How do I get started in UX?

First, it’s important to know that UX is a big umbrella term that has eaten many other disciplines. Getting “into UX” could mean becoming a researcher, or writer, or designer, or animator, or even a software developer. Companies often have some sort of UX team or department, but not every job where you’d use UX skills are necessarily in that department. Confusing, right?

So your first job is to figure out which parts of this big UX family are interesting to you, and which parts of it fit your current or desired skillset, in order to know how to proceed. That’s going to take a lot of reading and learning and exploring.

If you’re able, a very effective way to get oriented to all the flavors of UX started is to attend a regional, multi-disciplinary design or UX conference like MinneWebConMidwestUX, or the University of Illinois Web Conference. An event with a diverse program will give you a chance to learn about many different aspects of UX and web design in just a day or two. It’s also a chance to talk to lots of different people in different roles from different types of organizations. You then ask all of those people for their advice on how to get started in UX, and pick whichever of the dozens of their answers makes the most sense to you.

Attending a bootcamp as the absolute very first thing you do is not something I would recommend. You might still want to do a bootcamp, but it’s better to have an idea of what’s interesting to you first. You might find that you’re actually more interested in research or UX writing or information architecture or product design or who knows what else, and knowing that will help you consider various courses and programs and events. There’s an awful lot you can learn on your own, and learning a little bit first will help you sort out the gold from the garbage during any program that you might take.

Startup weekends and charity weekend website builds and similar events that take all comers are a good way to get hands-on practice and pieces for your portfolio. They can also teach you about collaborating with megalomaniacs and other startup dingalings, which is a skill you will unfortunately need as a UX designer.

If events are not feasible for you, use the library. There are dozens of books on UX that I haven’t even read. Read them all and be smarter than me. Sites like Udemy and Lynda have good tutorials for getting a handle on design software you might need to use in your work. I barely know how to use any of that stuff, just enough to get my ideas across and that’s what matters. The more mature platforms also have plenty of free learning resources on their own sites.

What UX and content blogs should I follow?

My strategy is to follow interesting people on Twitter and read the stuff they share. If you want a jumpstart, find a conference that looks interesting to you and follow all of the speakers.

What UX and content books should I read?

Whichever ones you want. Eventually you’ll learn that you should really read all of them, but you can’t, and that will make you sad, but that’s life.

The major design publishers are all run by smart people with actual design experience who pick great authors.

Send me your questions! I’d love to know what you want to know about content strategy, UX writing, product strategy, writing, creativity, or any of the other topics on this site.

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