I was recently asked to speak to a group of students interested in pursuing careers in UX/UI design. This particular group had just wrapped up an intro to dev course. I could understand where some of them were coming from because early on in my career I wasn’t sure which to pursue, design or development.
We talked for a few hours about what it means to be a UX/UI designer, what the best path is, how to get your foot in the door and what the interview process might be like. Since these questions tend to come up quite often I decided to highlight 3 key things that can help you stand apart from the crowd.
Process is key.
You’ve got to show your process, whatever it looks like. I would argue that your process is more important than the final design. An impressive portfolio might get you in the door, but mock-ups alone aren’t as impressive unless you support them with the process of how you got there. You’re probably familiar with the quote:
“There are a thousand no’s for every yes.”
This perfectly describes one of the greatest challenges and opportunities of being a designer. We have to make tough calls but if you have the ability to walk people through your process and support that with sketches, wireframes, even user interviews, you have a leg up on 90% of the other candidates you’re competing with. When you guide someone through your entire process you are essentially telling a story. People connect with that.
Look at critique as a learning opportunity.
Designers are passionate people, we love what we do. I’ll be honest, it can be tough watching others pick apart the project you’ve worked so hard on. I can guarantee that during your interview you will be challenged on a decision you’ve made. The point isn’t to rattle the candidate but to see how well they respond to feedback and criticism. It’s just a natural part of becoming a better designer. No one is trying to hurt your feelings (although it might feel that way sometimes) instead they‘re trying to help you become better by giving you valuable suggestions or alternatives. Keep this in mind:
“No matter what you do, no matter how good your work is, there will always be people that love it and people that don’t.”
It’s always going to be that way. It’s your job to filter through the noise and pick the most valuable feedback to apply to your work.
Build a prototype.
When you go through the process of building a prototype you put everything you’ve done up to that point to the test and get a true feel for what you’re designing. Building a prototype sounds intense but it doesn’t have to be, and you learn a lot. Now this is where some coding skills can come in handy but don’t worry, there are amazing tools out there that let you make interactive prototypes without writing a line of code. Check out: InVision or Marvel. Building a prototype shows that you can think past your mockups and get a deeper understanding for how users might actually use your product.
The most rewarding thing I’ve found when building prototypes is that you almost always have that “Aha!” moment where you discover something you’ve never anticipated. Especially if you put your prototype in front of some friends and watch them use it.
These are some of the things that worked for me over the course of my career and what I look for when hiring designers. Breaking into the industry can be a bit tricky sometimes but once you’re “in” the rewards of doing what you love are well worth it.