Learn The Basics of Becoming a Self-Taught UI/UX Designer – Improve Your Career Prospects
You have always wanted to be a user experience designer? You want to have that ability to make people feel amazing when they use an application you designed –and rendered; just so that they could have a great experience.
You have the ambition to achieve great things but you need direction, guidance, and a good source of knowledge to put you on the right path. Well, look no further, because we have got you covered on how to become a self-taught UX designer.
But before we start, it is important to know about the fundamentals of user interface and user experience designing. While a lot of individuals may classify user experience and user interface as the same thing when talking about UI-UX design but we will distinguish between the two.
The Major Difference Between UI & UX
In the simplest of terms, user experience designing is basically what you want your customers or users to feel and experience when they use your application or your product and service.
This means working out a satisfactory experience for your users when they interact with your product or service and to prolong that experience in the best possible ways. It answers questions like:
- Did the user get where he wanted to go?
- How easy was it to operate the functions for him?
- Did he get confused while using the app or product?
- How efficiently does the app work for him in achieving his goal or solving a problem?
When the experience that you have created or designed delivers these answers in the best way, that is a good UX design. Customers that have a good user experience leave good reviews and become loyal customers.
On the other hand, user interface designing is how you are going to achieve that for your customers or users to feel that way. This basically answers questions like:
- What tools are you going to use in order to fabricate that experience for a potential customer?
- What software is required to build the said experience?
- What singular elements are required to do the job – that can come together to form the User Interface?
Collectively, all these elements in unison are what form the main user interface.
Therefore, learning about experience-based design and visual or graphic creation will greatly help you because now you have two different goals to achieve, which are complementary to each other. These are:
- The experience as to how should the user feel.
- The interface as to what makes the user feel that way.
The importance of having defined goals and outcomes for your UI-UX design help you better focus the majority of your energy in segmented parts. This will not only help increase your efficiency in designing but also help you keep up an energized and productive attitude throughout the development project.
The Basics of Becoming a Self-Taught UI/UX Designer
The basics for becoming a self-taught UI-UX designer are as follows:
Learning the Basics of Graphic Design
When you are starting off in the world of something related to design, the first step is to learn visual and graphic design. This includes learning foundational methods and techniques in creating stunning graphics. The process does not need to be rushed in any way at all. You can take your time and learn every process one by one. Slow and steady wins the race!
The goal here is actually familiarizing yourself with how to create something out of nothing because this is a skill that is valued majorly by any agency that’s involved in web design services. General graphic designing includes the knowledge and the use of the following tools:
- Graphic layers
- Creation tools such as pen, pencil, brushes; layout creation and selection tools
- Textual creation such as fonts, signs, symbols, spacing, lining, etc.
- Technical tools such as rotation, cropping, aligning, centering, etc.
- Color grid knowledge, pallet combination
The list can go on but the idea here is familiarizing yourself with beginner tools but do not limit yourself to experiment with more advanced tools as well.
Learn the Tools
The second most important and fundamental part is to learn the tools that will do the job i.e. UI-UX design.
There is a lot of free software out there which can initially prove to be very easy to use and offer templates to create and design user interface on but at the end of it, these really do not help you grow as a graphic designer.
You want to achieve real skills that are capable of producing something out of nothing – and those kinds of skills come from proper learning.
Learning can be easily achieved as there are a ton of online tutorials available for each one of this software on YouTube. These tutorials may be short courses such as these for Adobe or these for Sketch.
The main aim here is to not think that just because you cannot afford a fancy school means you cannot learn to design the user experience. It is not true.
Once you learn basic skills from the tutorials provided, you can then begin to expand on these skills by experimenting on different projects or perhaps creating something which is totally your own – maybe something like a better outlook of an app you already use; a website design trend that you find dandy; or a visual grid that you find interesting and engagement for an audience.
You can choose from a plethora of available options. But the aim here is to learn this software listed below since they are the industrial standard and will help you once you have established a solid base of visual design, which you can take in any direction.
This software provides a diverse range of expansion options and helps unleash your creativity. These are:
Design the Experience
So now that you have gone through all the tutorials and immersed yourself with all the tools required to create your design elements, next comes the step of putting the skills you just learned into action.
Common steps involved for a UX-design are as follows:
The Investigation: is basically a step at which you engage with people in order to evaluate their wants and needs related to an app; a particular service or product.
Keep in mind, that designing user experience may vary for a range of different industrial segments. Therefore, considering whatever industry or segment you approach, the needs and wants of people in that segment will be partial to that segment only.
Let’s take the example of a mobile app. You inquire as to what would do best in a new app that can pinpoint to other users of the app without needing the internet. This app works on GPS positioning and is based on low edge AI.
