How to get started with UX Design

Written by: Dulal Deb

Table of contents

What is UX Design?

UI vs UX

Understand the fundamentals of UX

Look for your areas of interest within the UX

Get some experience

Upskill yourself

Put out yourself

What is UX Design?

The term UX Design was first coined by a cognitive scientist from Apple named Don Norman. And before defining UX Design, let us understand that there is no commonly accepted definition for UX. Different design experts have their own way of defining UX.

“UX Design can be defined as a concept  or a process followed by designers/design team while designing any new or existing product (digital)”.

“It can also be defined as the experience provided to an end-user gets while using a product.”

Below are more definition of  UX Design from some experts

Now you should be having some understanding of what UX Design is, and also may have made your own definition of UX. So, let us now understand more.

UI vs UX

UI and UX are not the same, even though they are named together most of the time. Let’s try to understand how different they are:

UI
  • UI stands for User Interface means the visuals for any product.
  • Focused more on the front end of the application or products.
  • Works on colors, typography, icons, imagery, etc.
  • More use of design tools like FIGMA, Adobe XD, and UXPIN.

 

 

UX
  • UX stands for User Experience means understanding user needs and pain points (challenges).
  • Focused more on solving problems through simplistic visuals.
  • Works on finding the WHY of the user’s problem through the different research processes.
  • More empathy with the users through user interviews, and usability testing.

Understand the fundamentals of UX

When we speak of fundamentals there are multiple domains that come under UX which need to be considered, like Interaction Design, Experience Design, Human Centered Design, and many more. While it might not be possible to cover every aspect of UX, below I have listed some of the common topics, which require some understanding while you are just starting out.

UX Law’s

UX Laws are those best practices that we should follow during our design process, to make the design solutions more user-oriented. Some of the commonly used UX laws are mentioned below:

Jakob’s Law

Jakob’s law was defined by Jakob Nielsen, Ph.D. a User Advocate and principal of the Nielsen Norman Group which states that –

People spend more time on others websites, that means users expect your application shoud behave functionally the same way as other application they are accquinted with.

Learn more from expert leaders about what they have to say about Jakob’s Law and why it is one of the crucial and interesting laws to know and apply in your design solutions.

Hick’s Law

Hick’s Law (or the Hick-Hyman Law) named after British and American psychologist team William Edmund Hick and Ray Hyman states that –

People tend to take more time in making decisions with more number of options or choices provided to them

See below what other experts have to say about Hick’s Law.

Fitt’s Law

Fitt’s Law was defined by a  psychologist named Paul Fitts in 1954, states that

The time to acquire a target is a function of the distance to and size of the target.

This law actually describes the time it takes for a user to interact with any UI elements on the screen depending on size and distance.

Miller’s Law

Miller’s Law of UX states that –

The average person can only keep 7 (plus or minus 2) items in their working memory.

See in the video below how experts think of Miller’s Law of UX Design

Below are some of the recommended resources you should check out to learn more about UX Laws:

Laws of UXhttps://lawsofux.com/

5 essential laws of UX Designhttps://uxplanet.org/5-essential-laws-for-ux-designers-5ca70466faa1

User Experience Design

A diagramtic representation of UX (User Experience)

Color theory

The color theory defines how to use colors effectively in our visuals or hi-fi-mockups which are nothing but the final screens that are designed using design tools like FIGMA, Adobe XD, etc.

Understand the color wheel
color-wheel

The color wheel mainly comprises two different color models. One is RGB, i.e., Red, Green, and Blue which is mainly used for designing digital applications like websites, apps, dashboards, etc. The other is RYB, i.e., Red, Yellow, and Blue used by artists.

The color wheel also helps to select our primary, secondary and tertiary colors, which are the three main categories of colors.

Primary colors

We have three main colors which are considered primary colors namely Red, Green, and Blue

Secondary colors

The secondary colors are created by mixing each of the two primary colors. And the colors newly generated are Orange, Purple, and Green

Tertiary colors

These types of colors are mixes of both primary and secondary colors.

