line at development roles. Sure, a front end developer may have UX responsibilities, and UX people may have some coding skills, but the coding side of things is a different skillset to the UX side of things.
UX people should still be able to speak the language of developers, and the language of business and marketing too, because we often serve as the translators between these different perspectives on product development.
How do I get a job in UX?
If you read the section above on what UX is, you’ll realize there are multiple routes in, depending on whether you want to focus on research, design, content creation, or a combination of all three.
It’s a popular field right now and so lots of people are wanting a “quick fix” way to get started and earn lots of money. That’s not likely to happen. Like any profession, it takes time to learn the necessary skills, practice those skills, and then begin to apply them to new domains.
You don’t need an undergraduate degree in design or user research but it can be a great starting point. There are various courses and bootcamps out there which will teach you a basic skillset. Expect to spend at least four months full time to learn the basics of user experience design or research. Courses that are shorter will give you a taster, but they won’t give you enough opportunity to practice and receive feedback to make you an all-round useful member of a UX team. Here’s a list of courses that might be helpful. See more on bootcamps and certification below.
You’ll get good fastest if you are working with one or more skilled practitioners. You’ll learn much of your skillset by observing experienced people at work.
So, try to find a job on a team with experienced UX professionals. If that’s not possible, be sure to spend time learning from others in the field, through meetups, conferences, or online training.
BUT don’t take on a piece of work that you aren’t getting paid for just because it gives you “experience” or “exposure”. Here’s why.
What UX software should I learn?
It doesn’t matter. Well, it does, but you’ll be learning different software for your next job, and you’ll be using different software five years from now.
What doesn’t change is your underlying skillset. So find some tools that you are comfortable with that support your UX skills. Remain open to transferring those skills to whatever new tools you find, or that you are forced to use because it’s the standard for a particular job.
If you really want to go out and learn a package to improve your job prospects, go look at what software is mentioned in job listings for the type of job you are applying for. There’s no magic formula.
For UX designers
Adobe’s suite has been the industry standard for years. But all the cool kids are using Figma or Sketch. Well, they are this week anyway. Just use whatever you learned to use while you were at school (or while you were teaching yourself).
You won’t be as productive if you move to a different tool, but you’ll still be able to force it to your will. There are online courses that will give you a quick introduction to each tool, as well as online communities than can easily help you work out the equivalent to that esoteric command you used in your old software.
One thing that will probably never change is the utility of a pen and a piece of paper. You can communicate a lot of design ideas on paper, and often as fast if not faster than in software.
For UX researchers
UX research can be qualitative or quantitative. If the research is qualitative and moderated, expect to use something to record audio, video and computer/mobile screens. Some products even generate transcripts for you although it’s often not the transcript that matters most but rather the observations that you make about user behavior. There are also a variety of tools out there to support conducting unmoderated studies.
Also, when qualitative and moderated, expect to take lots of notes, which you might enter directly into the recording file or you might use just about any text editor or word processor or maybe a spreadsheet.
To collect quantitative data, you may use a survey product of choice or perhaps your data will be aggregate user behavior metrics collected with some back-end analytics package.
Whether qualitative or quantitative, when you have to aggregate, summarize or just review data you’ll probably use your spreadsheet of choice. When doing quantitative analysis, you *might* need access to a more advanced stats package too, if you find you like that kind of analysis.
What are the top UX books to read?
For whom? UX designers or UX researchers? To read for yourself, or to give to colleagues? This week or next week?
Yeah, it’s a difficult question to answer. Until we get a good answer sorted out, you could check out this post on questionablemethods.com.
Should I attend a bootcamp or get certification?
Bootcamps can be great, or terrible. A lot will depend on your fellow learners. If you’re planning on attending one, check out the credentials of the people leading the sessions and also how many industry contacts they have. One of the promises of bootcamps is often that they prepare you for real jobs. That’s going to happen better if you’re getting constructive criticism from a diverse bunch of industry insiders who attend feedback sessions and presentations.
Bootcamps are a great place to network, but again the value of that networking is higher if you have attendance from professionals.
Certificates and Certification
There are many different UX certificates and certification options out there. Remember, the person who benefits most from paid certification is often the company offering the certificates.
UX certification is definitely one way to learn about the area, and it’s a way to prove that you attended some courses and took an exam, but often the certifications themselves are not particularly respected in the industry. The biggest issue is that nobody is really able to certify experience. So focus on the learning and experience you get, not getting it officially certified by someone.
All three of us create online courses. We’re confident that the content we’re offering, and the platform we offer it on, is high quality. There are some downsides to online learning though. You have to be a self-starter, you don’t get so much interaction with other learners or with your tutors, and you don’t get access to industry insiders either. It’s also not clear quite how much value recruiters place on the online course certificates.
But this option is WAY cheaper, and it lets you learn at your own pace. You can also go back and re-watch to revise a section in the future. There are Q&A forums for most courses where you can get course-specific questions answered.