5 Tips to Teach Yourself UX Design

When most people hear the term "user experience," their thinking tends to lean toward technological contexts, such as browsing websites or interacting with apps on their smartphone or tablet. Interestingly enough, the UX journey extends far beyond the reaches of a computer screen. Every talk you have with your cashier at a retail store and every nice meal you cook with ingredients purchased at your neighborhood supermarket is a type of UX interaction.[bctt tweet="The #UX journey extends beyond the reaches of a computer screen, says @LarCavezz" username="StartupInst"]

Due to the accessibility and impact of everyday user experience interactions, design thinking is increasingly emerging as a relevant tool for people from all professional and circumstances to understand the world around us and create innovative new solutions that meet people's needs. UX designers are in high demand right now for their aptitude to build and analyze of solutions that will make life a little bit easier and more enjoyable for everyone.

People who understand human behavior tend to thrive in the field of UX design. As a former speech therapist, I've seen my how my experience developing human-centered learning plans has directly impacted my successful career change intro UX design. No matter what your background is, you can learn UX design if you possess the right balance of empathy and analytic aptitude. You don't have to have a four-year degree to succeed in the field, nor do you need to have been building coding and design skills for the past decade. UX design is truly an industry for anyone who wants to ensure users have a good experience when interacting with their app, website, or brand.[bctt tweet="You don't have to have a degree to thrive in the field of #UXdesign, says @LarCavezz" username="StartupInst"]

If you want to teach yourself UX design, consider these top five tips to get started:

[bctt tweet="5 Tips to Start Teaching Yourself #UXdesign, by @LarCavezz" username="StartupInst"]

1. Begin by educating yourself on the basics of UX design

Before you launch headfirst into a new career, educate yourself on the basics of UX design and its relevance in the professional world.

Start by developing some core concepts:

  • This video animation explains what UX design is and how great UX hits the sweet spot of user needs and business needs
  • You'll chuckle at this video portraying the frustrations of an online checkout in real-life. The poor guy goes in to buy a simple loaf of bread, but bad UX can cost customers
  • I consider The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman to be a staple for any designer. After reading this book, you'll start to see design everywhere and think critically about what makes a successful user experience in both tangible or digital products
  • Understanding Web Design—Design needs to change with the medium. This article shows how web design differs from other types of design
  • Hats by Richard Saul Wurman was written in 1989, but the metaphor for information architecture and organization of content is still relevant to design principles that UX designers use today

All companies—from the small business owner wanting to drive more consumer traffic to a national organization launching its latest software update—rely on UX design. Take time to discover what kind of UX design job you would be interested in, along with what career goals you aim to accomplish.

  • Our free web design 101 guide is a great place to start familiarizing yourself with the range of roles encompassed within UX, as well as the broader web design industry.
  • The UX Intern Podcast offers an accessible entry-point for new designers, featuring questions from other new professionals in interviews with seasoned UX designers.
  • We asked some of the instructors of our web design course who have interviewed, hired, and trained emerging UX designers to share what qualities they most like to see in candidates for junior UX roles; read on to learn what the UX job market is looking for.

2. Don't be afraid to start small

Maybe you have no past coding or design experience—that's okay. As I said, there are a range of career paths (such as speech therapy, teaching, and the behavioral sciences) that develop transferable skills relevant to UX design. Draw on your past experiences and skill sets to discover where your talents are strongest and which skills you'll need to work harder to build. Consider starting small and learning UX fundamentals. This way, you can build upon your foundational knowledge and begin finding job opportunities. The Hipper Element's carefully curated collection of 31 articles about UX design will give you a quick overview of the basics.

As you seek junior UX roles, don't be afraid to assert that you are a designer. Remember—no matter how seasoned another designer may be, they still look at someone else's talents and skill sets and wish their own were something more. We all compare ourselves. You are a new designer, to be sure, but you're still a designer. Own that. 

3. Make sure you have UX design tools and resources at your disposal

One of the great things about the UX industry is, most of the time, designers don't need to have experience in specific software programs or technologies. It's more important they know how to apply their skills across a set of tools. Start building on the core concepts by familiarizing yourself with UX designer's toolbelt and put these ideas into practice while gaining experience in ONE of these tools. Here are some resources to get you started:

[bctt tweet="#UXdesigners should be able to apply skills across different tools, says @LarCavezz" username="StartupInst"]

  • What's the Difference Between Wireframes and Prototypes?—this article explains the use cases, benefits, and limitations of these UX tools
  • Web UI Design Process (the Visual Power of Mockups)—this free eBook explains how mockups differ from wireframes or prototypes and how to incorporate mockups into your design process
  • Wireframing with Balsamiq Mockups — free, beginner-level Udemy course
  • I highly recommend OneMonth's courses (so much so that our full- and part-time web design students now get access to their courses for free—there is otherwise a course enrollment fee). OneMonth MVP: Build and Test Your Own Prototype, OneMonth HTML: Create Your Own Website for Beginners, and Programming for Non-Programmers are all great courses
  • Codecademy — UX designers don't need to know how to code on the front-end necessarily, but if they want to be able to personally execute on their designs then its worth building front-end development skills. Codeacademy has a great free course

4. Assign yourself projects with set deadlines

One of the most difficult aspects of the job-hunting process is showcasing your experience—especially if you're transitioning into a new industry. In the UX design field, you will need to have a portfolio to show potential employers. If you haven't had any prior jobs in the field, this will be challenging.

Begin building your own design portfolio by assigning yourself projects with deadlines to not only build up your experience but learn to work under pressure. Design wireframes and user flows and work your way up to high-fidelity mockups. Volunteer to do some pro bono design work for a not-for-profit in need of help, or try your hand at redesigning other websites or apps. This will show companies you interview with that you are not only a hard worker and self-started, but skilled at what you do as well. I always recommend Briefbox to emerging designers who want to practice their skills and build out a portfolio—it’s an engaging library of design briefs with fun project ideas that you can work on on your own. [bctt tweet="I always recommend new #designers use @thebriefbox to build their #portfolios, says @LarCavezz" username="StartupInst"]

According to web design instructor Amy Eastment,

One thing I always encourage junior UX to do when they've got an empty portfolio: pick out a random, silly idea that they are interested in, and run with it. Do user interviewing, design the workflow and wireframes, do the mockups, do the usability testing—and document your approach to it all. It doesn't matter if it's not a real, feasible product—it matters that you cared enough to practice design on your own!

5. Constantly seek out inspiration and support All art is iterative. Even the best designers draw inspiration from others to hone their craft. Don't try to be ashamed to start with imitation. Consume whatever design work you can get your hands on and never stop seeking out peers and find mentors who can guide you through this learning process. Here are some of my favorite sources of UX inspiration until you find your own:

[bctt tweet="New to #UX? Consume whatever design you can get your hands on, says @LarCavezz" username="StartupInst"]

  • Designspiration is a way to share and explore design, architecture, photography and fashion inspiration
  • Muzli—"All the design inspiration you need. Served fresh"
  • Dribbble is a place to show and tell, promote, discover, and explore design.

Even once you land the job you love, never stop learning and drawing inspiration from the world around you. You might become a better UX designer because of it.

While you can learn UX design on your own, if you learn better in a social setting you may want to consider taking one of our web design courses. After all, if you're ready to get started in UX design, you might as well learn from people who are living and breathing great user experience every day.