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How to learn UX design in 2021? A comprehensive guide

Do you want to learn UX design? Do you have a problem-solving attitude? Read along as we demystify the learning process for all aspiring designers.

20 min read

Over the last few years, the interest in UI/UX design has increased at a rapid pace. This interest, shared by leading organizations as well as startups from all fields and disciplines, speaks for the value that design brings to any business. One byproduct of this trend is an increased demand for UI/UX designers in the market. Every week, there are a number of job postings for product designers, UI designers, UX engineers, and other related roles in any leading UX design agency and leading organizations. It will not be wrong to say that this is an ideal time to start thinking about learning UX design and becoming a part of this advancing field.

The design industry is tempting for many creative individuals. One reason for this is that the field in itself provides an excellent mix of technical and soft skills. Designers have to work on a number of real-world projects, directly impacting the lives of the users day in and day out. There is, also, great room for creativity and innovation in the field of UI/UX design. All aspiring designers are encouraged to think outside the box, creating remarkable products and services.

Just like any other discipline, though, it can be daunting to learn user experience design from scratch. There are a lot of ways to acquire this knowledge and learn the skills necessary to be a successful designer. In this article, we cover the following concepts to introduce you to the world of design and to help you kickstart your UX design journey.

  1. Understanding UX design
  2. Why should you learn UX design?
  3. Learn UX design on your own
  4. Getting started with the learning of UX Design
  5. Difficulties of learning UX Design
  6. How long does it take to learn UX design?

Becoming a designer requires dedication, patience, and strong motivation. If you’re wondering how to learn UX design on your own and the user experience design skills that you may need to progress, this article is curated for you. Read along as we unravel the concepts and steps needed to become a UX designer.

Understanding UX design

Before you start learning UX design, it is important to understand what it truly means. The question of ‘how to learn UX comes’ after you’ve developed an understanding of the discipline itself. UX stands for User Experience which, as the name indicates, is focused mainly on the way users interact with a certain product or service. The word “experience” is quite broad in UX design which involves all the interactions with and impressions of a design in the life of a user.

UX design is a systematic process aiming at creating products and services in a way that the users get meaningful and useful experiences. The entire process involves a series of careful steps. The design of any product or service starts with extensive research where the trends of the market are studied and the needs of the target audience are analyzed. This data then helps in designing a product that will meet the needs of the users, keeping the limitations of the product and/or organization in mind.

Principles of UX design

Although there is a lot of room for innovation in the field, there are certain fundamental principles that ensure the success of any design. Knowledge of these principles is essential to learn user experience. Some of the most important principles are as follows.

User-Centered approach

UI/UX design cannot survive without the audience. In fact, no product or service can get close to success if the needs of the users are not given due consideration. The users, quite literally, determine the success or failure of any product. It is because of this reason that the first and, arguably, most important principle of UX design is user-centered design. Professional designers always focus on the needs of the users and ensure that the final product is making the lives of the audience easier and adding value to their overall experience.

Empathy

Empathy stems from a user-centered approach. Designers who are cautious of the needs of users always have an empathetic attitude. It is with this attitude that the designers can get close to the users and really understand their needs. They understand the pain points of the users, prioritize their needs, and make sure that they do not get frustrated or overwhelmed while interacting with the final design.

Creativity

It goes without saying that a quality design has to be both aesthetically pleasing and useful. This is where the creativity of designers comes into play. In today’s competitive market, a design can only be successful if it has something different to offer. The users have a number of alternatives they can choose from. This makes the job of designers challenging as well as exciting.

Simplicity

There’s a famous saying in design that “less is more”. When the users interact with any design, particularly in the digital environment, it is easy to get confused, commit an error, and get frustrated as a result. Designers, therefore, have to make sure that their finished products are simple to interact with and do not create any ambiguities. If a user gets satisfied after interacting with a product or service, the design, indeed, deserves huge credit.

User Experience Honeycomb

Peter Morville’s User Experience Honeycomb is an excellent summary of the value of UX design. According to this honeycomb, UI/UX design covers the following 8 aspects, thus improving the overall experience of users.

  • Useful: Providing useful information and experience.
  • Usable: Being easy to use and interact with.
  • Desirable: Providing an aesthetically pleasing experience.
  • Findable: Making it easy to find the relevant information.
  • Accessible: Saving the users from hurdles and issues when interacting with the design.
  • Credible: Providing correct and trustworthy information.
  • Valuable: Adding value to the lives of users.

