2 Mar, 2022

How to become a self-taught product designer

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Contributors

Denislav Jeliazkov
Founder @uilearn

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You might be wondering if the UX job market is still flourishing or what it is like to work as a UI/UX designer as remote working becomes a new norm.

You might be intrigued as to how to start with your successful UX design career in an unpredictable and unprecedented time.

But there are so many places to learn so is there really a demand for even more designers? The short answer is – YES!!!

The demand for UX designers in 2022

Before you dive into this career path, you need to ensure that you have solid job prospects.

report from Onward Search Digital shows that UI/UX designers are second-most in demand when it comes to creative professionals.

They are only second to the digital Product designers.

Even though several industries took a big knock due to the global pandemic, the tech industry is one of the many to recover. Glassdoor’s economic recovery September 2020 report shows that there was an 8.6% increase in the opening of tech jobs, in comparison to 3% in finance and insurance.

Even though the situation isn’t stable yet, it is clear that the tech industry is one of the strongest industries.

One of the primary challenges of being a UI/UX designer is perseverance. I do not think there is even one designer out there who believes that they cannot get any better. There is always room for improvement.

Master the fundamentals

Design principles are like ancient biblical commandments. When you follow them, you can be successful but if you don’t, the UI/UX design might end up being dull.

However, unlike commandments, design principles are general guidelines that will help you address basic human behaviors and expectations. So, you don’t have to memorize a list of things. When you are aware of those, you tend to react instinctively while reviewing a design.

These principles will kick in to make you perk up the design by moving an icon by a few pixels or increasing the font.

Color The human eye can see more than 10 million different colors. From a young age, we learn to contribute specific meanings or values to certain colors. For instance, the traffic light has different colors meant to signify different actions. So, by choosing the right tone and color, you can add intention and meaning to your design. 

Typography – This is an important one. It is not just about what you are writing but also how you are presenting it. Typography is how the words look like. By choosing the right typeface, you can change a banal piece of text to a powerful one. 

Space How you balance the space in your design can make it or break it. You have to consider how each letter or element is related to each other and offer them the precise breathing room they require. 

Balance, Contrast, and Rhythm – This when you start making a bunch of simple elements into something appealing and interesting. Balance all the elements well on the design by taking their visual weight into account. The way you are laying all the elements on the page is important. When you make some elements heavier than the others, it will help in creating a rhythm and contrast. 

Scale – This will not only help in creating a rhythm balance and contrast but also hierarchy. Not all the elements in the designs need to have the same importance. The ideal way to convey the same is through size. 

Alignments and Grid – Following a grid helps in structuring your design and makes it look more pleasant. Even if you create a chaotic design, there has to be an order for the chaos. Again, alignment is highly important when it comes to text. There are various ways to align but it depends on for whom and what you are designing.

Set Design Goals for Yourself

UI/UX design is learned. Learning and practicing is the only thing that is going to make you a better designer. However, it is important to do it efficiently by setting the right goals. 

  • There are endless choices and opportunities that you can make. You might easily get lost in the sea of possibilities. So, make sure you have a clear vision of what you would like to create and achieve.
  • When you create a challenge for yourself, it is going to help you out with time-limited projects.

Here’s what you can do to achieve your goal.

  • Opt for achievable goals
  • Create deadlines for every goal
  • Create a reminder in the calendar regarding the deadline
  • Give yourself a reward when you achieve your goal

The UX Process

Every designer uses their own method to create low-fidelity wireframes. They use this to create prototypes and then run user tests. If you are a beginner, you need to identify the key methods, which make up the UI/UX design process and get to know what goes into each.

When you get a grip on some of the key principles behind the UI/UX design practice, you can explore the techniques and methods that make UI/UX design happen. The design process can be divided into 5 phases:

Research

The research phase is the one where you scope out the requirements and goals of the project. Find out about the target users and limitations of the project. You can talk to potential users to get insights into the problems and pain points.

Get to know what the users would like the product to solve and the features they are looking for. The research will help in understanding the issue that they want to resolve. Thus, it is the most important aspect of the design process.

