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How to Start Learning UX?

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Managing the Chaos #1

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Let’s be honest: it’s a fact that a good handling of User Experience is obligatory for a designer these days. And not only designers, but also developers, copywriters, marketers… almost everybody! Why? Because when you are designing something that people will use, it’s extremely important to think about them, their feelings and experiences. It doesn’t really matter what you’re designing. It applies to web designs, applications or anything interactive, as well as things like services or physical products (e.g. a chair!).

It’s good to have in mind that User Experience is a powerful tool which can be helpful every day.

There’re lots of people who would love to start learning UX, but in most cases, they have no idea how to begin with. The most common question that comes up at any UX meetup is “How to start doing this whole mysterious UX thing?”. We’ve all been there, we’ve all done that. The problem is that access to such knowledge seems to be very limited. I have graduated from a graphic school, yet never really heard about UX during my 5 years of studies. Even when I actually asked about it, hardly ever got any serious feedback on this matter. That’s why I have started to look for this knowledge by myself. In this blogpost I want to share my personal experience and tell you what problems did I meet and how I solved them.

The problematic start

Good, we already know that UX is an important issue. But here comes the first problem — once you find out that UX exists and you want to learn it, you simply have no idea where to start. At the moment, there are many meetups and communities that gather people from this industry, but when I was starting, there were hardly any groups of interest and nobody even heard about it (well, maybe because I didn’t know the right people). Thankfully I had a great opportunity to find someone who recommended me books I could read, told me what UX is all about, and showed some real life implementations. That was amazing! I was so charmed that I couldn’t resist diving into it and learning more and more! And this is the reason why I am here — to help you to begin, just as I’ve once been helped 🙂

The key is to have a “UX mindset” and challenge everything that you use every day.

Read and… Observe!

At the beginning I remember that I didn’t even understand what it all is about, what exactly does it mean, how does it work. So from my own experience I can say, that the best way is to:

  • Find any source that contains articles or literally anything about the UX design. It’s great to start with some theory to soak up with all of these like a sponge. With every article and book read my overall knowledge of UX design improved and let me see the bigger picture.
  • Immerse yourself in it every single day. Whether you are commuting or doing anything else — it doesn’t matter! You can read a book or an article in every gap in your schedule — during your commute or whatever. Moreover, you can evaluate the interface of a ticket vending machine in the bus and think whether it is user-friendly and intuitive.
  • Observe things from your everyday life, starting with ordinary items like the layout of your kitchen, through the interface of your stove, up to web or mobile applications.

The key is to have a “UX mindset” and challenge everything that you use every day. There are clearly 2 steps, that you can actually do simultaneously — reading and observing.

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Here’s an example from our office. We have a soap feeder that activates when you put your hands under it. However, it’s placed under the mirror, so you can’t see where it is exactly. So we came up with an idea to show this spot with an illustration. After we implemented this solution it stopped to be a problem for anyone. So a tip is to observe simple things like this and think how can you fix it 🙂

My favourite UX books

I have collected a lot of great UX books, and it was pretty hard to tell which ones are the best, especially for beginners. I finally decided to present you the ones that helped me the most on the very first stage of learning.

  • Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug
    This is my favourite book that I could recommend literally to everyone, designers or not. It is something you are looking for when you have an urge to find a proper information with a real examples and cases. It really helps to understand and imagine how everything works and how you can implement UX in web designs. What is interesting, the examples from the book may look a bit outdated at first: they come from 90s, but amazingly enough, the knowledge and mechanism that stand behind them are absolutely up-to-date. This proves that it is quite hard to make good UX obsolete 😉
  • The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman
    Don Norman presents different, more classical approach. It was written about 30 years ago but it’s still accurate — real must read for every designer. This book reveals the different way of thinking and will help you to start questioning everything you see and use 🙂 It sticks more to physical items and usability, what helps you to understand UX at the most basic level.
  • 100 Things every Designer Needs to Know about People by Susan M. Weinschenk
    A cool book to read for understanding more on how people think and act — it shows rather a psychological approach, but with casual and easy language. A great title for beginners.
  • UXPin books 
    Really valuable materials. They cover many interesting topics and are an essential source of inspiration and knowledge not only for beginners. It’s a huge collection, but don’t be confused 🙂 If you don’t know with which one will be good to start with, just pick one or two that sound interesting for you, riffle through their pages and decide whether you want to read them or not. There are many great examples with descriptions there and some books consist only of graphics and screenshots. Really cool stuff 🙂

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There’s a lot of other books that are amazing and contain valuable content, but I would rather stick to the ones above as a good beginning. I always felt overwhelmed by blogposts like “20 UX Books You Must Read”. Some of the classical manuals that I can highly recommend are Alan Cooper’s About Face, or Jesse James Garrett’s The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web, but in my opinion these books are dedicated rather for the next steps of learning.

It’s also a good idea to create a stream of UX articles — I do have it on my Twitter and Medium 🙂 That’s an amazing solution for finding something new to broaden your horizons every day. So don’t forget to follow me to get more content about UX! 🙂 In the next post I will tell you more about how to put your knowledge into action. So stay tuned!

Read next:

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