The above three color categories can be further subdivided into color schemes mentioned below:

Monochromatic

The simple way to select a color is where a color palette is created from one single color by a combination of multiple shades, tints, and tones.

Analogous

An analogous color scheme is created in a combination of three colors alternating with each other in the color wheel.

Complementary

Complementary color uses opposite colors from the color wheel to create a contrasting color effect in UI. For example – Green and Red.

color-psychology

Typography

Typography deals with different fonts, and typefaces and can be defined as the technique of arranging texts or fonts in your application in a legible, readable, and appealing manner. Typographies are not just limited to the digital medium, it goes for print as well.

Typography elements

Understanding the different elements of typography will help you in using fonts in a much better way.

Fonts and typefaces

Fonts can be defined as an individual weight or style within a particular typeface, while typeface, also known as font family can be considered as a group of all variants of a font. For example, if Poppins is used in your project as a typeface (font family), Poppins Light, Poppins Bold, can be considered as a font.

Contrast

The contrast in typography can be maintained by using different font variants like medium, light, bold, etc. Having proper contrast in our content emphasizes the most important element which needs to be focused on.

Consistency

One of the key principles in typography is to keep fonts consistent throughout your application design. Having too many fonts can be confusing for the same information, so use the same font styling for the same information.

Whitespace

Whitespace refers to the empty space that is applied to the text or any UI elements. It can be provided via margin and padding or using CSS properties like position. The idea of having whitespace is to allow your text or UI elements to breathe and also can be used for drawing users’ attention.

Types of Typography
Sans Serif

Sans serif fonts have a clean and minimalistic look. These types of fonts are one of the most commonly used fonts for any website. Some of the commonly used Sans Serif fonts are Poppins, Noto Sans, Montserrat, etc. Ideally, a sans serif font looks something like as shown below.

Serif

Serif fonts have a pointed edge on them which makes them a classic look. These types of fonts are one of the most commonly used fonts for restaurants, and magazines. Some of the commonly used Serif fonts are Times New Roman, Playfair Display, Lora, etc.

Adobe XD

Monospace fonts are commonly known as fixed-width fonts. Such fonts have equal-width letters and each of the characters occupies the same amount of space. Some of the commonly used Monospace fonts are Roboto Mono, IBM Plex Mono, etc. Ideally, a Monospace font looks something like as shown below.

Handwriting

Handwriting fonts look somewhat similar to human writing. These types of fonts are also known as Cursive fonts (also known as Script fonts). If you prefer to have manually designed fonts, then probably you can go with handwriting fonts. Some of the commonly used Handwriting fonts are Avocado, Pacifico, Satisfy, etc. Handwriting fonts look something like above.

Design Tools

Design tools are the software used by UX Designers to create mockups for digital applications like websites, dashboards, and mobile apps. Such tools also come with amazing features like creating prototypes, complex animations, developer handoff, collaboration within product teams, and many more. Below are some of the widely used design tools which you must try learning if you are willing to start your career in design.

Figma

One of the best and most commonly used design tools across the industry. It is completely free to use although FIGMA has premium plans. The best part about FIGMA is it can be accessible in the browser through its shareable link and you can also import design files worked on other design software like Photoshop or Sketch.

Invision

Invision is a great tool when it comes to creating complex animations for your application. You can also create wireframes, and prototypes and even do a collaboration like FIGMA. Learn more about Invision from official learning page. It has a free tier so you can learn it for free, like FIGMA.

Adobe XD

Adobe XD is a product from Adobe that is a similar design tool to FIGMA. Unlike FIGMA, Adobe XD is mainly used for designing digital products with minimum collaboration. It requires a subscription and is available for a trial of 14 days.

User Research

Typography deals with different fonts, and typefaces and can be defined as the technique of arranging texts or fonts in your application in a legible, readable, and appealing manner. Typographies are not just limited to the digital medium, it goes for print as well.

