How to Start a Career in UX: Basic Concepts and Soft Skills

Looking to build a career in UX? In this article, I’m going to introduce you to the characteristics of a generalist UX professional and show you where you can start your studies!


User experience is about the user’s entire interaction with the product, service, or company. The goal of the UX professional is to provide satisfaction and solve problems for both sides throughout the process, not a hard sell. They seek to design a good experience at all points of contact with the user, whether they are visible to the user or not. That’s why it’s possible to find different paths to follow in the world of UX, it all depends on your experience. In this article, I’m going to introduce you to the characteristics of a generalist and show you where you can start your studies!


The Generalist Profile 

The UX strategy depends on the metrics and results you want to achieve. What I mean is that there is no formula for a strategy, but there is a movement… results-driven UX, design applied to companies and not just one area of the company.  

I’m going to try to explain by doing an analogy: when a person arrives at the emergency department of a hospital and goes through triage, then there’s a moment when they will be examined and perhaps referred to the professional who will begin the search for a solution to their pain. The professional who examines the person must have the knowledge to identify the problems and their origins. This professional must know what questions to ask in order to guide the next professional – maybe a specialized doctor – until the person’s problem is solved and they no longer need care.  

Can you see any similarities between hospital care and a sales strategy? Like the restaurant company Outback, where you are first greeted and shown to your table, and then you wait for the next professional who will understand your problem – maybe you crave a special dish? Or you don’t know what you’re going to eat and need some help…? – and solve it. The connection between these analogies and UX is that everything follows a process and each decision serves a purpose. 

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The professional who welcomes you is there to assess your pains, to understand what you need, how long you’re willing to wait for it, and how much it will cost you. Finding out this information in a pleasant and friendly way is the goal of UX and many other professionals.

And without further analogies, below you will find other skills that characterize a professional who has specific and generalist knowledge at the same time, where they consolidate their foundations and specialize in a specific field when they gain more experience. This professional is known as T-shaped professional.


UX Basic Concepts


1. Nielsen’s Heuristics


Using Nielsen’s heuristics is crucial to designing intuitive and efficient digital interfaces for users. Following these guidelines improves usability, reduces the incidence of errors and increases user satisfaction. Besides, these heuristics save time and resources as they identify usability problems earlier in the design process, providing a more satisfying and competitive experience for users and ensuring the success of the product.

Check out more details on Nielsen’s Heuristics, in this article.


2. Laws of UX 


It comprises 20 laws put together by Jon Yablonski with the purpose of understanding some basic psychological principles related to user behavior. These laws allow us to understand that the consumer has habits and follows patterns, so it’s important that the professional leaves the user at ease and respects these habits. 

The laws of UX include Fitts’ Law, the Law of Proximity, the Law of the Common Region, the Law of Prägnanz, etc. For example, Hick’s Law states that providing the user with too many choices causes the user to take longer and find it more difficult to make a decision. Each of these laws addresses a different aspect of user interface design. I invite you to check out each of them in more detail in Laws of UX. 


3. UX Hive 


To provide good experiences, the product needs to respond to the seven aspects outlined by Peter Morville, president of the Semantic Studios consultancy:

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Picture: User Experience Hive (http://semanticstudios.com/user_experience_design/).

  1. Useful: The product’s existence must meet a user’s need. 
  2. Usable: The simplicity with which users can interact with the product or system. 
  3. Desirable: Users must appreciate what they are using.  
  4. Findable: Design browsable websites and locatable objects, so that users can find what they need. 
  5. Accessible: Just as in the real world we have alternatives, ramps and elevators, so that everyone can access a place, it shouldn’t be any different in the virtual world.   
  6. Credible: Design a safe environment for the users. 
  7. Valuable: It must generate a return for the sponsors and contribute to improve performance and customer satisfaction. 


4. Responsiveness 


In 2023, the new features in figma focus even more on responsiveness and on the importance of having experiences that adapt to different devices, providing a consistent and optimized experience. 


5. Feedback


It entails the gathering of user comments and opinions about a product or system. Whether digital or physical, you have to look for these answers: How do users arrive? How are they welcomed? How will they browse? Are they comfortable? Will they come back? What’s troubling them? What’s the root cause? 


6. Customization 


73% of consumers want to be understood. This happens when the user’s needs, expectations, and experiences are the focal point of the creation process. For instance, Spotify uses the music listening history of the user to generate a personalized mix according to artist, musical genre or mood. 


7. Do Some Research 

Good experiences are just as impactful as bad experiences. Understand the tolerance zone; what is acceptable to your audience? What are they expecting? How does the experience affect the brand’s vision? How to get all this information objectively and with clear results? With a lot of research; research in every way you can. Research is vital to understand the users, determine problems, validate ideas and ensure that the user experience is relevant, effective, and enjoyable. 


8. To Create Design Solutions 


1 – Plan: Understand the project, its purpose, timeframe, and the people who will benefit from the solution;   

2 – Prepare yourself: Gather all the available information, schedule meetings with people who can help you and interviews with users; 

3 – Do some research: research data from various sources, understand proven and proposed solutions, research with users; 

4- Analyze: With all the information obtained, it is time to analyze and organize it. Separate what is useful for this solution and save the rest for another time; 

5 – Discover: It is now possible to identify the best solution for the project; 

6 – Socialize: Share your ideas and data with the team. 

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Picture: Modern professional (https://undraw.co).


Soft Skills 


1. Be Curious 

Study as much as you can, so you can be as professional as possible, be free to experiment, question, and understand. After all, did curiosity kill the cat for having so much knowledge? ???? 


2. Leadership and Influence 

Communicate with all the teams, understand their goals and who will be impacted when the target is reached. After analyzing the results, you can document them and share them within the company, get more ideas for solutions, understand what has already been tested, and get to know the limits of the company and its professionals. All of this influences the final result.


3. Organization and Trust 

What makes a professional valued? Being able to generate good results for the company!

To achieve that, sometimes you will follow other professionals’ processes. Other times you will create your own. Regardless of that, you need to document the path you’ve taken and have the knowledge and confidence to explain it if and when needed. It’s a good idea to keep everyone involved in the project up to date, but be careful who you share the information with, so that it’s relevant and they know how to interpret it.


Other Skills
 

Do not despise the knowledge acquired in previous work experiences. If you acquired knowledge by working as an engineer, salesperson, computer technician, etc, remember:

In nature nothing is created, nothing is lost, everything changes.” – Lavoisier, 1785.

Who knows when this knowledge will be useful for your career in UX?


How to Start a Career in UX: Basics and Soft Skills: Final Thoughts


This article shows that a generalist professional maps pains, understands the business, talks to all the teams, creates various solutions, and tests them with users.  

Be a generalist at first and gradually specialize according to your experience, goals, and market opportunities. You need to be mature enough to understand that your career needs to be planned, just like a company, so that it’s easier to manage goals, effort, profit, losses, etc. It’s crucial to understand the process and how you fit in, what your role is and the effort required.

Now that you have the tools, I can only wish you good luck!