Becoming an UX Designer in 2021 from a non-design background

May 22, 2021

This is a summary of the Miro Tamilnadu Meetup event [10 April 2021] organised by Kishore Vidyasagar and in which I was the guest speaker. This meetup is hosted by Miro and event recording will be soon available in Miro Youtube channel

Miro Tamil Nadu Chapter Meetup Poster

UX Design is one of the most talked-about careers in recent times. As our dependency on digital apps increases, so does the importance of providing a good experience for those apps. In the recent few years, companies have realised that the experience of an app or website can make or break their business. With this realisation, the importance of a UX Designer in a business also has risen.

Since there is no set in stone way of becoming a UX Designer, it leaves most people confused on how they could become one. So in this Miro Tamil Nadu community meet-up, we discussed how you can become a UX Designer, whether it is right for you, the job market with its remote advantage and much more. Here is a summary of the discussed topics.

1. Is UX Design for you?

It is important to realise whether UX would be a good fit before you jump in. Familiarise yourself with the UX Process and skills necessary at each stage of the process. The entire UX process includes

High level UX Process

Nielsen Norman Group conducted a comprehensive survey into UX Careers and one of the insights obtained were the skills that the designers ranked as which were most useful to them. Go through this list of skills and introspect whether you have those skills. Even if you don’t have it if you’re passionate about developing those skills that are even great. 

Source: Nielsen Norman

Of course, you will not be requiring all of these skills if you choose a role that is a subset of UX Design. For example, if you’re a UX Researcher you need to have more Research skills than Prototyping or Visual design skills. Similarly, if you’re a Visual designer you need to have strong visual skills and you won’t require much Research or Prototyping skills.

After this step, if you decide to go further with UX Design, make sure you are willing to put in the long term effort to keep learning and developing these skills. Don’t get attracted by the high salaries which some of the designers are getting. Those are the people who are passionate about what they do and put in the effort day in & day out. The salary you will get is directly proportional to the amount of effort you put in. 

2. Do I need to know how to code?

No, you don’t. You just need to understand how code works, its limitations so that you can design within its constraints. 

3. Can I become a UX Designer from a different stream of education or a different career?

Of course.

Most of the designers in the field currently started with little to no background in design. They came from diverse educational backgrounds such as engineering, arts, psychology etc. And some of them in addition to coming from a different education background also would have worked in a different career stream and then transitioned to design. 

But the thing is from whatever stream you’re from, you can find some relation between that stream and design. For example, if you’re from psychology you already know a lot about the human mind and behaviour. If you’re from software engineering or development, then you would know a lot about the technological constraints. Knowing about it is important for design as you need to design within the constraints of the platform you’re designing for. 

4. Do I need a design degree?

Again, no you don’t. It’s not necessary to have a degree. But you can do it if you want to. It’s certainly really useful. Do it because you want to do it and there is no compulsion for it.

5. What are the ways I have to learn design?

You have 3 options

  1. Learn on your own using online resources
  2. Get a design degree
  3. Enrol in boot camps

Learn on your own using online resources

You have unlimited free or low-cost resources available online to learn from. Here are some of the useful links

YouTube
Blogs
Courses

I would recommend you to take up the UX Certificate by Google which is available in Coursera.

Google UX Professional Certificate

Get a design degree

Some of the advantages of a Design Degree are:
  1. You get proper guidance
  2. You don't require as much self-discipline compared to self-learning
  3. Gets you noticed & differentiates you from the rest of the larger crowd who are self-learnt.
  4. Getting a job/internship as a design fresher becomes easier due to campus placements
  5. Structured way of learning
Disadvantages
  1. You need to spend a lot of time and money
  2. Might have to relocate to study in a particular college

Boot camps

Bootcamps are the perfect amalgamation of self-learning and formal design degrees. You can finish it in a shorter period, the course structure will be very relevant to getting a job, you get co-learners and mentors.

Some of the available bootcamps are:

6. What are the tools I need to learn?

These are some of the Design tools which are most used in the industry. Learn some of these tools and start showing off your work on social media.

UX tools you can learn


7. Why should I get a design internship?

Here is why you need to get a design internship

  1. It gives you much-needed exposure to real-world design project
  2. It gives you the experience of working in a team set up and you get to improve your team working skills
  3. You get mentors in the form of the senior designers who are present in the team
  4. If you get permission from the company, you can add the project you’ve worked on in your internship to your design portfolio. When you’re a fresher, a real project adds a lot of weight to your portfolio.
  5. If you do well, the internship may get converted into a full-time job at the same company. Even if it doesn’t, when you apply to other companies your internship experience will help a lot in securing a job.

8. How to get an internship?

  1. This relates to one of the previous points. Practice, show off your work and establish your online presence. You never know who sees your work
  2. Along with being active on social media, network a lot with senior designers. They play a strong role in hiring interns or even full-time designers at their respective companies.
  3. When you’re networking, don’t try to act like an expert when you’re a fresher. Project yourself as someone ready to learn.
  4. Several design challenges & hackathons are happening from time to time. Actively follow the various companies and keep a lookout on social media platforms to get news of this.

9. Okay finally tell me how to get a job?

 First off, most of the rules which I mentioned for getting an internship applies for this too. But you just got to do it even better. Some more additional tips are:

  1. Build a personal brand around yourself by publishing your work. Make companies want to work with you
  2. Standout with a kickass portfolio. Express your personality and convey your design process in the case study very clearly.
  3. Make the best use of LinkedIn, update your profile and be active
  4. Don’t just fill out application forms and submit them. Recruiters won’t have time to go through all of it. Just directly contact them through LinkedIn.
  5. Network with senior designers and ask for referrals after you have built a good rapport.

 Here are some Designers Slack and Discord community platforms:

Apart from the individual company websites, here are the places where you can find more job opportunities:

10. What platforms I can use to build my portfolio?

Free Platforms

  1. Notion
  2. Behance

Paid Platforms

  1. Wix
  2. Squarespace
  3. Webflow

Here are more tips on building a portfolio: https://thrilla.design/how-to-create-a-ux-design-portfolio-as-a-beginner/

11. How much salary I can expect?

If you’re from India, the average fresher salary for a UX Designer is 6-8 LPA. This depends on the company and its location. You may get more if you get selected by a top product company from Bangalore.

But 2021 is the year of remote working. You can apply and work with companies anywhere in the world sitting from where you are. If you work for a US Company, then you earn in US dollars, which is a huge advantage to you due to the currency conversion.

The average entry-level salary for a UX Designer in the US is $60000 - $80000

 You can know more about the international standard salaries from these websites:

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BONUS:

Here is an all in one resources collection. Enjoy! - Notion Link.