Why should you learn UX design?

If you are thinking about switching your career or are interested in design, now is the best time to explore this field and give your professional life a lift. There is a lot that UI/UX design can bring to your career. Owing to the increasing demand in the market and the peculiar nature of the discipline itself, design can make your life interesting and also help you increase your earning potential.

There are several reasons for a creative individual to pursue a career in UX design. Some of the best ones are discussed below.

Interdisciplinary nature

UI/UX designers collaborate with individuals from a variety of disciplines. From social media managers and content writers to project managers and marketing specialists, designers are in touch with all the professionals. What is more, design in itself is a field of interdisciplinary nature. UI/UX designers not only create prototypes and work with the software but also conduct surveys and quality research, wearing multiple hats in their role.

An excellent mix

Ui/UX design provides an excellent mix of theoretical and practical worlds. This also makes the field attractive to new learners. Designers stepping into the field are not expected to memorize some theories and recycle old content, instead, they are encouraged to work on real-world projects and learn along the way. This is what makes the learning process as well as the job duties interesting and challenging at the same time.

Market demand

The demand for UI/UX designers in the market is on a rise. With more and more companies recognizing the value of design, there are a number of positions opening up, both in leading organizations and new startups. This gives new designers something to look forward to, knowing that they won’t be lost after they’ve done the needful to learn what they can about design.

Good money

Working in the field of UI/UX design promises good money. On the one hand, there is the salary one gets for a full-time role and, on the other, designers are always getting hired for freelance projects. These projects are an excellent way to learn more about the market, gain valuable experience, and also increase your earning potential.

The future of UI/UX design is expected to be remarkable, to say the least. Since the world of technology is advancing at a rapid pace and the users are always looking for quality designs that can add value to their lives, one can never rule out the value of designers in the future. There is every reason to step into the field of UI/UX at this point, start your learning journey, and emerge as a successful designer.

Learn UX design on your own

If you’re wondering whether you can learn UX/UI design on your own, this section will address your concerns. The short answer is yes, you can learn design and all its related principles on your own. However, it is always a good idea to learn and practice design in a social setting, where you can not only apply your knowledge but also learn from the experience and feedback of your peers.

It will be wrong to say that there is a golden principle and a set route to becoming an expert designer. Part of the fun is figuring out your learning pace and preferred mode. You can learn UX design in a classroom as well as sitting in a corner of your home. In either case, it is important to be a part of a community, whether in the physical or virtual world. Some of the ways in which you can learn UI/UX design on your own are as follows.

Join a community

There are a number of communities in the world, bringing designers together. These communities not only help you grow as a professional but also keep you in touch with the recent happenings in the field. Being a part of a virtual community, particularly in the times following the pandemic, is essential for any aspiring designer. These communities give you a sense of belonging, provide valuable feedback, and help you apply your concepts in the real world. Some examples of these communities include UX Design groups on meetup, UXDesign subreddit, and Slack workspaces for designers.

Do your homework

Another important thing to consider before starting your learning process is to make sure that you’ve done your homework. UX design is a very broad field with a lot of roles for aspiring designers. Some examples include interaction design, online information design, product design, information architecture, and mobile or web application design.

It is good to have some idea of the themes and areas that you are interested in so that you can make the most out of the learning process. This is another area where online communities can be of extreme help.

Follow leading designers

If you want to learn UI/UX design on your own, it is essential for you to follow leading designers and UX design agencies. Following experienced professionals provides an excellent opportunity to learn and get inspired by the quality designs that they are making. Twitter has great potential when it comes to good design. Following experts like Steve Krug and Val Head can indeed help you with your learning process.

Develop your interest each day

As mentioned above, UI/UX design is an ever-advancing field. The room for learning is immense and it is only going to grow in the days to come. It is, therefore, important for you to have at least some connection with the leading developments in the discipline. This may seem daunting at first but once you get into the habit of learning, you’ll enjoy the entire practice. One way to do so is to follow quality blogs such as Nielsen Norman Group and UX Collective. You can also learn a lot from podcasts such as UI Breakfast. These blog posts and podcasts serve as your daily dose of design inspiration, making you a better designer every single day.

