A head start on your scramble.
Today’s crush: UX designer
Average salary: Varies based on experience, responsibilities and volume
Live: Entry level to Ninja
Skills required : User research, visual art, writing, technical writing and (in some cases) programming.
Let’s face it, some web interfaces make you want to punch your screen (we’re looking at you, Hulu). But if you’re the type of person who’s brimming with ideas about how to improve the experience, UX design could be the side hustle — or even a new career — for you. As a user experience (UX) designer, you can compile research and determine which visual and textual elements help users navigate apps and websites. To better understand what it takes, Sidekick spoke with two UX designers: Cameron Motameni and Tobias Komischke.
In case you’ve seen “visual arts” and thought it’s time to stop reading, rest assured, you don’t have to be Picasso or Michelangelo to pursue UX design. You don’t even need a formal education. You should, however, pick a UX role that you feel most comfortable with, Komischke advised. For example, information architecture requires “the organization and labeling of the content you have in your system”, while interaction design is “how you enable a user to actually accomplish anything on your system”. Neither requires visual design expertise.
Once you set a goal, you can learn skills like prototyping and working with design systems like Figma and Balsamiq online, Komischke said. While Motameni told us you can take college courses through Udemy or Coursera, he learned his skills from YouTube and his sister’s lecture notes. Other tips from our experts:
- Practice as much as possible.Build skills with online lessons and exercises, or offer discounted rates on platforms like Fiverr to gain experience. When you can competently design pages and systems, you can start offering your services to clients at higher rates. “In the beginning, your reputation is worth much more than the money you receive. My strategy was to make my prices really low to gain a small number of customers. [If] they came back for more screens i would tell them im going to lock them at the original price [even if I raised my prices] just to maintain that client-client relationship,” Motameni explained.
- Create mockups. “[Produce] portfolio items to have something to show off, to look for freelance jobs,” Komischke said. These can be prototypes for real companies or fake companies, but they must demonstrate designs for different screens and formats.
- Familiarize yourself with other UX skills. This includes research. “This [is not] a black and white world where a researcher would never do anything like sample design, or a designer would never talk to a user. It’s actually a mixed world,” Komischke said.
- Focus on problem solving. Practice soft skills before you get caught up in the “design” part of projects. “Talk to customers and see what their ideas are. You don’t want to be too stuck on one solution. You want to be able to see [the problem] with an open mind and a fresh perspective to prioritize what [the client] wants in an app,” Motameni explained.
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- Sell what you know how to do. Visual design might not be your forte, but maybe copywriting or interaction design is. “There are so many talented artists out there who can draw or just have an eye for visual design that you see in apps, but that’s definitely not my skill set,” Motameni said. “[But] if you understand how elements can be arranged in an app, that’s worth more than your artistic skills. —SS