/ ux, alwayslearning

Transitioning into UX

Write As You Learn, Not Once You Know It – Matthew Cassinelli

I read the above article and thought, this is what I’m trying to do. I’d like to write about my journey and how I get there. That article can apply to many things, not just development. Sometimes I feel like I don’t always find the best resources of how to transition into a more UX focused role. I think often times I find resources and articles written by more established professionals. But where are the newbies?

I’m currently a front-end developer of 10+ years. I found my love for code and design in high school but focused more on coding when I went to college. I didn’t feel like I was the best stand alone designer, but I felt like I understood design principles to make good tweaks. For the past few years, I have been more concerned about the flow of the different pages and how a user would interact with the elements on the page. I understand that making something pretty does not always mean it’s something usable. UI (User Interface) and UX (User Experience) are different things but they are relatable.

The first thing I thought was, I’m not a traditional UI designer. I couldn’t create a layout with the best color palettes and design elements. I felt more comfortable with creating wireframes than design mockups. But I soon came to learn that UI designers and UX designers are different. Also, a UX designer is not the only UX position there is. There are UX Researchers, UX Content Strategists, UX Managers, etc. Now it just got overwhelming. Where do I fit in?

UX Learning

Other than the typical online articles and other resources, I wondered where I could start to learn more about UX. I started looking at UX courses out there: Generaly Assembly, Centre Center, Career Foundry, DesignLab. I had checked university courses previously but I couldn’t stomach the price tag. I’m still paying a hefty amount of student loans so I couldn’t afford paying another $10k+ now that I have kids. I settled on Interaction Design Foundation because it was easier on my wallet - $13/month for unlimited courses. I enjoy having the slightly traditional learning. I’ll write about my experience in a follow-up post.

Though I was enrolled in this online UX school, I wanted to make sure I was getting the right exposure to UX. How would I be able to tell if I was doing well?

UX Community

Just like development, I knew I couldn’t just take online courses. I wanted to network with other UX professionals, learn from their experiences and get some advice from them. I found two Slack communities to join (because I’m a Slack addict): UX Mastery and UX Design Community (UXDC). I’m more an observer in UXDC because it’s VERY active. Trying to keep up with the conversations is a bit overwhelming. I’m more active in UX Mastery because it’s more manageable conversations. Recently, they opened a mentorship channel to connect UX folks of different levels. My first match was perfect since the other woman started as a front end developer before she became a UX Strategist Lead. From there, I created a front end to ux channel. Turns out, I’m not the only one who is trying to transition from a front end developer to UX. We’re all learning together, which is great! It’s like being in a classroom with other students. I think being a part of a community can significantly help an individual launch their career or next career step. It’s like having multiple advisors with real world experiences at your fingertips.

What’s Next?

I’m going to continue taking online courses and interacting with other folks in Slack. I’ve played with other hypothetical projects and working through their product design. I’ve tried to use some of the things I’ve learned through the online course and applied it to these fun hypothetical projects or other work projects. At some point, I’d like to find an actual mentor to help steer me in the right direction.

photo credit: Jessica Ivins