Just a quick search on Google shows dozens of articles with tips on how to become a UX designer. Read this book, learn that tool, have those characteristics. The articles make it sound like becoming a user experience designer is just making sure you can tick off all the boxes in the checklist and then you're ready to go and conquer the world. If only it were that easy!
Today, I'm sharing you the 3 most important lessons I learned when starting out as a UX designer.
📚 Focus, focus, focus
Being completely new to UX, I wanted to learn everything at once: how to become a star at interviewing people, how to build prototypes with 5 different tools and how to rock user tests. Soon enough though, I noticed I was getting nowhere - I knew a little bit of everything but not enough of anything. My solution to this problem was to follow a UX-course which covered the design thinking process. This really put my mind to ease! I just had to follow a structured curriculum, learned a few methods and tools and didn't feel the pressure to try out every new thing I stumbled upon. After finishing up my course, I was a jack of all trades and on my way to become a master of some.
What I learned: limit yourself to 1-3 topics, methods, tools or skills that interest you and do a deep dive. Get yourself a solid foundation before continuing to add more tools or methods to your skillset.
✅ No rules, just guidelines
Thanks to the course I followed, I learned a lot about the design thinking process and double diamond strategies. Both offer a helpful framework to tackle problems and think of user-centered solutions. However, the mistake I made was to see this framework as a step-for-step guide on how to tackle design challenges. The design thinking methodology is not a linear process. There is not always time or resources to do user research, sometimes you skip phases directly to prototyping and testing or your tasks only focus on one phase. Nowadays I use design thinking as a path, an inspiration of how I can possibly solve problems.
What I learned: Frameworks are guidelines that give direction in how to tackle a design task, not rules to live by.
💔 Don't fall in love with your first idea
You have a problem. You think of a solution. Problem solved. Right? Well, it's quite the opposite. It's very tempting to just dive into a project with the first idea you get, sketch down some wireframes and get on Sketch (or Figma or Axure or Adobe XD or...) and make some ✨pretty designs ✨. However your initial idea is very rarely the best idea. Only when I pushed myself to think just a bit longer about a concept and sketch out more ideas, I found out that my task or design challenge is more complex that I initially thought. That helped me to come up with better, more useful or efficient solutions.
What I learned: Even though you're 100% sure your first idea is the best one, in 99% of the cases it's not.
And on that note I want to give all of you starting out in (user experience) design one piece of advice that really helped me: don't shy away from just good ol' pen and paper. To come up with good ideas, you don't need an expensive laptop or the most hyped design tool. The best way to start is still just sketching on a piece of paper with a big marker, so you won't lose yourself in pixel-pushing or prettifying rough concepts.