I’ve often been asked how to get started in or grow in a UX career. I always recommend classes, books, and most importantly, practice. Work on real or hypothetical projects every day, in collaboration with others whenever possible. Nothing accelerates learning faster than the act of doing, directly observing others doing, and doing together.
I just came across Irene Au’s great response to this question:
"First, start where you are. Stop worrying about the skills or expertise that you don’t have. You already have a foundation and basket of skills to draw from. When you worry about not having the skills or knowledge you need, you lose confidence, which undermines your ability to learn and be effective."
"Second, the best way to learn is by doing. Get involved in projects that interest or inspire you. Maybe you will be lucky enough to engage in such projects that happen to also bring you income. If not, find the time to engage in such projects on your own time. Seek collaborators, or go on your own. Make stuff, design stuff. Invent projects for yourself to do that allow you to exercise your skills; you will learn a lot by practicing. You will learn even more by seeking feedback, from mentors and users. From the feedback, you will discover how you need to grow. In your desire to make your product better, you will orient your energy toward activities that will help you grow."
"Third, notice and follow what brings you joy and energy. If you are truly interested and passionate about the endeavors, your interests will guide you toward what you need to learn, and you will invest the time and energy into learning it. You will also build a portfolio/body of work that you can later show to potential clients or employers; the joy you bring to your work will shine through and you will be able to see yourself more clearly — and people you talk to about hiring you will see that too."
Irene, thanks for sharing your wisdom on this. Read Irene’s complete post here.
Lessons from Google’s market research to understand consumer’s cross-platform consumer behavior.
Change your traditional thinking to a holistic, cross platform one
The vast majority of media interactions are screen-based, screen-based, and so marketing strategies should no longer be viewed as “digital” or “traditional”. Businesses should understand all of the ways that people consume media, particularly digital, and tailor strategies to each channel.
Create a continuous experience across devices
The prevalence of sequential usage makes it imperative that businesses enable customers to save their progress between devices. Saved shopping carts, “signed-in” experiences or the ability to email progress to oneself helps keep consumers engaged, regardless of device used to get to you
Tailor for usage contexts
Consumers turn to their devices in various contexts. Marketing and websites should reflect the needs of a consumer on a specific screen, and conversion goals should be adjusted to account for the inherent differences in each device
Search connects the experiences
Consumers rely on search to connect their experiences across screens. Not only should brands give consumers the opportunity to find them with multi- device search campaigns, strategies such as keyword parity across devices can ensure consumers can find the brand when resuming their search
Download the Google study PDF from this Techcrunch article by Ingrid Lunden.
As Design Manager (and former lead UX designer) for LinkedIn’s growth team, I find this Techcrunch article by Aaron Ginn to be an excellent description of what it takes to be a successful growth hacker:
Growth hackers have a passion for tracking and moving a metric. Rather than looking at metrics as strictly a reporting mechanism, they view both as inspiration for a better product through a process of theorizing and testing. These metrics can be anything from a sign up converstion rate to a viral coefficient.
Growth hackers are creative problem solvers. They do not stop at data but build into new and unknown frontiers to find growth. Growth hackers operate across disciplines and functions, from UI/UX to metric decisions. The combination of both a creative and analytical mindset allows a growth hacker to have a cohesive and systematic picture of product.
Growth hackers are constantly curious and have an insatiable desire to learn. This curiosity leads to a grasp of product and user experience way beyond the surface. They have a fascination with why visitors choose to be users and engage and why some products fall flat on their face. With today’s distracted users, growth hackers are habitually exploring to find new ways to push metrics up and to the right. “Growth hacking has a subtle message of ’what have you done for me today?’.
Highlight from a great article by Joel Spolsky:
UI is important because it affects the feelings, the emotions, and the mood of your users. If the UI is wrong and the user feels like they can’t control your software, they literally won’t be happy and they’ll blame it on your software. If the UI is smart and things work the way the user expected them to work, they will be cheerful as they manage to accomplish small goals. Hey! I ripped a CD! It just worked! Nice software! Wooooooooooo!
To make people happy, you have to let them feel like they are in control of their environment. To do this, you need to correctly interpret their actions. The interface needs to behave in the way they are expecting it to behave.
Thus, the cardinal axiom of all user interface design:
A user interface is well-designed when the program behaves exactly how the user thought it would.
Walt Disney (paraphrased): “I don’t build things to make money. I make money to keep building things.” From the biography, “Walt Disney: Triumph of the American Imagination” See the book here
Mark Zuckerberg: “Simply put, we don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services.” Full article here
Steve Jobs: “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” More quotes here
Insights from Marc Hedlund on why his personal finance startup, Wesabe, lost to Mint:
Mint focused on making the user do almost no work at all, by automatically editing and categorizing their data, reducing the number of fields in their signup form, and giving them immediate gratification as soon as they possibly could; we completely sucked at all of that. Instead, I prioritized trying to build tools that would eventually help people change their financial behavior for the better, which I believed required people to more closely work with and understand their data. My goals may have been (okay, were) noble, but in the end we didn’t help the people I wanted to since the product failed. I was focused on trying to make the usability of editing data as easy and functional as it could be; Mint was focused on making it so you never had to do that at all. Their approach completely kicked our approach’s ass. (To be defensive for just a moment, their data accuracy — how well they automatically edited — was really low, and anyone who looked deeply into their data at Mint, especially in the beginning, was shocked at how inaccurate it was. The point, though, is hardly anyone seems to have looked.) Full article here.
"It turns out, like most success stories, the answer was simplifying the service. Taking features out. Reducing the value proposition to a clear and simple use case. This was not done in a vacuum. This was done by releasing a less than perfect product to the market, finding a few customers who wanted a less than perfect product, and then listening carefully to those customers to get to the ideal product." - by Steven Diebold. Full article here.
"It’s important for entrepreneurs to understand that their "Brand" is the collective emotional response to their product or service. A brand is not a logo, and it’s certainly not a URL. Those things are the stimulus, while the brand is the response. It’s something out there, in the hearts and minds of the people you hope to sell to." - by Mike Troiano on Onstartups. Full article here.