Design

The design phase is the one where you are going to come up with solutions and begin transforming them into tangible artifacts. You will produce wireframes in the design phase.  Wireframes are basically outlines showing the layout and functions of the design. They start with basics, such as low-fidelity sketches, and then progress onto Mockup. The mockups mimic the final design.

When it comes to UX design, wireframing might be the first thing that comes to your mind. It is the most visible design in the design process. Wireframes are screenshots of the final look of the product.

When you are done with wireframes and have a mockup that looks like the final product, connect the screens to form a prototype with the help of software. The software lets you click through the design just like a fully functional app. prototyping is quite useful if you have to test the designs.

Testing

User testing is one of the most important aspects of the UI/UX design process as it highlights the flaws in the solution. Without testing the final product, you won’t know if it caters to the demands of the users. Testing is done at different points while designing, even if the product is only a bunch of sketches. When the designs are tested, the problems in them can be detected early on.

UX designers use usability testing. It is a commonly used technique evaluating how user-friendly and smooth the design is. After testing it several times, you can go ahead and tweak the design.

Iteration

After you have modified the results on the basis of the results, you have to test the design once again. This process of testing over and over again, to improve the design is called iteration. It is like a trial and error process. Once the design is in its final stage, you just have to make minor changes since most problems have been dealt with already.  The process saves time and money associated with making last-minute changes.

Implementation

Being a UX designer, you will have to work with the developers during the whole process. This ensures that you have a good relationship with the developers. Also, it adds to the valuable experience. The development team is going to transform your vision into reality. But this needs collaboration and communication.

Make a detailed documentation process. Furthermore, you should involve the team early on. Once you make the developer a part of it, they can examine it from a technical standpoint.

Learn the Tools of Trade

If you have checked my course, you will know that I am not an advocate of using tools since there are many useful and valuable techniques that help better with designing. Nevertheless, choosing a tool that caters to your requirements will help in achieving your design goals.

The toolkit of the design comprises prototype software, user-testing platforms, UI design tools, etc. With such a large selection available, there is no hard-and-fast rule as to the tools you need to use. So, start with the most popular one before you move on to explore the new ones in the market.

Employers will always expect you to be comfortable with the design tools. Every designer has their own tool preferences. Hence, you can play around with some options.

Practice As Much as Possible

UI/UX design is a hands-on field. So, you should have as much practical experience as you can.

The processes and principles of UX can be applied to almost everything. So, it is not as difficult as you might take it to be. 

Apart from the portfolio projects that you cover as a part of the UI/UX design course, do some extra-curricular designs work. Be creative and proactive when you look for ways to gain experience.

Here are a few strategies you can use to get hands-on experience. 

  1. Volunteer Your Design Skills: There are several non-profit organizations that will be happy to benefit from budding design skills. So, volunteering is a great way to gain real-world experience.
  2. Perform an Unsolicited Design: Have you come across a website or app that was lacking a bit on the UI/UX front? It is the ideal chance for an unsolicited redesign. This is a voluntary design challenge that you undertake just for the fun of it.
  3. Apply UX Design to the Current Job: You might be working full-time while you learn UI/UX and do not have the time to volunteer. In such a case, you need to take a closer look at the home opportunities for practicing UI/UX. Identify the prospective challenge in the present workplace and try to address it using UI/UX methods.

These strategies will help you practice UI/UX design and get better at it.

Don’t Settle for Just One Idea

Many designers tend to settle with the first idea that they get. In case you just have one idea, it can be difficult to determine if it is a good or a bad idea. Hence, if you come up with a few ideas for the project, you will have something to compare it to. It will help you separate the good from the bad.

Welcome Constructive Criticism

Deep down many of us are afraid to receive criticism for our work. Sure, it might be stressful to hear that what you have done isn’t perfect, particularly when you invest a lot of time. However, a critical look at the work is crucial. So, you need to let go of your ego and stop defending your work.
There are more things to learn when you make mistakes. Taking constructive criticism and feedback is not fun but it is the best way to improve your skills.

Criticism might not always be agreeable but it is important. So, you should ask for honest feedback on your work. Don’t forget you aren’t designing for yourself but the users.

You don’t get born a great designer – you are made. No matter how good you are, you can improve and these tips will help you with the same.

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