Types of User Research

There are two types of research we have in UX Design namely Qualitative Research and Quantitative Research

Qualitative Research – As the name suggests, this type of research is mainly done to understand the user’s behavioral pattern by using different research methods like User Interviews, Case Study Research, Brainstorming, Diary Studies, etc.

Quantitative ResearchQuantitative research refers to the evaluation of certain problems or situations using quantifiable numbers, by asking how many and how much kinds of questions. For example, re-design of a website’s hero section leads to a 20% increase in sales. Some of the commonly practiced quantitative research methods are Focus groups, tree testing, etc.

UX Deliverables

Apart from the visual design, there are other design artifacts, created by the designer as a part of design deliverables. Some of the common UX deliverables are mentioned below:

Personas

Personas are design artifact (or design deliverables) that contains the details of your target audience received via multiple research processes represented through a fictional character. Check out the detailed guide on How to create a User Persona to learn more. Ideally a Persona looks something like shown below.

Persona
Journey Map

A Journey Map allows you to understand the end-to-end journey of a user in the product. It also defines all users involved in the different stages of the product, captures user’s emotion, and figure out the overall experience of the users engaging with the product. Ideally, the Journey map looks something like displayed below.

Journey map
Wireframes

Wireframes are the blueprint for the final design of your product or application. The main purpose of creating wireframes is to align with layout spacing, content alignment, understanding of any functionalities to be implemented. Wireframes are also easy to create which saves time and effort for a designer before actually making the Hifi visuals with brand colors, typography, etc. Checkout the best practices to follow for creating wireframes.

Wireframe
Hi-fi Mockups

Hifi (aka High Fidelity) Mockups are the final designs created with brand colors, typographic specification, standard iconography. These are the actual designs shared with the product or engineering team to be implemented with functional code. Hifi Mockups also known as Visual Designs are the end result of the complete UX Design process followed by a designer.

Hifi-mockups

The two most important characteristics of a good design are discoverability and understanding as mentioned in the book – The Design of Everyday Things written by Don Norman

Look for your areas of interest

Hmm 😕 quite a lot it seems. UX is not just only about visuals or making screens in FIGMA or any other design tool that we think of, it is way more than that. Now is the time, to reflect on what is just discussed above, and analyze whether should I consider being a UI/UX designer or UX designer or maybe into something specific.

Well if you are confused and thinking about which area to select and proceed with, do not worry, I got you covered. Listed below are my two tips on how I started and managed to upskill myself with time.

#1. Personal interest – think of that one area you feel confident about. It could be about research, colors, or with design tools. Dive deeper into that area by reading books, taking courses, podcasts, etc.

#2. Your goals – Are you looking for a job or wanted to start as a freelance? If you are aim is to get a job, do some research and explore more on the areas you are confident about, go through job descriptions on some of the job sites like LinkedIn, Naukri, etc. and start applying. And if you want to explore freelancing, then look out for gigs around your specialty and keep learning.

Do not feel low, if rejected in your initial interviews. Learn from the mistakes you made, note down the questions, and keep trying. The only way you could fail is, if you stop trying and learning.

If you are in a job started as a UX designer or UI/UX designer in most cases you will be working on all phases of the design process,  from discovery to hi-fi designs and prototyping. While it is a very common working culture in the  UX design industry, you can also decide after a certain period of time depending on your interest which area you want to go with, and accordingly you can upskill yourself.

Get some experience

While it could be difficult for any beginner to have the live project working experience, that should not be a show-stopper in your learning journey. You can always work on some mock projects, take up some design challenges or even take up any personal challenge you are facing on any digital product used in your daily life.

My personal go-to choice out of all is working on design challenges. It will provide you with a ready-made problem statement or a brief that you can take and start working on directly.

Also, in my personal experience, working on design challenges is great as you will be working on a real project brief, which can also be featured in your portfolio. Some of the best platforms where you can find design challenges:

Uplabs

It is a platform created for designers and developers to find ready-made UI kits and other resources. Both freemium and paid resources are available. You can create your own account for free and participate in those challenges.

