Lessons learned while building a career as a UX designer

From putting customers first to learning from mistakes, learn first hand what it takes to become UX Designer

It’s hard to know what to expect when you embark on a career as a UX designer. Many people don’t set out to become a designer at all, finding their way into the position through luck or circumstance.

Having landed a job in the space and built a career out of it, it’s interesting to look back on where I personally have come from. I now find myself in a privileged position – one that allows me to offer a little guidance to anyone looking to walk the same path, and hopefully let them take some lessons from my mistakes.

So, what did I learn along the way?

A measured approach

When I was new to the world of UX design, I would run head-first into the design phase before planning ahead and developing ideas around what the user actually wanted to accomplish, and each step of the process that would be required to fulfil that goal.

Today, things are a little different. Instead of immediately starting the design phase, I’ll gather as much information as possible regarding the whats, whys and hows of the thing that we’re designing. Then I’ll draw the broad user flows and the steps to get there on paper, before confirming my assumptions are correct (where possible.)

This process allows me to solve the problem first and foremost, before getting creative with the design.

The importance of end user interaction

I was once asked to coach local governments on the use of Objective’s Trapeze product. We quickly discovered that most employees had been forced to work without a clear process and were using only a tiny fraction of what the software was capable of.

While learning to structure the interviews to discover insights can be very challenging, particularly if those users are remote, this experience really highlighted to me how important user research and testing is to any project.

As with all things in UX design, preparation is key to gaining the required insights.

Necessary UX skills

UX design is a diverse job that demands a broad set of skills, including:

  • Communication: This is essential to the daily tasks of a UX designer, who must constantly liaise with both users and internal stakeholders. A good UX designer should be able to tell and sell a story of how the design will benefit the user.
  • Collaboration: UX designers don’t work alone, but in tandem with project managers, developers and other stakeholders on a project.
  • Empathy: Understanding the user is vital. You need to define their pain points and what makes them happy. The best UX designers are able to adhere their designs to those criteria.
There’s no such thing as the ‘perfect’ design process, as companies have different cadences, structures and cultures. So, a ‘complete’ approach to design is, above all else, adaptable.

Timothy Cheng

UX Designer at Objective Corporation

A complete design process

There’s no such thing as the ‘perfect’ design process, as companies have different cadences, structures and cultures. So, a ‘complete’ approach to design is, above all else, adaptable. The following considerations always play a part, however:

  • Deadlines: How much time is there? Can you spend as long as you need interviewing stakeholders, and recruiting/interviewing users?
  • Collaboration: Before designing, I aim to chat with the developers about their ideas before drawing anything on paper.
  • Ideation: I like to quickly mockup basic designs, while continuously checking with the developers to see if they are feasible, or if there are any edge cases I haven’t thought of.

Based on all the combined feedback, I will design the high-fidelity versions and prepare them for hand off to the team.

UX will only become more important

In order for a business to succeed, it needs to put its customers first. Even the most complex and advanced software is worthless if the customers can’t use it properly. Ultimately, at Objective, we see our customers from a holistic perspective, and measure our success against the value and enjoyment they get from using our software.

I’m a very different UX designer to the one that began his career all those years ago, but there’s no doubt that the change has been for the better. And by learning from my mistakes and taking on board any advice that might be relevant, you’ll hopefully enjoy a long and happy career in UX too.

If you’re interested in joining our driven UX team, visit our careers page.