UX is such a broad field that it is not always clearly defined, and is often misunderstood, even by those who practice it.
At the core of UX is the quality of interaction between a user and a product. How does a user feel when they are using a product (digital or otherwise)? Do they manage to accomplish their goals efficiently, easily, and pleasantly? Or do they feel lost, frustrated, and confused while using the product? These are the important questions UX tries to impact.
To make a positive impact on the user’s experience, you will have many tools at your disposal. When first starting out, you should make sure you have a basic toolset you can rely on no matter what product you’re designing.
Let’s take a look at some of the basic tools and methods you’ll need to have a basic level of proficiency in.
Interactions are a core part of UX. They define how a product will respond to a user, and vice versa. Think about how a button changes color when you hover over it, or when you swipe a notification on your phone to dismiss it. These are all interactions created by designers.
Depending on the behavior, appearance, and timing of the interactions you define, your users may have a good or bad experience.
This is a broad category, so you don’t need to know everything right now. Beginner designers are often doing many of these interactions intuitively by copying patterns they’ve seen elsewhere. Learn these basic concepts first and incorporate them into your design vocabulary.
A UX designer has many goals they want to achieve with their design. At the forefront of these goals is usability - making a product usable. As a beginning designer, this should be your top priority. Keep it in mind as you design.
Usability itself can be broken into various components, such as learnability and memorability. While you don’t need to memorize definitions, you should at least understand some of the most common components of usability. Learn more about usability below.
Prototyping is one of the key skills you’ll use as a UX designer.
In the UX industry, a prototype is most often a visual simulation of the end product. A designer uses images, animations, drawings, or interactions to show how the end product should look or test its interactions with users - but often there is no code or real functionality beneath it. (Some advanced prototypes will have code, but this will not be your initial focus.)
The fidelity of a prototype is how close the simulation is to the real, final product. There are many ways to prototype, and many types of prototypes with different fidelities - from clickable images, to a drawing on a piece of paper, to actual code.
Learn about some of the basics of prototyping below.
At the center of your design process are the users - the group or groups of people who will be using your product. They may be a homogeneous group or a diverse, heterogeneous group of people, with sets of behaviors, beliefs, goals, and problems. Your job is to make sure your designs account for and serve these users.
Often times, you or someone on your time will need to conduct user research to find out what your users are like. As a designer, you often aren’t the primary person conducting the research, but often times you will need to assist it, drive it, and use the results in your designs.
For that reason, it’s important that you understand the basics of user research. You can start with the concepts below.
(A UXR, or UX researcher, is another role you may encounter as a UX designer. This role is entirely dedicated to conducting, facilitating, teaching, and interpreting UX research. Though the role is a bit younger and less established than design roles, they are quickly gaining in popularity.)
There are a plethora of prototyping tools out there for you to use, each with their own pros and cons. As you advance in your career, you will get the chance to explore many of them.
If you have never prototyped before, we have two recommendations for where you can start.
If you chose Sketch as your UI tool of choice, you can pair it with the prototyping software called Invision. Invision is fast, easy, and massively successful - it has a lot of support, tutorials, plugins, and community forums for when you have questions or difficulty.
If you chose Figma as your UI tool of choice, then you have prototyping built in. You can switch between design and prototyping modes within your Figma projects.
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