“The roots of good design lie in aesthetics: painting, drawing, and architecture, while those of business and market research are in demographics and statistics; aesthetics and business are traditionally incompatible disciplines.” — Paul Rand, graphic design pioneer and author of Design Form and Chaos. Today, the role of a UX designer is precisely that! Their main responsibility is to fuse together aesthetics and business around the core of functionality. They must be equipped with training to achieve that purpose — learning that revolves around the object, software and the subject, people. How to become a UX designer, who has this training and these skills? That’s the question we will answer in this blog post. Based on our interactions with some of the sharpest minds in the UX design industry in India today, we’ve compiled a step-by-step process that can help you become a UX designer in nine months or less.
How to Become a UX Designer?
Becoming a UX designer comprises four aspects: developing an intuition for design, gaining UX design skills, improving soft skills and strengthening your job readiness. We have broken down your journey into 8 stages, each of which can be completed within a month or so. We have also identified self-learning resources for you to become a UX designer, from the comfort of your home.
Stage 1: Understand the foundations of design
Before jumping into doing UX design, it’s best to understand what it entails. Some of the key factors to understand here are:
What is User Experience Design?
Don Norman, former Apple UX designer and leader, used the term ‘user experience’ to describe the experience of using any object. He argued that with thoughtful design, any product can be enhanced — not only websites or applications but also refrigerators, doors and keyboards.
How is UX Design Different from UI Design?
UX design encompasses the whole of a user’s interaction with a product, including where they go, how soon they can find what they need, how intuitively they are navigating, etc. UI design is typically restricted to the look and feel of the interface.
What Makes for Good Design?
The commonly used framework for developing good design is the UX honeycomb you see below.
Resources for Learning the Foundations of Design
- Change by Design, by Tim Brown: Gives you a clear idea of processes used in UX design. The parts on observational empathy are especially important in UX design.
- The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman: For a big picture view of how design makes things work.
- Convergent and divergent thinking by Anne Manning: Offers a how-to on generating ideas for problem-solving.
- Brainstorming by Hal Gregersen: Gives tips and tricks for better brainstorming.
Time frame: 2-3 weeks.
Stage 2: Learn how to conduct research for UX design
If you look at JD for UX designer jobs, you’ll find that research is important. Take this role at Adobe, for instance.
Some of the research skills necessary for UX designer jobs are:
- Understanding real-world problems and writing problem statements
- Choosing the right research methods
- Creating user personas
- Performing usability tests
You can get a strong foundation of UX design research methods from our blog post here.
Time-frame: Spend 3-4 weeks in this stage. It is extremely important to learn research because identifying problems and evaluating impact is the first step in solving them.
Stage 3: Problem solving with design
Once you’ve identified the problems, the next step is to devise solutions, of course. There are three processes that UX designers use. While learning them, make sure you put them to practise. Just ‘ideating’ isn’t enough, identify the right solution for you and build it. UX design is better learnt by doing.
1. Solution ideation
At this stage, you must explore solutions. These can be both in the real-world, or within the application you’re designing. Use the divergent/convergent thinking you learnt in stage 1 to identify and shortlist solutions to design.
2. User stories
In the agile development world, a user story is the description of a feature, written from the point-of-view of the user. This blog post from Atlassian Agile coach is an excellent resource for understanding user stories.
3. Information architecture
“Findability precedes usability. In the alphabet and on the web. You can’t use what you can’t find,” says Peter Morville, president of Semantic Studios and author of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web.
Information architecture is the UX designer’s key to creating a shared environment in which information is easy to find and hence, easier to use. When designing complex software systems, the designer needs to be guided by principles of findability and usability so that the user does not have to deal with meaningful content through confusing navigation.
Time frame: Invest 3-4 weeks in this stage. Remember to spend more time practising than just passively reading.
Stage 4: Wireframing, prototyping and UI design
While stages 1-3 build the foundation of your UX design skills, this is the stage where you can gain hands-on experience. The skills you will develop in this stage are:
- Sketching: Putting pen to paper (or stylus to screen, medium no bar) to illustrate ideas or information.
- Creating wireframes: Wireframing is creating skeletal illustrations of the positions of various elements that will go into the website or app.
- Building workflows for navigation: Laying out a flow chart of related screens (for example, a button on the home page leads to the sign up page, hence two related screens).
- Responsive design: Ensuring the experience is optimised for various screen sizes and devices.
- Visuals and interaction design: Patterns, icons, typography, etc.
- Brand platforms and style guides
At this stage, you might use UI/UX design tools such as Figma, Adobe XD, Photoshop, etc. in your everyday work.
Time frame: Invest 6-8 weeks in this stage. It is not only important, but it’s also perhaps the first big challenge you’ll face in your journey to becoming a UX designer.
