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14 Uncomfortable Habits That Will Make You a Better UX Designer

UX Planet — Medium | Guy Ligertwood

Learn and grow by getting comfortable with the uncomfortable

Photo by Tanja Heffner on Unsplash

Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable is a great life skill. To become the designer you want to, you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone. As soon as you get too settled and you’re not challenging yourself, it’s time for a change.

“Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Get confident being uncertain. Don’t give up just because something is hard. Pushing yourself through challenges is what makes you grow” (Jules Marcoux)

1. Get up early

“Life is getting up an hour earlier to live an hour more”

You’ll have goals for your design career. They may involve studying, reading up on design or something else. Get up an hour earlier than normal and use the quietest time of the day to chip away at those goals.

Your energy, focus and mental clarity are at their highest during the morning hours, so it’s an efficient way to get ahead.

2. Change jobs and design new things

“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change” (Jim Rohn)

Moving is scary and new can be scary. What’s even more frightening is staying in the same place where things are not changing for the better. When you stop learning you stop growing. The next job might not change your world, but it may be the stepping stone to the one that does.

If you want a big jolt, quit your job with no other job lined up. This may need a bit of pre-planning, but it’s a real jump out of your comfort zone.

3. Unplug for a while

“Disconnecting from our technology to reconnect with ourselves is absolutely essential for wisdom” (Arianna Huffington)

We all get sucked in with smartphones and social media. Take a conscious break (block out time) and see how it affects you. You’ll notice your attention, focus and sleep improve. You’ll also notice more of what’s around you.

To have a real change take a three-month break from your smartphone outside work. Once you’ve made that space in your day, you can fill it with something useful. I’ve tried this and it’s what started me writing.

4. Arrange a coffee with someone you don’t know

“We don’t meet people by accident”

Who would you love to learn from or work with? Get in touch with them and arrange to have a coffee. Have a reason to meet them. Catch up and ask them some questions. You’ll create a new contact and a new relationship. New people can bring new thoughts and get you thinking outside of your usual pattern.

5. Travel to new places (or move there)

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness” (Mark Twain)

Seeing new places clears your head and makes way for inspiration and new ideas. It doesn’t have to be the other side of the world. You can go local and see something you’ve never seen before.

One extra step is to go and live overseas for a period. Opening the world up opens the mind up.

6. Write an article on Design

“Write to get ideas, not to express them” (Tim Ferris)

Treat writing as a way to get inspiration. When you write, you research, when you research, you get new ideas. Start an article on something you want to learn more about, and you’ll be surprised how many ideas come to mind.

7. Help people less fortunate than you

“What could be better than to hold out your hand to less fortunate people than you” (Paul Newman)

This could be helping a friend who’s struggling or going further and supporting a charity. Studies show that the very act of doing something for someone improves your happiness, health, and sense of well-being. Nurturing this kind of empathy will inspire you and make you a better designer. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is an important practice for all designers.

8. Speak up if you don’t understand something

“Good UX designers need to be like water. We have to get into every crack and every crevice and find every terminus. There should be ‘no one’ on a project that knows more than you about the problem that you have tried to solve” (Andrew Doherty)

UX designers need to uncover all unknowns of a project, so that they can design the best experience. Get yourself in the mindset of a detective, do lots of digging and keep asking why, why, why. Don’t be afraid to ask that stupid question.

9. Practice public speaking

“He would rehearse on stage for many hours over many weeks prior to the launch of a major product. He knew every detail of every demo and every font on every slide. As a result the presentation was delivered flawlessly.” (About Steve Jobs’ presentations)

Public speaking is a useful skill whether it be to four people in a design critique or four hundred people at a conference. Katie Mandell noted three reasons why public speaking is essential; to win over the crowd, to motivate people and to inform.

To master public speaking you need to practice, practice, and practice some more.

10. Design for platforms you’re not accustomed to (Android, iOS or web)

Interviewer: “How would you design for the iOS and Android platforms?”
Me: “I’ve never designed for them so I would learn about them, practice, then do it” (My first UX design interview)

If you design mainly for the web, get your head into designing for iOS and Android and vice versa. Switch to an Android smartphone if you use Apple and vice versa, this a great way to get familiar with the platforms. Read up on Material Design and iOS Design.

11. Take a big challenge (lead a project)

“It always seems impossible until it’s done” (Nelson Mandela)

Lead a project or put your hand up for something that you wouldn’t usually do, to push yourself into the deep end. You’ll learn more, gain confidence and find out it’s not as bad as you thought.

12. Work with data analytics

“Without data you are just another person with an opinion”

Get in to the Google Analytics Academy and give it a crack. Analytics is a great skill to learn so that you can get in to analytics conversations. You don’t need to be a master but being able to make it work for your UX projects is invaluable. Back up your opinion with data.

13. Do that side project you’ve been thinking of

“The secret to get ahead is to getting started” (Mark Twain)

Jump in and get going on that idea you’ve had in your mind. There’s nothing more exciting than creating your own thing (even it’s small) and putting it out in the wild. Do it to learn, to iterate and to take a risk.

14. Give criticism on other people designs

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things” (Winston Churchill)

Diplomatic and respectful criticism is essential. Be smart when being critical of someone’s design work. When criticising or disagreeing with your fellow designers make sure to have a positive slant with your feedback.

“Put yourself out there, boldy and authentically” (Catherine Saunders)

If you enjoyed this, read my other UX articles:

13 Things You Should Give Up If You Want To Be a Successful UX Designer
I talked to 3 people who got into UX in their 40s

18 Things I Wish I’d Known When Starting Out in UX Design
New to UX Design? Feeling Overwhelmed?
UX Writing: How to do it like Google with this powerful checklist
Writing for the Web: How To Be Well Prepared With This Great Checklist
UX Design For Your Life
24 Ways to Look Like an Awesome UX Designer
51 Research Terms You Need to Know as a UX Designer
53 Tech Terms You Need to Know as a UX Designer
How to become a UX Designer at 40 with no digital or design experience

Or have a read of my 20 designers, 20 questions, 20 weeks series starting with the intro article

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14 Uncomfortable Habits That Will Make You a Better UX Designer was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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