The UX Mastery Community’s Own Guide to Getting Started in UX

The UX Mastery Community’s Own Guide to Getting Started in UX

Summary:

So you’re looking at starting a new career in UX, huh? That’s exciting! It’s possibly also a little daunting, but don’t worry – we’re here to help. If you haven’t yet had a chance to take a look through our forums, get to it! You’re missing out on a real goldmine of information and networking opportunities. In this article we highlight some of the best.

So you’re looking at starting a new career in UX, huh? That’s exciting! It’s possibly also a little daunting, but don’t worry – we’re here to help. Our goal at UX Mastery is to support you to reach your UX goals, whatever they may be. One of the ways in which we do that is through our community. If you haven’t yet had a chance to take a look through our forums, get to it! You’re missing out on a real goldmine of information and networking opportunities.

Our community is diverse, both geographically and professionally. We have members that became UXers straight from school, but more often they transitioned from another field.

Here are some of the more common questions that we get asked:

I’m a complete newbie. Where should I start?

“I’m a Graphic Design student who’s only recently discovered that UX is even a thing, and I’m currently trying to figure out whether it’s right as a future career for me. I’m at a loss as to where to start.”

  • What books or articles should I read to get an idea of what a UX is like?
  • Should I pursue roles such as ‘UX architect’ if I have an inclination towards information gathering and visual design, but very weak HTML/CSS skills? 
  • What sort of qualifications do I need to get into the field? 
  • How do I involve myself in projects that I could potentially build a portfolio from?

Read answers to these questions from the community.

What are your tips for someone looking to transition from another career?

“I have a B.A. in Business and have been out of school for a couple of years. I am seriously considering transitioning into [UX] as a career. I have no significant experience with design or digital media.” 

  • I was wondering if this transition is realistic for me and what kind of time frame I would be looking at before I really get going in UX?
  • I am aware that the salary and job prospects are pretty good for experienced UX designers at the moment… How do you think the market will look in the couple of years? 
  • Will I eventually need to learn coding skills besides basic HTML/CSS and a bit of jQuery?
  • Finally, what kind of roles could one transition into after being a UX designer? 

The community has a whole lot of helpful tips to share here.

What are your top tips for building a great portfolio?

What makes a great UX portfolio? How does it differ from a visual design portfolio? What do I do if I don’t have any real-life experience or projects to document? These are questions that people ask almost daily, and the community does a great job of providing solid answers. We review countless portfolios, and have compiled a lot of great tips.

Top community tips for building a great UX portfolio.
Some ideas for building a portfolio if you don’t have real life experience.

How much experience do I need before applying for a UX job?

“Hi, I’m Mike and I have been studying UX for about a year and I really want to get in the field. I was wondering when would be the best time to apply for a UX job? Should I wait until I have several projects under my belt or just go for it?”

Find out what advice we gave Mike.

RELATED:  4 excuses that can hold your UX career back (and how you can beat them)

‘UX’ seems to cover a lot of different roles. Can someone explain what they are?

I thought it might be good to have somewhere that people could go to to see all the different areas that UX actually covers. For instance, user/design research, information architecture, and interaction design are more well known or easier to find definitions for. But things like information design or service design are a little bit harder to understand.

Here’s our list.

What does a typical UX work environment look like?

“I’m thinking about making a transition from Engineering to UX design, and after all my research on the internet I still have no idea what type of work environment or conditions to expect. I realise this could vary a lot, but I’d love to hear the experiences of those already working in the field.”

For example:

  • Are workplaces typically based in the city centre, or in suburban areas? Are there particular cities/areas which are “hubs”
  • Do you tend to work on one project at a time, or handle multiple projects at once?
  • What are the hours like? Is there flexibility? Is a lot of overtime expected? (and is it paid?).
  • Is there a lot of travel?
  • How formal is the environment? (Dress code, meetings, reporting requirements etc.)
  • Are there training and development opportunities?

Great questions! Here are some answers.

What does a typical day look like in a UX job?

“I am currently signed up to take the UXDI course at General Assembly but… I’m worried that somehow UX won’t be a good match for me.”