Stage 5: High fidelity design
At this stage, you will engage more deeply with the purpose and process of design. Throughout this blog post, when you read the term ‘user’, you’ve most likely attached it to a homogenous entity or group. But in reality, the user, even when defined according to their demands and usage patterns, will vary greatly in terms of their age, gender, race, accessibility, technical capability etc.
1. Inclusive design
Designing a software product without taking diversity into account will result in an interface that ignores the experience of varied users. It can be corrected by small steps that go a long way — making sure that people’s imagery on the interface doesn’t represent only one identity or monitoring content to avoid offensive stereotypes.
Design that is accessible further recognises diversity by making provisions for those with different needs; an example is putting a screen reader button on the website so that elderly or visually challenged people can use the site. Recognising and implicitly answering these needs should be a fundamental part of your method as a UX Designer.
2. Mocking up
A mockup is a step up from the wireframe — it is ‘high fidelity’ because it will be close to the finished product. It will have the design elements and interactive layout that will then be tested again for usability and functionality. Some tools you need to learn are:
- Mockplus iDoc
- Invision Studio
- Adobe XD
Pick a tool that you feel most comfortable with and practise creating mockups. If you don’t have an idea for your own website/app, feel free to create a better version of an existing app. For instance, what is the one thing that bugs you about popular apps like Swiggy or Uber? Take that as your problem, solve it and build mockups.
3. Interaction design
A UX Designer also needs to build interactions. This could be basic text elements or visuals like icons and micro-animations, success messages, error messages, etc.
Time frame: This stage in your learning will add to your portfolio. Invest 6-8 weeks, consistently improving your interaction design and mock up skills. Make sure you have a wide variety of projects to show.
Stage 6: Prototyping and testing
“…design as a problem-solving activity can never, by definition, yield one right answer: it will always produce an infinite number of answers, some “righter” and some “wronger.” The “rightness” of any design solution will depend on the meaning with which we invest the arrangement.” — Victor Papanek, Austrian-American designer, educator and advocate of responsible design.
How do you know if your solution is ‘right’ for the end user? With usability testing. This doesn’t have to be the last step in your journey, though. Agile product development teams often work on multiple prototypes, testing with small user samples, before deploying for the larger user base.
- Learn to build prototypes of your solutions and test with users for timely feedback.
- Apply your research skills to synthesise user feedback.
- Iterate with your prototypes and test until you find the right solution.
Time frame: This is an ongoing process. The usability of a product feature can change with time too. You can practise testing methods for 2-3 weeks, but remember that this doesn’t end with that.
Stage 7: Soft skills and employment research
A designer doesn’t work in a vacuum. In addition to the users that the designer interacts with, they also collaborate closely with developers, business stakeholders, and leaders. Some of the interpersonal skills they need are:
- Hand-offs to developers
- Giving and receiving feedback
- Making presentations and persuading different groups of people
- Creating case studies
Spend 3-4 weeks proactively building these skills. In parallel, also reach into the market and understand opportunities. Here are some pointers:
1. Job opportunities
Even in the middle of a pandemic, there are over 2500 UX design jobs vacant in India, in some of the biggest technology companies including Microsoft, Adobe, IBM and so on. UX designers are in high demand today, and this is only going to increase in the future.
2. Kind of roles and organisations
UX designers work at enterprises as part of large design teams focusing on a small aspect of the product, in smaller design studios working on client projects, or as a freelance consultant for startups and small businesses.
UX Design Salaries
The average salary of a UX designer in India is Rs. 600,000, which doubles with just 5 years of experience. Specialised roles in product design or leadership earn much more. For a detailed understanding of the kind of roles and the salaries in UX design, read our e-book guide to become a UX designer.
Time frame: Don’t rush this phase. Spend 2-3 weeks practising your soft skills and understanding the UX design landscape.
Stage 8: Building a network and applying for UX design jobs
Now, you’re ready. After gaining the skills and the experience you need, begin to build a network —
- Join online groups, follow people on social networks, participate in conferences, etc.
- Look for a mentor who can answer your questions and guide you through the process.
- If you can find internship opportunities, grab them.
- Shortlist job roles that are suitable for your needs, skills and interests and apply to them. Remember to customise your CV and present a relevant portfolio.
Becoming a UX designer requires a combination of skills — research, visual design, problem-solving, wireframing, information architecture in addition to the presentation, persuasion and interpersonal skills. The above process is a fool-proof way to become a UX designer. With a combination of books, videos and online resources, you can learn everything you need to kickstart your UX design career.
This might take time and energy, while also being a rather lonely endeavour. This is why we have added 3 portfolio projects, 1:1 mentorship and personal career coaching to a curriculum that follows the above structure to ensure our learners become UX designers in nine months. If you’re looking to start a UX design career, check out Springboard’s UI/UX Design Career Track.