They somehow forget to teach these.
Almost two years ago I sat down in front of a computer screen, in an open office space, waiting. I was nervous, eager to start and terrified. This is what I wish I had known before sitting down in that chair.
The first 5 could be applied to most jobs and, the next 5 are specific to UX Design. I started my first job in the corporate world without knowing too much about their plans, vision or past, and whether I could be a good fit. I was simply too excited about being hired right after graduation, (finally earning good money ) to take a step back.
In start-ups you might dive directly into the work. In less than a few hours you get the source files, a shared drive link, a few simple tasks and there you go — you will learn while working. Be ready to wait even for two or three weeks until you get to test, perform a study or move pixels. Policies, agreements, product presentations, process training and old fashioned power points are all part of it. It’s annoying to say the least. Use that time to know people, it will help further on and be patient, you will have a lot of time to prove yourself. It’s exactly like an RPG game, the boring text based quests must be done before fighting dragons. Believe me there will be plenty of dragons.
Do not let money influence your decision. No matter the cost.
It is extremely tempting, imagining that things will suddenly be affordable, that you will start building your life. You must, however, always realize that you are giving away a large chunk of that life: 8 hours every single day for 5 days a week. Better make sure that most of that time is enjoyable. Otherwise, you will slowly start to hate every morning, everyone and everything around, until you either quit or become an arrogant, grumpy designer — that you swore never to become.
Make sure there are senior designers in the company
Fortunately, design cannot be done by a single person with a white laptop, not in the corporate world at least. Good design needs honest feedback, collaboration and backing up. It’s good to fly in the realm of ideas as a beginner, it is equally important to know when and how to land back into reality. After working by yourself without a senior professional, even when backed by good user feedback, you might start thinking whether your decisions are the best, whether things could be improved.
Ask about their past, present and future
How is the team going to evolve in time? Are you planning to expand the research effort? How much are you investing in training? How much are you willing to invest in field studies? Does the UX team have a designated lab for testing? These require context obviously, but they might contour the effort and resources they are actually putting in the team, besides the boring corporate slogans, focusing on customer experience..blabla
Do not get caught in political games
You might get to work with people who have been there for 10, 20 or even more years. As a UX Designer used to observing behavior, you might notice groups, sides and affiliations — based on product teams, projects, product revenue, etc. As a designer you will always have a great deal of stakeholders, from various departments and fields that will sometimes beed to be brought in the same room to collaborate. Therefore, always try to stay out of people’s political agenda. Try to find someone with enough neutrality to offer some guidance.
Learn to say no
Not everybody knows or cares what a UX Designer is supposed to do. For some, you will still be the one who makes things look good. In time, people will get to see that your designs are visually good, again, not caring about the entire iterative process in the back. Some of those people will ask you for help sooner or later: videos, posters, presentations, banners, pins, cards, etc.
1. Do not accept to help unless they know exactly what they need- working on the idea is more difficult than the thing itself. 2. Do not agree to help if you will need to stretch your time, focus on delivering valuable products first.
The UX Job
An input field has six or seven states
If you did not take courses focused on interface design (as myself), you will realize that the part that was mostly ignored during university project and classes (because there was not time/the project was theoretical), does take as much thought and care as the rest of the process.
You identified in your study that users need input fields in an interface. These can be: disabled, with a placeholder, with a label on top / or a floating label?, focused, hovered, clicked, with a shadow, without, with color on press, or without, large, wide, narrow, dense, with errors or hints. You can spend a full day if you decide to build these from scratch. That’s not even the end of it: these must be tied to real use cases, tested and then fit with the rest of the interface components. Do not forget or ignore the interface itself, expecting a UI designer to do the job. Make sure the effort you put in finding solutions for people is reflected in the product as well, not left in a post-it wall.
Own your tool and flows
That’s exactly why you need to own the everyday design tools and the flows. Try to understand the context of your company before choosing a tool to design or prototype with (if there is a choice). Is there a need of sharing prototypes based on research? Then maybe focus on tools as Adobe XD, Figma or Sketch rather than Photoshop. Are developers supposed to get designs early on? Then learn how to use Zeplin or Avocode and practice a flow from paper sketch to code. Do they need to document their findings? Look into Atlassian tools as Confluence which allows teams to document pretty much everything they do. When you become an expert of your everyday tools and flows, you will have the upper hand, being aware of what can and cannot be done, based on deadlines and deliverables. Then you can focus on discussing real issues.
Compromise and trust , do not impose
You will need to learn when to let go and when to push for perfection. In time, especially towards the release of a product, developers will start focusing on “details”, being the interface itself. You have to remember that not everyone cares about UX, some people just want to get the job done as quickly as possible. You need to learn how to speak to different types of people: encourage their initiatives when working on UI styling, push for perfection if the person seems eager to learn and learn when to compromise a few pixels, for the sake of focusing on valuable interactions. Remember: similar to electricity, humans are looking for the shortest path out — take time in explaining how your work adds long term value to users and the company.
Get rid of the button example
This one may be quite specific to my experience. People had the tendency to exemplify everything with buttons. “What if we use this button for all the products — than we only need one CSS class” — everybody thought it was a great idea that should be scaled (scaling is really popular in corporations) for all UI components. Little did they know about the complexity behind components related to specific product use cases, in which case scaling failed badly. Try to move beyond basic examples that will always prove a point, take the most challenging idea you encountered and present that to people first, to make sure you avoid pointless work.
Keep buzzwords in a locked drawer
I am exaggerating, probably. You might have read this before, there is a danger in people adopting and using words they are not familiar with. In my case, every development team started talking about the need of having a pattern library — every team seemed to understand something different and it all started from a UX presentation, unfortunately. The point is that you should define and ask what people mean when they mention for example: “running a workshop” (most of the time it’s more of a discussion around a table)”, “can we use Design thinking?” don’t we do that already? , “are we sure this is a seamless experience for our users” let’s define what we each understand as seamless. Once you and the people you talk to understand each other’s terms, it will get much easier. Do not be afraid to argue for your position.
You need to learn to listen to your intuition and gut feeling. If something feels wrong, if you have the slightest feeling that you and the team are not doing everything you can to deliver valuable products, then stop and think honestly for a second. Did you do everything in your power to create a high quality product, service or exact interface? There is no shame in admitting that you are wrong and it’s always better to stop early on.
I do always tell myself: If I am afraid to act, I am not good enough.