As UX Design is a relatively new field, many are curious on what it is and how it works. If you're a career shifter, you're probably seeking clarity on the UX Design practice before deciding to change careers. In this article, I'll address frequently asked questions about UX Design. I'll also share several common concerns of career shifters and ways to go about these concerns.
Frequently asked questions about UX Design
How is UX Design different from art?
UX Design and art are two different fields. Art hinges on self expression and aesthetics while UX Design involves problem solving and addressing the needs of users.
For example, when an artist creates a body of work, he or she can style it in any way possible — splatter neon paint on the canvas, draw abstract shapes, and scribble jagged lines. What matters is how the artist conveys an idea and how emotions are evoked in that work of art.
In contrast, if a UX designer has to design a website that teaches senior citizens how to play chess, several factors have to be considered. Since people undergo physiological and cognitive changes as they age, the design has to ensure that senior citizens can still read the text on screen, understand the content shown, and navigate through the interface.
What's the difference between UX Design and UI Design?
UX Design makes a product or service easy to use while UI Design makes any digital product or service beautiful.
Despite their differences, both UX and UI Design go hand in hand to determine how a product looks and functions. If your website is pixel-perfect, but is hard to navigate, users end up leaving the site. The same is true when your website is intuitive but has poor visuals — if a site has text so small it could barely be read, users are discouraged from using or even staying in the site.
Do I need to be an expert in design software before becoming a great UX Designer?
Many think learning UX Design requires expert knowledge on software like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, and After Effects. This, however, isn't true.
For one, design software is a means to an end. It doesn't matter which software you use, as long as user goals, business goals, and outcomes are met.
Two, as technology becomes more advanced, so does design software. Tools like Figma and Adobe XD have lowered the learning curve for designing for the web, making it simpler and faster to produce designs.
Lastly, design software proficiency doesn't guarantee you a UX design job. Instead, your employability is dependent on your soft skills, design process, quality of output, and how business outcomes were met through your design.
Are UX Designers required to have programming knowledge?
You don't need to code to become a UX Designer, as developers are in charge of implementing your designs and turning them into a functional website or app. However, having a basic understanding of how code works strengthens your working relationship with developers.
By knowing how code works, you're able to:
- Understand the feasibility of your designs from an engineering point-of-view
- Suggest design alternatives, if your designs aren't feasible
- Speak the language of developers
Frequently asked questions about career shifting
Do I have to start all over again?
Skills are transferrable. You can apply whatever you've learned from your previous jobs in your current one.
If you're a graphic designer who's transitioning to UX, chances are, you're already great at creating eye-catching visuals. Learning UI Design would then be easier for you, because you've developed a good grasp of typography, layout, and color. If you're coming from a sales background, you already know how to persuade people, and that skill comes in handy when you're selling the value of UX to business stakeholders.
When transitioning to UX, it's important to embrace your background, because that's your unique advantage. It's what sets you apart and makes you you.
Should I quit my job to take a UX design course?
You don't need to quit your job to learn UX. Self-paced courses like those from Coursera and Udemy give you freedom to choose when and how often you'd like to study. You can block off the whole weekend or spend a few hours before work to study — your schedule is completely up to you!
UX bootcamps provide a similar arrangement through its part-time setup. Classes often start early in the evening so you have a few hours after work to unwind.
The main difference between a self-paced course and a UX bootcamp, however, is that UX bootcamps offer mentorship from designers with several years of experience in the UX industry. Having a mentor is valuable in your career because he or she can identify your weaknesses and suggest ways on how you can work on them. Stuck at a career crossroad? Need a second opinion on your design? Mentors also point you in the right direction, saving you hours of figuring things out on your own.
How can I balance design courses with my full-time job?
Luckily, there are several ways on making time for that UX course. One way is to block off 1 to 2 hours a day for studying. That way, you're committing 1 to 2 hours to learn nothing other than UX.
Doing this every day on your own, however, is hard to manage over time. If you're struggling with this, look for accountability buddies, ideally those who are also studying UX. Having accountability buddies prevents you from being distracted and keeps you on track over time. It's also more fun learning UX when you're doing it together with like-minded people.
You can find accountability buddies in online communities like Design Buddies or cohort-based courses like UX+ University, where you get to learn with a group.
How can I afford a quality UX design education?
There are always design courses out there that fit your budget. Let's dive into what some of those are:
Free (and quality) design resources are aplenty in the internet. Blogs like UX Collective, NNgroup, and UX Planet have a ton of articles for you to dig into. YouTube channels like AJ&Smart, Femke, and Aona Talks provide bite-sized content for you to learn UX.
As the internet is flooded with a variety of free content, it's up to you to structure your own learning path. For example, if you'd like to brush up on your UX Research skills, you can look for resources related to UX Research.
$14 to $9,000
With this budget, you can take affordable online courses on Skillshare, Udemy, and Coursera. Depending on how often you study, these courses can be accomplished between a week to a month. They're also great places to get an idea of UX Design without busting your wallet.
While these courses don't have a strict deadline as to when you'd have to finish the course, following a fixed study schedule helps you complete the course in a shorter span of time (You don't want to spend the entire year taking only one course, right?)
$3,900 to $15,000
If you're looking for guided mentorship, design projects, a job guarantee, and a support group to lean on, UX bootcamps and cohort-based courses (CBCs) are the perfect type of design education for you.
UX bootcamps and cohort-based courses are mostly taught by instructors with years of experience in the UX industry, so you get to learn from experts in the field. You'll also work on 3 to 4 design projects, which you can showcase in your portfolio.
On top of that, some UX bootcamps and cohort-based courses guarantee students a UX job upon graduation. To ensure students get hired, UX bootcamps and cohort-based courses offer services like career coaching and resume reviews.
Finally, self-learning UX, especially for beginners, can be daunting. With so much to absorb, feeling discouraged is easy. Learning with a community, however, changes that, as members help each other and hold one another accountable with their progress. Friendships form, and the UX journey becomes less lonely.
UX+ University is one example of a UX bootcamp and cohort-based course. If the upfront tuition of $1,970 is too pricey, you can opt for an Income Share Agreement (ISA), where you can learn now and pay nothing until you get a job. After you’re hired, you pay 16% of your monthly income for 2 years.
This is the typical cost of a 4-year undergraduate or 2-year masters program. As the program usually lasts from 1 to 3 years, you get to take several classes and work on multiple design projects that you can put in your portfolio.
The cost of this program is, of course, expensive, and you'd spend a few years away from the workforce if you join the program full-time. But it's a good path to take if you're looking for depth in terms of experience.
Putting it all together
For career shifters, having lots of questions about UX is great because that means you're keen on learning what you're getting yourself into. Hopefully, this article helps you make a more informed decision on whether to shift to UX. All the best in your journey!