Now, people considering your idea will give you recommendations. Maybe a familiar user interface that is similar to so and so app; a simple sign-up form; an easy-to-report-a-problem button and so on.
These inquiries will give you ample ground to assess what people need in a new kind of app and what will make their experience smoother.
The next step is to highlight the problem. This problem can be something that your inquired users or potential users, have you told you about.
This problem can be difficult experiences with other apps; bad customer representative feedback; long sign-up forms; laggy payment methods etc.
These all scenarios will present to you the problem people are actually facing and would not like that in your app. So the best thing to do here is to watch out for them.
Once you design your user experience keeping such situations in mind, it is much easier not to end up creating something that is exactly like these scenarios. If you keenly listen and then avoid such problems, the chances of your design success will be significantly higher.
The solution is you basically brainstorming what satisfies the problem which people are facing. You do not need to focus on a lot of problems. You can provide one solution at a time and then see how it works through the testing procedure.
The solution should be a comprehensive and concise rendition of what people will feel good about when they run your app.
The result is how you transform your solution into a proper user interface through user interface designing.
Design the Interface
Designing the interface is putting the solution into a prototype phase and seeing how it works. Creating a prototype is very useful as it allows you to actually create a low-fidelity version of the finished product in order to see if all things work together in a complimentary manner.
The second benefit of prototyping is that it can allow you to spot errors and problems in the UI design which can be worked out easily before going through final production. For many companies, it may be expensive to initiate final production. This is where prototyping comes into play.
For the purpose of becoming a self-taught UI designer, prototyping can prove to be beneficial as it allows individuals to follow a streamlined process. Industrially, all graphic houses do prototyping before the final development commences. Therefore, getting into the habit of prototyping and testing UI/UX designs will not only highlight any flaws in the design through the testing – but also save up costs for the final production version.
This is by far, the usual game plan or procedural journey for UI/UX designing regimes. But since you will be learning to design yourself, there are some extra elements that you can also focus on in order to help you bring yourself up to par with existing industry professionals.
These are not only added skills and knowledge but also a means of increasing your market demand and employability, significantly. These continue as follows:
Work on Principles
Working on principles basically means that you adhere to industry quality standards and production methods. Some clients are picky when it comes to certain things and if you end up producing something different from their requirement, it may be needed to start the work all over again.
Therefore, it is good to play it safe by mastering industry-standard graphic design benchmarks and production methods. Of course, it is an asset to produce something while thinking out of the box but if one of your clients wants a normal industry-standard product, you would not need to go study first on how to produce such a product.
Expand on Knowledge
Knowledge does not stop at the basics, rather it begins to expand immensely once you find out that you can do so much more with so many basic things.
In order to help you expand with your set of knowledge pertaining to UI designing, you can consider the following:
Get enrolled or fixate an internship under an experienced mentor. Not only will this help you get insight worth a lot of experience just in a matter of months but also some invaluable skills.
Mentorship can help you also land bigger gigs as experienced professionals usually have a long list of established clients who trust them for their long term projects as well as new projects. In such cases, getting a mentorship may end up being very profitable as well since mentors will recommend you for new work when they are overburdened.
Moreover, this extra step can also help you build a portfolio while you are learning new ways to deliver exciting UI/UX designs along with learning from seniors and other professionals.
Volunteering is a great way if you are trying to secure a project in order to help build your portfolio. Although you will not be getting paid through this, it is an excellent way to solidify your knowledge of user experience designing.
Furthermore, volunteering opportunities can be sorted out at the college you’re studying in, the university you go to or the society you are a part of. Each aspect of these bodies will require some sort of UI designer needs that you can help fulfill.
By what we mean here as a graphic worm is to create and organize a library of usable graphics at your disposal. At many times, what happens is that talented graphic designers or user experience engineers will rarely have the time to use visuals that are most appropriately suited to a specific task.
This kind of slight drawbacks can be avoided if you research a topic and already have some sort of usable visuals stored for it. Just make sure the material or content that you use is not copyright protected and that you will not have any problems using it.
Moreover, graphic investigations can also help you to highlight what type of architectural graphics work for user experience designing in contemporary times; what sort of visuals suit a specific startup or a niche market consumers, and so on.
This is meant to broaden your learning aspects on the applicability of UI/UX designing. By broadening your scope and knowledge, you can quickly find lucrative ways to garner more clientele with increased efficiency to meet client requirements as well.
Learning web designing or at least some element of it will surely come in handy. Suppose your startup works with a considerable volume of clients and one day, you get a project which involves web design elements as well.
Supposing you had learned some web designing before also, you would probably find yourself in the position to take the project. If you find technical difficulty at an advanced stage, you can revert to asking a mentor or colleague for help.
