Saturday, January 26, 2013

How to get started in UX

This is something I get asked at least once a month. Usually, by someone who isn't that far off. They are in another design field. Or development. Or used to be a web designer but had to quit. So, there's a base of knowledge.

Anyway, this is a response I sent to a specific designer today. He's working on signage, hence the references to that, but the same would apply to almost any field. You can apply your existing knowledge to the field you want to get into. It's inherent in your mindset and career choices; if you didn't want to be a UX guy, you couldn't do this.

It's also a bit Bay Area specific, but there is probably some UX-related group in whatever town you are in.

I'd love to give you a list of books or something, but... I've been asked by a few others and have nothing good! Nothing I really like except the usual suspects in general UX stuff. I'm working on it, though.

I guess I'd say the way I stay up to date is the way you already started if I remember right, and you were at the Yahoo! event. Network. Info snack. Sign up for lots of UX blogs, and follow UX people on Twitter. You are free to steal some ideas from me. My twitter account is, AFAIK, not secret so look who I follow and grab any of them that look interesting. I do think Twitter is a good place to start as it's one of the "hypermessaging" services that posts most usefully links to articles, which you read then sign up for the RSS feed they came from.

I write for UX Matters magazine. I rather like that. There are more popular ones, but I think this tends to discuss foundational issues really well, so might get less buzz but is good to know the basics of the field. For /really/ nerdy stuff, I am a member of ACM. They are a computing society, but I also joined the SigCHI sub-group, and get the amazingly good Interactions magazine. Not cheap overall, but at least a few articles are online so look it up and see if that's interesting as well.

Oh, there are lots of good LinkedIn groups also. Just search out UX and any other keywords. They do the same as Twitter, posting questions and links to other articles you can read.

Go to events; there are a lot of good ones here in the Bay Area. Sometimes they are hosted by big organizations and have almost always have good people speaking. Sometimes, you can get fun surprises. I arrived early one time at a Cooper event and got to corner Don Norman for 20 minutes about stuff.

And, start correlating what you do every day with what you want to shift into doing. A lot of web/mobile designers like to quote articles about design of road signs, for example. I absolutely have done the same. Think about (or look up) the issues of 10-foot UI (TV) compared to a mobile. Similar, and the size is irrelevant because its about angular resolution. Distance matters. As does lighting conditions and other environmental factors. You might very well have a good grasp on the principles we all work with.

Oh, and speaking of principles, feel free to just read my book. Which I suggest partly as it's free online:

It's mobile specific, but there's lots of ranting in the intro about principles and processes, lots of stuff in the section intros and appendices that link to other design patterns and discuss principles of psychology and physiology, and a big (poorly organized though) set of references you can look into.

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