Design Challenge

One of the best platforms to work on UX projects with pre-built design problems. One thing that I like most about this platform is they have challenges specific to different UX areas like Journey Mapping, Persona, Heuristic Evaluation, and many more. It is completely free to try.

Drawerrr

Another cool platform for beginners looking out to work on design challenges or searching for a job. It is definitely a go-to platform where you can identify your skill gap once you create your profile and import or attach your case studies if created any.

Upskill yourself

Upskilling yourself is crucial to this evolving design industry where we see multiple new things coming out every day. Every individual has a unique style of learning. Some prefer to have structured courses, while others like to hustle, self-explore on their own and gather knowledge.

While self-learning could be very interesting as you can learn it at your own pace, I myself am a self-taught designer and like to find my own solutions, but at times it could be challenging and also self-learning might not work for everyone. Below are two of my recommended approaches and choices for upskilling yourself.

1. Courses

While there any many platforms providing courses on UX Design which are available both for free and premium. It depends on your interest if you want to learn from free courses or paid sessions. Below are some of my recommended platforms from where you can learn.

Coursera

Coursera is providing a course on UX Design named Google UX Design Professional Certificate. It requires a paid membership.

Simplilearn

One of the best platforms, where you can about UX Design. They have a program named UI/UX Design Expert where you get dedicated online sessions with industry-led mentors along with self-paced video lectures and assignments. It is a paid course.

Interaction Design Foundation

Another best platform to learn about UX where pioneers and founder of UX Design like Don Norman takes sessions and also have self-paced courses, which you can complete in your own time. They have both free resources and paid memberships. Check out the IDF literature section for free.

2. Mentorship

A mentorship program can be very helpful where you can learn in a collaborative way from an expert. Such programs might be exploratory where you are free to learn things in your own interest along with a mutual discussion with your mentor. There are also structured mentorship programs where you can learn from an expert through 1-on-1 live sessions, curated course contents, assignments, and portfolio building. Such programs could be paid for, but the good side is you will be getting dedicated attention, as you will be in small groups of 2-3 members learning and growing together.

UX Design Fundamentals

Join the 5-week intensive mentorship program where you will learn about UI/UX Design completely from scratch which includes topics like User Research, Prototyping, Wireframes, and Design tools.

Put out  yourself

Showcase of your work on design platforms like Behance, Uplabs, and Medium, and also on social media platforms of your choice like LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. Putting out your work in front of an audience gives you two advantages, which I can say from my own personal experience.

Firstly, you help out yourselves, meaning your work and you as a person get noticed. Not only that, but people also get to know your skills and experience and might also provide or share their feedbacks which will help you to enhance your work.

Secondly, if you are looking out for a job or are willing to freelance, someone will be watching your work and you might land up getting some offers. Having your work online provides another benefit, which is you can share your work with others or present it to anyone without you being physically present. Also, since its online, you can access it from anywhere at anytime.

Wrapping Up

Well, congrats 🎉✨for completing the article, and thanks for sticking around. By now you must have got a fair understanding of all areas you need to focus on, learn and grow if you are planning to start your career in UX Design.

And if you are planning to land a job, then you need to have an understanding of all of the above-mentioned areas, create your design portfolio, and prepare for design interviews. Every designer’s journey is different stay calm and focused, and keep learning you can also be a great designer.

Also, let me know, in the comments below your journey and process for becoming a UI/UX Designer.

Grab your freebies

How to start your career as UX Designer in 2023 in 7 simple steps.

What you can do next?

  1. Download the PDF guide to have a checklist of all the topics that you must know if you are starting out as a UI/UX Designer.
  2. Join me on CRATER streams, where I explain in detail How to get started with UI/UX Designing.
  3. Connect with me for mentorship in UX Design.
  4. Want to build your career in UX Design, enroll in my upcoming UX Design Crash Course. Learn more about the program.
  5. If you are a self-taught designer like me, then visit my Youtube channel, to explore more about UX Design

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