For e.g. Python and Java are two distinct languages and many new professionals in the industry can get confused about which one to use for a particular use case. In such a scenario, you can easily call for assistance from a senior professional. By doing this a few times, you will learn when to use Python and when to use Java and make yourself more adept at programming.
On the other hand, if you had no knowledge of web design at all, not only would you be hesitant to accept the project but may end up losing future projects from the same clients which may or may not be related to web designing.
Some famous web design programming languages to learn, which are in demand, are:
Trends & News
Keeping up with the latest trends and news is pivotal. This will help you create not only what is in demand but also help you understand what the current or contemporary market demand is.
If you stick to offering only one type of designing for a limited range of products, then it will be soon that you will run out of customers. In order to avoid this, always stay updated with the latest trends and news regarding what’s going on in the visuals market.
Other things to be researched also include what customers love in contemporary graphic designs especially UI/UX designs; what type of transitions are in fashion, skins, layouts, grids, color schemes, etc.
All of these will not only help become better at your game as a UI designer but also an efficient marketer of your brand and services. After all, you are a self-taught UX designer. So going a few extra miles won’t do you any harm, especially when it is going to add to your professional benefit, immensely.
It is very easy to lose track of a productive attitude especially once you start earning your initial revenues. You start getting slack and slovenly, thinking that you’ll be able to make money even if you don’t work hard or do not put in the same amount of effort as you once did.
You think to yourself that back then it was a learning period but since you have started earning now, you’re an actual professional and the work is going to come to you so there is no need to work that hard anymore.
This type of attitude is the biggest downfall of newbie designers who have just started to get their feet warm – in terms of earning. The best way to avoid such negativities is to create a strict routine. No matter what happens, you stick to the routine. It should not matter how much you make per month but as long as you can actually follow a strict regimen on daily tasks without any procrastination biased over delusional expectations that you are going to earn even if you do not do anything.
Last but not least is to ensure that you refine yourself every step of the way. This can be done by developing a very keen attitude towards details and user-oriented development for UI/UX design. The more you focus on the details and how you want your customer to feel, the more you will refine your skillset.
Other ways of increasing skill efficiency are:
- Joining UI/UX design seminars
- Reading graphic design mags
- Subscribe to the latest UI/UX trends
There are short courses available online which can be paid for. Once you start earning, you can save up money little by little until you are ready to enroll in a professional intensive course.
By this time, you will have surely developed a lot of skills to go without it. But why do we recommend it is because you will have another professional instructor take you through the ropes from his point of view. This can be very beneficial as experience teaches a lot.
According to Jennifer Aldrich at InVision,
“UX design is about having a complete understanding of the user…”
This basically means that a UI designer must have complete knowledge of a user which helps him deliver:
- Enhancing user satisfaction
- Increasing stability
- Ensuring a smooth experience
- Giving a unique pleasure when the user interacts with the product
That is why enrolling in an extra intensive level professional course will be very beneficial. Not only will it be rewarding from a designer’s point of view but also it will help you in learning how to secure more jobs, creating a better portfolio that appeals to potential clients, and how to manage clients when the volume goes up.
Getting up and starting a career as a user interface or user experience designer is not as easy as it sounds especially when you want to teach yourself the ropes on your own. But is most certainly accomplishable. All it takes is a combination of ambition, determination, punctuality, and never-ending love for what you want to achieve.
You start off by learning the basics of graphic design: how is something created out of nothing; what tools are involved; what software are industrial standard; which plugins do this; which plugins do that – the answer to all these comes from learning the fundamentals of graphic and visual design, which can be easily learned through online tutorials available on YouTube and other free platforms.
Then, you design the experience by investigating a problem people face when they use an app or a product; then you find a solution to such problem(s) as a result of that investigation which brings you to the point of how are you going to make your customers feel that special way through this solution – you design it into your user interface.
Once you have your user experience outlined, you can work on your user interface by joining a combination of layouts, graphics, visuals, typography, contextualization, and so on to create a prototype of your UI. This will help you test if there are any flaws in the design also allowing you to agilely adjust and customize any other elements before the final UI is developed. Prototyping will save costs and enable you to tweak until your UI/UX is perfect.
The steps after these focus on how to become a better UI/UX designer. You can work on expanding your knowledge and skills by working on principles: ensuring you follow a strictly professional attitude; engage in different activities such as volunteering at school, college, or university projects, taking up an internship under a mentor, collecting non-copyright graphics and visuals; learning how to web design by HTML and CSS.
All of these will help to garner more clients, create a better portfolio, and ultimately ensure you are not behind than those with expensive UI designing degrees. An extra step that is optional is to enroll in an intensive professional or advance UI design course. This will surely highlight some elements or tips and tricks that industry professionals use to create UI design and also to attract more clients.
If you follow these steps, we guarantee that no one can stop you from starting a career as a user interface and user experience designer.
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