Create a plan

UI/UX design is a strategic process that relies heavily on planning and strategizing. Creating a plan for your learning is the first way to get acquainted with this practice. To learn UI/UX design on your own, you need to have a solid plan, including the right mix of theoretical concepts and practical application, so that you can make the most of the process.

The process of learning user experience design is both exciting and challenging. There is a lot to learn and numerous opportunities to apply your knowledge in solving some real problems. Once you have gathered your sources of inspiration and learning, you can then get started with learning user experience.

Getting started with the learning of UX Design

Similar to the nature of any design project, there is no standard set of steps to follow while getting started with UX design. Right from the learning phase, you can be as creative as you wish and acquire as many interdisciplinary skills as you can manage. There are, however, certain recommended steps that can help you become a better designer and make your learning process smooth.

To help you learn UX design in a stress-free manner, we have curated a list of steps. These steps can serve as your guide as you try to learn about this remarkable field and get closer to becoming a successful designer.

Familiarize yourself with the discipline

The first step in learning UI/UX design is to get familiar with the discipline itself. Since the terms are not too old and have a very broad range, it can get confusing at times. It is, therefore, important to understand what UI/UX design really is. The best way to do this is to read quality literature. Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think and Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things can serve as an excellent starting point.

There are also some introductory videos and crash courses that you can find on YouTube to get acquainted with UX design and what it really means to be a designer. This step will prepare you for the learning process and help you make a list of skills, techniques, and tools that you need to be familiar with to become a successful designer.

Learn the basics of UI/UX design

After you’ve got some introduction to UX design, it is now time to learn user experience basics. UI/UX design consists of certain processes, principles, and best practices that are extremely important for your journey as a designer. It is important for you, as an aspiring designer, to learn what the UX design process means and how you can efficiently implement it in your own projects.

Additionally, there are some key skills that you need to practice. These include an analytical approach to problems, strong and effective communication, empathy, and research skills. It is important to focus on these skills along with the core concepts as you’ll need to practice and apply these skills every day.

Finish a course or certification

It is always nice to have some formal education listed on your resume. This improves your credibility in the market, making you a stronger candidate when you start your job search. You can learn UX design online with the help of courses and certification programs. There is a range of bootcamps available for aspiring designers. You can start by taking a short introductory UX design online course, such as Interaction Design by Designlab, or immerse yourself in a long-term certification such as Google UX Design Professional Certificate.

These courses give you a good idea of the tools and techniques needed to be a professional designer. Additionally, most of these bootcamps and certifications also help you join a community of designers, thus aiding your learning process.

Find a mentor

One of the most effective ways to learn UX design is to find a mentor. By joining a formal mentorship program or finding a professional yourself, you have a chance to get dedicated feedback and one-to-one sessions with your mentor. Having an expert mentor can really help you with your learning process. The experiences of your mentor help you navigate the learning process with ease.

Additionally, mentors are also important in creating a professional network. Most of the mentors are themselves professional designers with excellent repute in the field. Through their connections, you can not only be a part of the community but also get recommendations and referrals when needed.

Get your hands dirty with some projects

UX design is nothing without real-world projects. Along with formal learning and certifications, it is essential to have a way in which you can actually apply all these concepts. Practicality is key to your success and the sooner you start working on some projects, the better it will be for your growth as a professional.

You can start a passion project, such as a case study to improve the design of an app, on your own or you can look for open source projects. Open source organizations are always on the lookout for volunteers who can help them improve the design of their products and services. What is more, open-source projects give you a lot of room to learn from your mistakes, thus serving as an ideal platform for beginners in the field.

Work full-time or as a freelancer

Once you’ve completed a few projects and built your resume with some formal education, you can step into the job market and hunt for a role that’ll be suitable for you. As mentioned above, there is an increasing demand for junior UX designers and it is not too difficult to find an attractive position. However, this job hunt, just like any other, can be a little overwhelming and frustrating.

To be safe from this frustration and to stay motivated, you can always look for freelancing projects. Platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr have hundreds of projects for freelance designers. These projects can be a valuable addition to your portfolio and also serve as a source of income as you try to find a full-time role.

