Starting out as a UX designer is confusing most of the time. User experience is a broad discipline. Anyone who practices UX design should have skills in multiple different fields. While it is impossible to sum up all the information that is helpful in a single article, it is yet viable to highlight the most important rules every that UX designer should follow to create excellent experiences for people.
Tips for Every UX Designer
These are the things every UX designer should do if they aspire to become a part of the elite of the UX world.
1. Care About Users
To create value for your users you are going to need to care about them. There is one definition of love that sees it as conscious, intentional attention. So if you were to fall in love with your users, you would need to put energy and attention into understanding and getting to know them. And you do that by listening. Your listening skills are of immense importance in your design role. In order to understand anything, particularly people, you have to ask a lot, and the right, questions and then actually listen to the answers.
Listening can also mean observing, and does not always imply a dialogue. Observe your users beyond interviews and surveys, and watch them in their natural context. Involve them in diary studies. Attempt to explore the entire universe around them in relation to the problem that you are solving. Use Empathy Maps to map out what they say, do, think, and feel, and use Personas to really understand their needs, their objectives, their frustrations, their minds, etc.
2. Work on your Process
First of all, develop a process. UX design is quite scientific in this regard, because without structure, goals, a process, and a clear destination, there is no UX designer that can save himself. It is just some chaotic “design” activities thrown in there, to disappointing outcomes most of the time. To create significant experiences you need to go through a clear set of stages, but of course, every designer can shape and refine their process along some universal lines. Work on continuously defining and refining your own.
You should turn every UX project into an opportunity for evolving your process by setting aside the time to look back and reflect on how things developed. Look into what went wrong, what went okay, what can be improved, which lessons, etc.
Another splendid thing about clearly articulating your process is that you can work transparently by sharing it with others involved. Closely inform your collaborators, other stakeholders, and anyone that is relevant, about where you are in the process and what your next steps are, along with how you are going to need their help along the way.
3. Get Excited about Solving Problems
This is an essential function of designing, finding, naming, and solving the right problems. If you are a natural problem-solver, that is better since you probably already do that instinctively. But even if you are not, it is a skill that can simply be educated through exercise. How? By constantly and consciously try to spot problems around you, pay attention to the products, services, people you encounter, and create the habit of questioning and understanding what does not work well and why.
Problems that come up should be seen as opportunities, specifically in the design world, since solving them is actually the core mission. An essential point to be made is that solving any problem starts with understanding it really well. It may seem common sense, but it is not that common, though. Oftenly, designers fail to explore enough, research thoroughly and deeply understand the challenge. To avoid this, a reflex that you should build is understanding problems, supported by asking as many questions as possible focusing on the reason of it all. If the problem definition is not right, then, obviously, the solution cannot be either. This is why too often so many products and services fail because they are solving the wrong problems or no problems at all.
4. Adapt design for short attention spans
Do not overwhelm users with too much information. An individual's attention span is determined by how long he or she can focus on a task without being distracted. The average human attention span has declined from 12 seconds to 8 seconds in the last few years. This means that we now have a shorter attention span than most animals. Designers need to adjust to cope with this behavior, with the goal of getting people the information they need as quickly as possible.
5. Learn to Communicate
Communication skills are essential to a UX designer. Design needs conversation, sometimes the conversation actually is the design. Talk to as many involved in the project as possible. Be mindful of how you communicate your thoughts and ideas, while paying more attention to the answers you receive and how careful you listen to others. Communication must be a two-way street, and healthy dialogue is essential to UX design
In order to make sure that you build mutual understanding, you should also look at the vocabulary you use. Adapt your language to the person that you are talking to, do not use design terminology with your users or with the non-designers you work with. Try to speak their language to make sure your message is easy to follow and gets across.
6. Accept Criticism
Despite the fact that it is somehow against the way that we are built, it is something we need to get used to, especially as designers. Without criticism, growth and improvement are slower or, even worse, unachievable. Criticism, while it can be hurtful at first, is a great opportunity for clarity and a good base for progress. It is difficult to evaluate your own work unbiased, thus it is better to build a habit out of asking for feedback from other designers / co-workers.
Do not take criticism personally, you are not your work. Also, do not let yourself put off by negative feedback, because it is way more important than positive feedback when it comes to design. Lastly, try to give feedback to others as often as possible, but make sure your critique is kind and constructive.
7. Learn and Grow
It is undeniable that you are going to have to learn and grow continuously. Nowadays there are so many learning resources that it is just a matter of picking the right medium, the one in which you absorb information most easily.
If you are a podcast person there are so many fantastic design podcasts out there, like Design Better, Inside Intercom, Let’s Make Mistakes, Design Huddle, XD Podcast, just to name a few of them. You can also use Youtube to find and watch conference talks by design industry leaders like Jared Spool, Chris Do, Andy Budd and many, many others.
You can and should read, too. Be it books, blogs, anything, there are so many valuable stories and lessons to explore. If you are just starting out and not sure how to navigate all the content out there, try reading some of the ground design books such as “The Design of Everyday Things” by Don Norman or the revisited version of “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug. These books will definitely set you up for success on your way to become an elite UX designer.
8. Network with Designers
The conversations that you have along the way with other designers tend to be the most valuable source of learning. Today there are many spaces in which to follow other designers and learn from their experiences. Join design communities, such as Slack workspaces, Facebook groups, etc, and exchange stories with other designers. Also, you should follow design accounts on social media and engage in conversations with them. Get yourself inspired by others on a daily basis. That is the best way to grow.
If you have the opportunity to interact with other designers in real life, then that is even better. Look up design meet-ups or similar events in your area and attend the next one. If there are any designers you admire in your town, reach out to them and suggest a meeting if not too inconvenient. Most of them would be happy to accept and share their stories to help others grow. By the way, this also helps them grow because you also have things to give so it ends up being a win-win situation.
These tips will help anyone who is looking to improve as a UX designer. Implement them and your work will be simpler and more rewarding without hesitation.