Landing your first job as a UX designer is exciting. You likely put a lot of effort in creating your portfolio, interviewing, waiting, and finally, you receive word regarding next steps about an offer. Now, you can put ‘UX designer’ as your job title on your LinkedIn profile, but accepting the offer is just the beginning. Whether it’s your first professional job or you’re switching from another field (like graphic design), your first few months will be critical to your success.
So how do you set yourself up for success in your new gig from day one? Keep these 11 tips in mind to make the most of those important first few weeks:
1. Understand What Is Expected Of You
One of the first things you have to learn is the design process the company/project has, and your role in this process. Each company/project has its own UX design process, and the role of UX designer in this process can vary significantly. Thus, it’s essential to find out what your responsibilities will be. Talk to your entire UX design team, and who you will be working with at each stage:
- Speak to the team members about what they can expect from you, and when.
- Speak to management about what data you’ll provide at each stage.
2. Prioritize the Most Important Things To Learn
Even if your company provides new-hire FAQ documents, or even a training program, getting started can still be overwhelming. There’s simply so much to learn at once! Don’t worry too much about keeping up with everything and follow these steps when you learn something new:
- Make a list of what you need to do and break it down into important chunks. It’s better if each chunk represents information from one particular area (e.g. mobile design patterns).
- Order how you’d like to get these chunks done from the most important to the least. If you can’t tell what’s important, ask! Check with your peers and your manager about your priorities to see if your hypotheses about learning priorities make sense.
- Сonsider whether any of these chunks are time-sensitive.
3. Know Who You’re Working With
Design is a team sport and, as a UX designer, it’s crucial that you know how to effectively communicate design decisions with the team from the beginning of the project right through to implementation. Keep in mind that each team member probably sees a given project through different contextual lenses, but, as UX designer, you need to be able to efficiently communicate with all of them to identify any problems or misunderstandings.
The ability to empathize and understand the motivations of those around you is crucial. Developers, PMs, and other designers will all come with their own particular needs and goals, and if you can demonstrate that you’re interested in helping them, you’ll be well received:
- Developers : For effective collaboration with developers try to understand the technology stack they work on and get a good sense of constraints and opportunities. This way you’ll have more realistic expectations of what the developers can produce and in what time-frame.
- PMs : To work well with product managers, remember to translate prototypes into proper specifications, usually in the form of detailed stories.
- Designers : Designers typically have continuous cycles of pairing and siloing, called design interaction. Be ready to iterate on design.
4. Accept Criticism As a Natural Part Of Design Process
Criticism is an integral part of the design process. As a designer, you need to:
- Learn to receive criticism. When faced with criticism, try to get as much good out of it as possible. Put yourself in the critic’s shoes and try to understand where the critic’s point of view is coming from. It’s crucial to be open-minded and be aware that constructive criticism of your design work is the best way to grow.
- Learn to critique. When you’re in a design team, you also need to give considered feedback. Concentrate on providing feedback that will help your colleagues improve their work. Before making any judgment always try to understand the context of the problem a particular design trying to solve.
- Avoid being heavily influenced by the other designers’ opinions. It’s very easy to get swayed by other’s opinion in design, especially those that have more experience. Don’t be afraid to follow your own way of solving the problem when something doesn’t make sense to you. Prototype and test your solution — testing will help you reveal whether it works or not.
5. Document Your Projects As You Go
While you’re working on a project, make sure to document the process as you go. Write notes and take photos of the journey and add them to a Google Doc, Evernote, or any other tool you use for this purpose. Collecting as you go will help you better remember the information and recall it in the future when you need it. Another benefit of this approach — you will be able to use the best projects for your portfolio.
Note: Don’t limit yourself only to the project details — form a habit of taking notes for all UX-relevant findings. For example, when you’re reading an article or studying something, note down what you feel to be important. This information will help you in future.
6. Be Proactive And Identify Opportunities For Quick Wins
Get involved in the business and find ways to be proactive. As a new team player, your job is to learn as much as you can and then quickly provide value back to the company and your team. But how do you identify quick wins? That’s not hard. Ask yourself: What are areas of opportunity in which you can quickly make an impact? How can you make that impact evident? Are these areas in line with the company’s/team’s priorities?
Talk with your teammates or management to uncover gaps that you may have an advantage in filling.
7. Don’t Be Afraid of Making Mistakes
Don’t expect that UX design will always be a smooth ride. Things are going to go wrong, but that’s normal. Instead, use these moments as opportunities to accelerate your professional growth. It’s always important to remember that you can learn more from failure than success. Thus, handle your mistakes with grace and turn them into action.
8. Develop Your Communication Skills
Communication is a critical skill for UX designers. If you can’t communicate properly at all levels of an organization then you’re going to struggle to get things done.
Focus on improving the following communication skills right from day one:
- Negotiation skills. Negotiation skills don’t mean the ability to trick people and sell them on your design solution. It’s about finding and arguing for the best solution. Sometimes you’re going to need to compromise to get the right results.
- Active listening. Active listening is more than a willingness to listen to what others say. It’s about questioning people to clarify things that they have said. Remember, the more you ask questions of your coworkers, the more information you’ll get about the project, and the better designer you’ll likely become.
9. Work On Your Presentation Skills
The ability to present effectively to clients and colleagues is another critical skill for UX designers. Quite often, the only way to really know if your ideas are on track is to get in front of real people and see if they resonate. It’s not always easy, as it requires a lot of time and effort, but it’s definitely worth it because becoming a better presenter will make you a better communicator. As was said previously, solid communications skills are the key to creating a shared vision of your new product.
Note: When you present your work, always tie your decision-making process back to user needs and business goals.
10. Know Where To Search For an Answer
When looking for a solution to a problem, check out how other designers solve similar problems. UX Stack Exchange is a question-and-answer website for UX design. It’s a great resource for new designers who want to ask questions about any design related topics. If you have a specific question and would like to hear a frank opinions from UX experts you can ask it there.
11. Spend Time Seeking Inspiration
The world of user experience has never stopped evolving and it’s essential to stay up-to-date on the latest ideas and conversations happening in the industry. Make inspiration a priority. It will help help you better understand UX patterns and visual design. Look at design work and case studies on Behance and latest articles about design on Medium. To make yourself familiar with latest design trends, form a habit of reading a few articles on design each day.
Note: If you’re looking to add more resources to your list, check out the article 30 UX Design Inspiration Resources.
In Conclusion: Bring Your Full Self To Work
When you start something new, it’s important to be confident in your skills and abilities. Be flexible, adapt to your environment, learn new skills, and adjust as necessary. Bring your whole self to work and encourage others to do the same.