Hey all! I’m back with another “things you should know” installment, and today I’m talking to new UX Designers! First off, welcome! *throws confetti* Whether you just graduated with your bachelors, masters, or just finished a bootcamp, you should pat yourself on the back for making it this far and landing your first UX role. While what you’re probably feeling is a sense of accomplishment, keep that energy because you’re going to need it to carry you through your first year or so. That’s not at all to rain on your parade, but any UX Designer will tell you there is always a lot of work to be done and usually at a fast pace.
With that, I’ve compiled a list of things I wish I’d known or been told prior to starting my career in UX. There are also many great points that coincide with this post in my “Five Things I’ve Learned As a UX Designer” here. Should you have any questions on any of the points below or just in general, feel free to drop me a note :)
Take the time to know your audience
When you start at a new company hopefully they’ll do a great job onboarding you with the necessary materials to get you up to speed on the company, your role, your users etc. However, in the midst of all of your onboarding they’re going to want you start working on projects because let’s be honest, that’s why they hired you. Nonetheless, this is a good thing because it allows you to actually get your hands dirty doing the work and seeing your onboarding knowledge being reflected in the work. However, as you are working and find that something is not connecting for you, go back to those onboarding materials. Ask for additional materials like past usability study reports or customer quotes if that hasn’t been given to you too.
Learn your team
Everyone on your team has a role and it’s very important to know what those are. Often times people can wear more than one hat and crossover into other roles so it’s important to know that because you might be asked to one day as well. Nonetheless, it’s important to know who does what, who to go to for what, and what everyones strengths (and weaknesses) are. This will only increase your productivity down the line and allow you to be a better team member yourself.
Stakeholders will try to give you a solution. Ask for the problem.
It’s easy for people telling you what the problem is to also give you the solution at the same time. But the reality is that they are not the designer, you are. When this happens, don’t hesitate to say something like “I can explore that as well as other options as I’m working to solve the problem, but I can’t promise I’ll come back with that”. A simple response to set expectations goes a long way. Doing this you also explain how the process works because the truth is many times they’re just not as educated on UX process.
Align with developers early to discover all edge cases
As you come across possible technical limitations and questions in your work, take note of those and have conversations with developers as soon as possible. This will not only strengthen your relationship with them, but it will prevent you from going down a path you might have to rethink later. Also every dev team is going to have a different set of limitations and standards just based on how they implement code and the platforms they use. With this, you’ll want to get familiar with some of those things as early as possible.
Get good at taking “dev notes”
As you’re working, you’ll come across things that you’ll want to communicate to your development team regarding your designs. Find a way to keep track of these whether it’s in your design tool or just a Word document. These notes can be anything from character limits to prototype interactions. You can present these notes when you pass off your designs to the development team and trust me, they’ll thank you later.
Learn how to find answers quickly
Whether it be a question on material design or best UX practices, searching for information quickly is a skill of its own. For example a question can be raised in an email or Slack channel and some quick and dirty research can be required from you. Another example can be a stakeholder who asks you to perform a type of research on a project that you’re not familiar with. Learning how to find information and the best ways you process this information such as articles or videos is a great skill to have.
Keep a running tab of responsibilities and accomplishments
This honestly goes for any field you’re in as everyone should be keeping a list of what they’re working on. Not only will this be a nice reference for projects that you’ve worked on, but you will use this towards your annual review. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than needing to start your review process and having nothing to work with. Every time you get added to a new project, take on a new role, or attend a career event, add it to this list.
*Photo courtesy of Odin + Ixie