  • What does a typical day for a UX designer really look like?
  • How much detailed/follow-up type work is required in UX?

See a few ‘day-in-the-lives’ here.

What training courses would you recommend for someone that wants to get into UX?

“I am a month into a new position doing qualitative research which is very interesting but I’m just not feeling it. Over the past few months I’ve been reading a great deal about user experience and interaction and have completely fallen in love. 

My question is, how do I make this career shift without investing my life away into debt for graduate programs? Do I have to focus on computer coding, or can it be more graphic based?”

Find out more about training courses.

I’m still in school. How can I best prepare for a future career in UX?

“I have just completed the second year of my degree in Applied Psychology and have two more to go. I am pretty sure I would like a career in UX. I was just wondering what steps I can take to best position myself for a UX job and make myself stand out to employers once I graduate.”

Here is more great advice from the community.

If you still have questions, have a read of our Getting Started in UX article and feel free to post as much as you like in our forums (even if it means resurrecting old threads) – we’re happy to help!

You might also find our article UX is a Career interesting. It contains links to a whole lot of really useful resources.

Written by
Luke Chambers
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4 comments
  • Hi,
    I have had a great career in Print and Publishing, now it is time for me consider something different. As I am in my mid 60’s, and have just a very basic knowledge of html, what would be the best route for me to take, and which skills do I need to develop. There are so many html, css, objective c, etc., etc.

    My aim would be to be able to work from a home office offering Web design/development.

    Any advise on the ideal set of skills for tis woudl be very useful.

    Thanks
    J

  • Thanks so much for this!

    I was doing something else I did not particularly enjoy for work and doing my start-up project on the side and thought I might as well apply what I am doing “on the side” to my day-to-day which is what I am most passionate about anyway.

    I am working on an extended portfolio/study case right now to send to the company I want to work for (which has an opening right now). The company I want to work for is a fintech start-up whose founder used to be the ceo of the bank I worked at many years ago. I feel like I have some domain expertise that could help, perhaps.

    I have a design/art background and undergrad and grad degrees from top design schools and I also have gotten REALLY into UX by founding my own start-up and designing the project from scratch using a user-centered approach with lots of user research and persona development before I had actually understood UX formally.

    I decided NOT to publish the project because I’d need a tech person with backend skills to work on it and I can’t afford it right now. I decided to do the coding myself, at least for the MVP so I need have an in-depth understanding of javascript for part of it and iOS programming which I don’t have, it will take time. This led me to consider working in UX so I can apply what I love the most about what I learnt and keep doing my own project on the side.

    While I have obvious visual skills that are apparent on my portfolio, lots of passion and I have a really good grasp of strategy and user research, I have no actual UX experience working for anyone else. I am in my mid 30s and got my masters 10 years ago but only decided to get into UX now.

    I am working really really hard to put together a portfolio that will showcase my process and method, with strong visuals and storytelling skills on the two projects I have worked on. I have also taken a lot of online courses on UX and I am in the process of reading the entire UXpin library. I am great at illustrator/adobe CS, omnigraffle, drawing, paper models, and I taught myself balsamiq, Sketch and Axure recently.

    I guess my question is, I see a lot of jobs that want people with 3-5 years of experience. Is it ok to send out my resume to the companies that are looking for people and explain my situation – that while I do NOT have the experience working as a UXer for someone else, I am looking for an opportunity and I have skills, and if they have something that needs someone with less experience, I am very interested?
    I don’t want to come across as clueless and brash (yes I know the job asks for lots of experience:) but I also feel like I want to be pro-active and send my portfolio out to as many openings as I possibly can, maybe they might consider someone with less experience or they might have another opening down the line?

    What approach would you recommend?

    Thank you!!!!

    • You are very welcome.

      Go you! I love your attitude. I would definitely recommend applying. You might not get it but what have you got to lose? You might come across someone that’s keen on employing people that show initiative and are hungry to learn. :)

      And as you say, if it doesn’t work out they might have something in the future. I say go for it!

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