Top 10 Tips for a New UX Designer

For anyone who is starting off as a brand new UX Designer:

  1. Always be observing and analyzing. Look around you. What do you see? Who made those things? Why did they make them that way? Why is the ceiling that tall? Who decided on the spacing of the boards in the floor? Why is the size of your pants measured in inches? Why is an inch exactly that long? Why did you want to buy that kind of dish you are eating off of? Who designed that fork? Look at the letter R. The font of this sentence. Look at everything. Wonder why it was made that way.We are surrounded at all times by design. Design is decisions. Most decisions have consequences. What are those consequences? What are the ones you want to have?
  2. Never, ever, ever nod your head and say you got it when you don’t. It’s not rude. They won’t think you are stupid. Never accept a terrible answer of how something works. Say, “I don’t understand what you mean, if you don’t have time right now, how would you suggest I best learn about that? I need to know it to do a good job”. Designers fail at this all the time. You must understand what is going on. Don’t assume you will figure it out. People go years at a job without understanding what that funny acronym stands for.
  3. Most organizations communicate like crap. Read this blog post about the curse of knowledge. It’s not anyone’s fault, but realize that it’s your job to help explain things. The tip here is to acknowledge this reality and try to make it better.
  4. Deliver something useful. This may seem like it goes without saying, but many designers out there don’t deliver usable designs. Think through the problems from the beginning to the end. Don’t let people dictate how you deliver. You need to understand the problem and give a thoughtful response.
  5. Don’t be bullied into not thinking. You might get a boss/colleague who thinks they know everything and all you need to do is XYZ. Think it through no matter what from the beginning. You are responsible for the user experience, not them, no matter what they say.
  6. Learn on the job. This is a new job. Learn from it. Observe how an office works. Learn from peers. Find mentors. Learn, learn, learn. You might now be at this job is 5 years, but the lessons you learn stay forever.
  7. Teach. Just because you are new to the field doesn’t mean you can’t mentor someone else.  Start a blog and write what you learn each week.  Someone else might be interested in doing what you are doing, let them see what it is like.  Besides, taking the time to teach means you have to think more clearly about what you learn.
  8. Find Influences.  Read good books and blogs from influential people like Seth Godin, Don Norman, Alan Cooper, Hugh MacLeod, and Dan Ariely.  Get involved in your UX community, find people you admire.  If someone says, “Who are your influences?” make sure you can answer thoughtfully.
  9. Take fun seriously.  Serious fun is not an acronym.  UX Designers are supposed to make their work fun to use and fun to build.  Fun isn’t just what the user sees, it’s what the internal staff sees too.  Make UX enjoyable.  Give fun names to things. (Example:  A server could be called ExSrvNA01 or it could be called Pluto, because it is far away).  Fun has serious financial benefits.  Take it seriously.
  10. Make your own list.  Making a list means you are thinking about how to do your job.  Make a list and then do the items.  Luck favors the bold.  Don’t half-ass it.

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