Things I have learned in my first 6 months as a UX/UI Designer

Lucia Gore 24th March 2021

I was introduced to UX design from the perspective of a developer.

I was working using Angular to build out the front end of a client portal, and therefore working closely with the UX/UI designer who was creating the designs. We were working alongside one another so when he made changes, we would then update them in the live prototype. As a result of this, I was privy to various conversations with stakeholders and users about the look and feel of the website, and the importance of design ahead of development, why it had business value, and various other aspects of the ‘process’.

This sparked my initial interest, which continued throughout that project.

I was fortunate to use the time during lockdown 1.0 to train fully as a designer, and have since worked on projects alongside developers, which (I hope) gives me a rounded perspective of the projects as a whole. However, I have learnt more than I imagined about the day-to-day work of a designer from being on the job – much more than I had anticipated whilst training.

I’d like to share some of the things that I have learnt, having now been a full-time designer on a client site project for 6 months.

 

Keep yourself inspired with new design work

I’ve had plenty of moments when I’ve felt a lack of inspiration.

Slow mornings.

Long afternoons.

Working remotely can do that to you.

But looking up interesting new ways to design and collaborate and share new ideas has been what has kept me interested and allowed me to see past the ‘writer’s block’ equivalent.

It’s important as a designer to keep ideas fresh and continue to look for perspective from the outside world and through visual design culture.

Dribbble’ is a site I was introduced to and now use often as a source of inspiration for great design ideas. Bouncing ideas off other designers is also incredibly useful – consulting with friends/relatives about concepts and design aspects, as well as numerous online courses can help keep ideas fresh and the mind active in terms of constantly looking to improve experience.

I’ve found from Dribbble, and also from Mobbin, that it is crucial to look out for good patterns. A bad key pattern chosen for a design is very important, and whilst it is good to take inspiration from existing solutions, it’s important not to use a bad reference or copy a good solution in a bad way. Mobbin has a wealth of the best mobile app patterns. Behance is another great site I have recently come across for design inspiration.

I’ve also been trying to keep tabs on the start-ups that are launching on the market at the moment. I’ve downloaded the best-looking new apps on the app store to test them out. If I like an idea, I’ll screenshot it and save it to a folder on my phone, so I can build up my own little image base of great design ideas. This is a good way to grow my own visual design and start to build a personal style.

 

Push for the process

Being a designer is the first time in my career that I’ve felt as though the work I contribute towards a project is not as important as the other aspects of the project and is in danger of being side lined.

Having spoken to others, and after reading multiple blogs about this, I realise it is a common culture and I am definitely not alone.

You have to fight for the strict process in design, that being: empathise/research, define, ideate, prototype and then test. Within this process, the steps are repeated several times before the final prototype can be tested – this is all part of an agile methodology.

Time and business constraints have to be considered within this, but it is up to the designer to explain the importance of each step and how these steps will be beneficial in reaching the end goal. Obviously, using judgement is key, and sometimes some steps in this process have to be cut short, but design allows the customers to create and deliver a product / service that their customers actually want, not what the business wants, and without these steps, the vision of the deliverable will not be entirely clear.

 

Research is the most valuable part of the process

Reiterating what I said previously about the process and creating something that customers want – not what the designer or stakeholders want – I have found that research is a design subject in itself. Ultimately, as a designer, your service is to the end customer, and so you have to take the time to listen to what they say. One of the most important things I was told when training for UX design was to ‘get out of the building’ – it’s definitely been something I’ve learnt to trust over the past 6 months.

Some of the best UX design success stories were born out of a research breakthrough, rather than a brilliant design idea. Take the Heinz Ketchup bottle changing from glass to squeezy – this process was instigated after researchers watched children (the primary users of the glass bottles) in thousands of kitchens across the world struggle to access the product through the glass bottle.

More and more I’m learning that taking the time to thoroughly research and get the best possible understanding of users, not just listening to what they say, but watching how they interact with software and services, is the key to creating a design that will be a success.

One thing I’ve tried to incorporate into my designs (I’m not sure how successful I’ve been yet!) is to try to anticipate the client’s needs before they even know it.

Analysing users and clients is equally important, and I’ve watched some of my fellow UX designers at ECS successfully anticipate the clients’ needs ahead of them realising what it is they even need – definitely something I am trying to work towards. This can only be done by ample research and plenty of time spent listening and understanding the clients and users.

I found this quote which I think summarises this point: “The role of the designer is that of a good, thoughtful host anticipating the needs of his guests.” – Charles Eames.

 

Presentation is Key – Make clickable prototypes where possible

Giving clients a visual example of designs helps to validate ideas and get a better public opinion on the designs as they stand. Having now worked on a client project for several months where we follow an agile methodology and attend regular meetings and client ceremonies, I’ve noticed how important it is to present ideas clearly and concisely.

Ideas that are illustrated via a clickable prototype are much better received, because it is often hard to visualise without them. Although wireframes are brilliant for conceptualising initially, the prototypes allow the clients to really get a feel for what you have in mind, give immediate feedback and get behind your work.

 

Final thoughts

I hope this serves as a good starting point for my journey as a UX designer, and I look forward to looking back on this in another 6 months to see what has changed and what areas I would look to improve then.

*****

About the author:

Lucia Gore has worked in the Digital Engineering Practice at ECS for 2.5 years on a number of client site projects, including The Times, HSBC and Vodafone. After 2 years working as a developer, she trained as a UX/UI Designer and has since been working to improve her skills in this field and deliver outstanding user experience for ECS’s clients.

 

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