Never stop learning

Earning a certification, creating a portfolio, and landing a job is not what UX design is all about. The learning process doesn’t end here. Even highly experienced designers learn something new every single day. It is, therefore, important to have this learning attitude even after you’ve finished your formal education and have started working as a designer in any organization.

The best way to do that is to follow leading designers and stay in touch with the recent happenings in the field. The new trends will not only keep you updated but also inspire you to do better in your own work.

Difficulties of learning UX Design

Some of the questions that might come up at this point are: Is UX design easy to learn? Is UX design hard to learn? Can I become a self taught UX designer? How long will it take to learn UX designer skills?

Just like any other discipline, there can be some hiccups when you start learning UI/UX design. It is not unusual to get stuck at some point and feel frustrated. These challenges, however, can be overcome with some effort.

Major difficulties

Some of the major difficulties in learning UX design are as follows.

Too much to learn

There is always a lot to learn in UI/UX design. One of the reasons for this excess of literature is that the kind of work designers are doing is quite diverse. Additionally, design in itself is a diverse field, bringing in concepts from psychology, communication, language, marketing, and other related disciplines. This is a major challenge for aspiring designers and can serve as a demotivating factor at times.

The demands of the market

The demands of the market, along with the field of design, are changing rapidly. A typical UX Designer Job Description asks for so many skills that it is easy to get overwhelmed. It can be especially difficult for new designers as they’re still trying to make their mark in the field. Additionally, the amount and nature of skills and expertise expected from designers change every now and then, thus making it hard to keep up with the demands.

Peer pressure

There is also the aspect of peer pressure in design. With a number of professionals creating remarkable designs every day, it is easy to look at their success and feel unhappy with your progress. This pressure can serve as a demotivating factor and can be a big hurdle in your learning process.

Overcoming the challenges

Developing a few good habits can make your learning process more productive and also add to your professional growth.

Dedication

The first and most important trait to develop as an aspiring designer is to have strong dedication toward the field. This starts way early in your learning process and goes a long way in your career. Once you have identified your goals and have the willingness to do anything it takes, there’s little chance that you’ll falter.

Small steps

Another way to stay motivated and focused is to take small steps in the learning process. This can be done by initiating short-term projects, particularly in the beginning, so that you can see some quick results. You can also create a portfolio that you can build over time, thus giving you the motivation to keep going. Keep working on small projects so you get the required UX design practice all the time.

Open mind

Always keep an open mind to learning. If you see that your peers are doing good work, try not to get overwhelmed or discouraged by that. Instead, learn from the things that they are doing. An even better approach is to reach out to your peers, appreciate their work, and stay in touch with them. This will also help you build a professional network that can be extremely useful in your career.

How long does it take to learn UX design?

There is no standard timeline to learning UX design and becoming a successful designer. It depends on how much you’re invested in the field and which areas you are focusing on. It is also dependent on the mode of learning you adopt and how much time and effort you spend along the way.

If you go by the route of a formal UI/UX design program, you’ll see that there are bootcamps ranging from four weeks to almost a year. Indeed, these bootcamps are geared toward different audience groups and teach you the details based on the time you invest. Some of these programs are synchronous, with live teaching sessions, while some others are self-paced. This can also impact the time involved in learning all that you need to know about UX design.

After you’ve done your homework and figured out the area you’ll be focusing on, it is a good idea to keep at least a year in mind, in order to learn UI/UX design. In this one year, you should focus on acquiring knowledge about the basic concepts, learning new tools and software, working on different projects, getting some formal mentorship, and earning some verified certifications.

The important thing to note, however, is that this is not a definitive timeline. As mentioned earlier, the field of design requires your dedicated attention even after you’ve secured your job. To continue to grow as a designer and add value to your projects, you should always be passionate about learning and keeping up with the recent trends in design.

Conclusion

If you’re looking to switch your career and are interested in a field that will give you both creativity and interesting real-world problems to solve, you need not look any further. UI/UX design is the perfect discipline to explore. It is the best time to start learning and practicing design as it can guarantee success in the years to come.

Another important aspect is that you can be a self taught UX designer with little effort and strong motivation. You can teach yourself UX design with the help of a number of available resources. These resources, as mentioned above, can help you learn and expand your knowledge once you initiate the process. There will, indeed, be some challenges along the way. However, if you’re dedicated and have a willingness to succeed, you can become a successful designer with some effort. It is worth the effort.