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How To Make The Move Into UX

By Jennie Kitchin

How To Make The Move Into UX

We recently held an event for Graphic Designers looking to make the move into UX. The event saw Onkardeep Singh, a Senior User Experience Designer with a decade of experience who has started running courses for beginners and experienced UXers to give them an edge in the industry, join forces with our Account Director and UX Guru Sarah Ellis-Jones to talk about the whole spectrum of UX and how you can start your career in the sector.

We caught up with Sarah after the event to get some more advice and guidance.

What are the different areas of UX?

It’s difficult to answer that as it is a constantly changing field. In order to be fully aware of all the areas you could consider, you really need to keep up to date with the industry trends and be proactive with your research.

There are four basic categories that UX roles can fall into - Strategy, Interface, Research and Information - however UX is such a broad term that roles can span multiple categories and it’s very hard to pinpoint defined areas. The key is to evaluate your skillset and decide which elements of UX you should focus on. You can check out our UX Spectrum for more guidance! It’s a tool we created to help you determine where your strengths lie and how best to position yourself.

I’m a Senior Designer who manages a team, I want to move into UX. Do I have to start a new role at a junior level?

Not necessarily! It really depends on your prior experience and how you can match that with a role in UX. There may be a whole host of transferable skills that will be directly applicable to a UX career - stakeholder management, collaborative skills, industry experience, problem solving, communicating ideas, etc.

Also, keep in mind that salaries may be higher for UX roles, so even if you do take a step down in terms of position it may not mean a lower wage.

It’s important to not get caught up on the idea of a career change as a backwards move, even if you do go in at a more junior level. Try to see it as an important stepping stone to where you want to be and not focus on where you feel you should be at any given time in your career.

I’ve just completed a boot-camp course in UX design, how valued are these courses from an employer’s perspective?

These types of courses are valuable to help you demonstrate the theoretical knowledge that forms the basis of your UX skills but they shouldn’t be relied upon. It’s more important to show that you can apply your knowledge to real world challenges, so be sure to include case studies in your portfolio that aren’t based on the work you did on your course. Find other work examples where you can apply UX principles. Work for free if necessary! Anything you can do out in the real world will help to boost your portfolio. Think about how you can stand out from other designers in the market, look beyond popular courses and see what else might help to give you a competitive edge.

My experience is predominantly design based, how do I show I am experienced enough in UX to apply for roles?

You’re in the right industry already so that’s a great start. You’ll need to use your portfolio to demonstrate your UX knowledge. As a Designer, you’re probably used to only showing final visuals in your portfolio but with UX it’s important to show your whole process. Focus on explaining how you solved various challenges, don’t just show the finished result but explain how you go there. Show all the elements of the project from research, user testing and persona creation through to prototyping, stakeholder management, running workshops, etc.

How many examples do I need to include and what makes a great portfolio?

Three or four detailed case studies is ideal. Again, make sure you focus on process and how you got to your finished product, not just the finished product itself.

The best portfolios show UX process in well defined stages. Include thumbnail images as evidence of each step before you move into the full case study. You don’t need to have completed every single step for each project, but it’s important that across your whole portfolio there is evidence of each stage. So, if you didn’t create personas in your first case study, ensure one of your other case studies covers that element. Have a small summary at the top of each case study with the details of the project, who the team were, what role you played in the team, etc. Show your iterations and that you can work with a wide and varied team of people.

A change of career can be daunting as well as exciting and it’s important to remember that it won’t happen overnight. Take some time to assess your skills and see where you can position yourself within the UX industry and then work to get your portfolio up to scratch before you start to apply for roles. And if you need some more job hunting advice, check out our ‘how to’ guide on all you could ever want to know when searching for your next role. Download it here.

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