Hi there, ngā mihi.
If you are reading this article then you must have been having some big thoughts recently. You have been thinking about what to study after school or about how you transition from graphic design into interactive design,
UI/UX (user interface/user experience) is a very exciting space to be in. It is a necessary part of software development as teams balance making functional yet beautiful apps. No longer is it unusual to find a few designers on a team with developers, which is why this exciting career prospect could be perfect for you.
So where do you start? Well, there are a few different options, and importantly, the way you choose depends on how you learn best.
Before you commit to anything, here are 6 tips on how to become a UI/UX designer starting with no experience.
Before you sign up for university or design school, you will need to try and design a few things.
When I started working in marketing, I needed to do a bit of graphic design as part of my role. I had never designed anything in my life and was completely clueless. Clueless, but excited. What I didn’t know then was that design would become a big part of my life, even now. I've done graphic design throughout my career in marketing. I used it for posters, email templates, social media posts and anything else that came up. I moved to interactive design when I started working for Moonward back in the early days. I am not a designer but I helped plan the design process that our team uses and still run my eyes over our work to provide any suggestions.
Interactive design requires a lot of thinking and conceptualising. There will be hours of moving things around to see if they look good, creating information hierarchies and balance for a user's eyes, as well as product accuracy. UI/UX mistakes can cause a loss of users. This understanding comes with practice.
The best place to start is with a design. Here is a brief that you could use:
- You are going to redesign a major Australian banking app (Commbank, St. George)
- You are going to try and apply a different design approach to the app, while keeping the information (form fields, information output) the same
- You are going to use a prototyping tool to achieve this (Figma or Adobe XD)
Play around with this concept to see if you like it. I would stick as close to the actual functionality of the app as possible instead of going off on too many feature tangents. If you don’t understand your product, then your users won’t either.
At Moonward, the majority of our clients are coming to us for the design and development of their entire product. This means you have nothing to work with and have to start from scratch. Of course, you will have a general direction and a set of features to go off but everything else is open to your skill and creativity.
Give yourself a simple app brief such as ‘Tinder for Dog Walkers’ and design the product in its entirety (authentication, dashboard, profile management, search functionality).
Even though your app concept might be new, there are many places where you can find inspiration out there.
In terms of the actual user interface, here at Moonward, we like to use:
In terms of the user experience, the best place to look is at other apps that already exist on the market. Tinder (link here) is currently worth $42 billion and Uber (link here) is worth $48 billion. These companies would have hired the best team of designers they can get their hands on and guess what, you can look at their work for free. Download their app and observe everything. How they designed their forms, how they help their users transition through different flows, and how they draw attention to important information. Take any scrap of information you can and apply it to your designs. They will have made thousands of mistakes on their journey so you don’t have to.
Once you are done give it to someone else to see how they would use your prototype, make sure it is fully functional so it works like the real product.
Now that you have a good grasp of UI and a basic understanding of UX, it is time to stretch your skills. Make an app that has a multitude of use cases and different streams for users to interact with.
This could mean adding in payment, users uploading content or a super unique concept. Whatever it is, design it out in its entirety and try to get someone to use it as they would a normal app.
At this point, if you want to study there are a few options out there for you. You can either go to university and get a degree in interactive design or you can go to a design school and specialise in UI/UX.
You also don’t always need to formalise your study. If you are someone who can learn on your own, go for it.
I imagine you have been working on plenty of projects, you have banked up quite a collection and are ready to start seeing if there are jobs out there for you. Put together a portfolio of your work in a PDF and send it to any potential employers.
Make sure you explain every piece and give some reasoning behind why you designed it and how you came to that conclusion. The more context you give, the better.
You want to blow employers away!
The beauty of working in design is that so much of your learning is done on the job. Interactive design is a very fast-paced industry, especially when your product goes live and you get real user feedback.
When you are getting new design projects, you can always start by researching and observing the latest trends to use in your product. If you work in an agency, you will get exposed to so many different industries and you will learn a lot, about a lot of different businesses.
I hope this article helps you out on your journey. Remember that the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.
Check out this video with one of Moonward's designers, Lachy, discussing the process of designing an app.
At Moonward, we have started live streaming a developer from our team writing code every Friday at 2:30 pm AEST.
September 14, 2022
Moonwards UI/UX Designer, Lachy Collis, chats through the design basics.
September 1, 2022