6 Steps To Kickstart Your UX Design Career

There’s a lot to be said for following a digital UX designer career path. In most job markets, UX design for websites is a high-demand, well-paid job that delivers impressive rates of job satisfaction among UX designers.

What are the rewards of a UX career?

The demand for UX designers is predicted to grow in the US for the next eight years. Leaders in every industry now recognize that a better user experience equates to more conversions and revenue growth. 

Because UX designers contribute heavily to online conversions and sales success, UX design roles are well-paid. Glassdoor estimates that the median income for a UX designer is around $97,000 per year and ranks it among the best jobs in the US.

But the best part of working in UX design is the high level of job satisfaction. When you work in UX design for websites, you’re working to make the internet a more accessible, easier-to-navigate place for all people.

While encouraging sales conversions and boosting revenue is part of the job, UX design tackles those goals by conducting user research and implementing quantifiable techniques to create a more enjoyable online experience for every user.

So, if you’re eager to learn how to get into UX design, I’ll share my best advice below, where we’ll explore the six steps I recommend to kickstart an exciting career in UX design.

1. Research what it’s like to have a career in UX design

Before you ditch your current job and dive headfirst into the unknown of UX design, make sure you understand the role you’ll be performing as a UX designer. An excellent place to start is to follow UX designers on Instagram or pick up a UX design book (I recommend The UX Careers Handbook). These sources will give you an idea of the daily life of a UX designer – and whether it’s a life you’d enjoy.

The core principle of UX design is user-centricity. That means putting the user first in every design decision, from information structure to ensuring consistency throughout a website. 

With user-centricity as a guiding foundation, UX designers also understand how hierarchy, consistency, confirmation, user control, and accessibility affect the user experience of a website. As a UX designer, you will advocate for the website end-user, balancing the user’s needs with company stakeholders’ goals and the technical feasibility and cost of each required feature.

2. Understand the UX design process and methods

UX designers use four basic steps to create an outstanding user experience: 

  1. Research
  2. Design
  3. Testing
  4. Implementation

It all starts with UX research. To effectively advocate for website users, you’ll need to understand them. A large part of UX design focuses on user research; you can build an entire career as a UX researcher if you’re so inclined.

Researching users’ preferences helps you understand your target audience, their expectations when they arrive on your website, and how you’ll meet them with your design, information hierarchy, and accessibility.

Next, you’ll move to design. Using your research findings, you’ll be able (in collaboration with a UI designer) to create a website experience that meets the users’ needs and requirements. At every stage of the design process, a UX designer checks to ensure that the design meets stakeholder and end-user goals.

Once you have a website product, you’ll conduct user testing. This will show you whether your design meets the needs of actual users in real-life scenarios. And from your user testing, you’ll uncover new usability problems that need solutions, requiring you to implement changes to the original design so that it is as finely tuned as possible.

3. Learn the tools of the UX design trade

UX designers work at the intersection of high tech and empathy. It’s a job that requires soft skills like collaboration, curiosity, and problem-solving, but you’ll also need some specific technical skills.

UX designers know how to use research tools like Lookback and Typeform, wireframing and prototyping tools like Figma and Adobe XD, and usability testing tools like Hotjar.

As a UX designer, you’ll need these tools every day, and any UX job you apply for will require experience in them. So familiarize yourself with them by reading about the software, watching YouTube tutorials, and using them as much as possible.

4. Practice your UX designer skills and build a portfolio

A portfolio of compelling website designs is essential to applying for a UX job. But as in any career path, getting experience without a job is hard. So what’s an aspiring UX designer to do?

UX designers gain experience by practicing their skills on any website they can lay their hands on. Tinker with your own website. Badger your friends and family into letting you structure the user experience of their websites. Volunteer your services for nonprofit or educational organizations’ websites. There are ample opportunities to build a UX design portfolio if you look for them.

You may even find that your current job role could benefit from a better user experience. If you’re in a small to medium-sized business with a website or app, analyze it from a UX design standpoint and then mock up a redesign based on your findings. Compelling wireframes, backed up with thoughtful user research, might allow you to land your first UX gig without changing companies.

5. Enroll in a UX design course

A UX course is a shortcut to the steps listed above. A good UX course will:

  • Teach you about the principles of UX design
  • Show you how to achieve user-centric design through UX processes and methods
  • Teach you how to use the necessary tools
  • Give you a portfolio of work

Excellent UX design courses include Career Foundry, Design Lab, and Learn UX Design by Erik Kennedy.

If you’re interested in designing the user interface of a website, you may want to explore UI design. UI designers use visual design elements, like graphics, fonts, and colors, to create an outstanding user experience. 

I highly recommend the course Learn UI Design, also from Erik Kennedy, for budding UI designers. In this course, you’ll cover every facet of becoming a UI designer. The course teaches graphic design basics, like design patterns and typography, and gives you rigorous, human-to-human feedback on your designs. Sign up for Learn UI Design here or watch my YouTube demo of this excellent UI designer course here.

6. Make industry connections to become a UX designer

As in any career, your industry connections can help you find job opportunities and land job offers. LinkedIn and networking events are a great way to build relationships, but a career coach can help, too.

With over 25 years of industry experience, I’ve helped hundreds of people find their dream UX job. When you work with me to develop your UX design career, I’ll help you find the right opportunities and coach you on how to approach them.

If you’re ready to forge your new career path, contact me for a free 15-minute discovery call.