As a web designer, you are probably already aware that UI/UX designers are currently amongst the most in-demand professionals in the market.

It’s predicted that, in the U. S. alone, there will be more than 3.000.000 new jobs for these professionals over the course of the next decade. Salaries are generally very decent in this field, with an average annual compensation exceeding $73 000.

Looking at the career perspective and the salary, it’s normal that many web designers want to transition to this field. But how to actually transition over can be a challenge if you aren’t prepared.

In this post, we’ll provide a comprehensive guide that can help you on your journey to becoming a UI/UX designer.

Things to consider before you make the move

Even though this is a popular field, it’s not a profession for everyone. UX design is about understanding how users perceive a product, how they interact with it, and the underlying psychology behind every interaction with a website/app.  Unlike web design, it focuses far less on the technical execution and keeping up with the web landscape. 

This means that you need to be prepared to work with different people and to master skills like collaboration, communication, and understanding. 

Try to get in touch with somebody who has made this same transition – you might already know someone, but if you don’t, you’ll be sure to find them in online communities like Reddit, Quora, UX Stack Exchange, etc. Hearing their process and personal experiences will give you valuable insight to inform your decision.

Finally, you should ask yourself whether you still find your current work meaningful and would it change if you would make this career switch?

Namely, career switching often demands a lot of extra work and learning so having the right motivation to do it can be a game-changer.

1) Find the area that suits you best

UX is a broad term and there are various specializations you can, according to your affinity, choose. The general UX designer role combines user research, UI design, usability testing, information architecture, and others. But you can begin by specializing in a domain where your current skills can be of most value and then learn other things as you go.

Choosing a narrow area from the start will help you remain focused and make the career switch much smoother.

2) Determine the skills you can build on

Once you’ve determined the road you’re going to take, the next step involves a bit of self-assessment. You want to unveil the skills and experiences you possess which are going to be relevant and perhaps even fundamental in this new career path.

The skills you have acquired as a web developer can be a great asset for your new career. Fortunately, there are many overlaps between web developing and UX design. Most web developers have already worked front-end development and visual designs of websites. Some, even, worked user research and testing, so it shouldn’t be that hard to catch up.

3) Get the necessary education

This doesn’t mean you’re obliged to get a formal education. In fact, you don’t need a degree to land a  UI/UX designer position. However, this also does not mean that the knowledge will fall from the sky straight into your head. Some professionals suggest that you need 10.000 hours of learning UX techniques, but this is obviously going to vary from one individual to another.

Here are some things you will need to master:
  • Human-centered design and basic design approaches.
  • The general theory of design, which includes typography, color theory, and Gestalt principles.
  • Design patterns are very useful for beginners in this field. For every problem that pops into your head, some designer before you has already had a solution.
  • The principles of taxonomy and hierarchy (information architecture).

You can find both online and printed resources for all of these basics. But if you are not confident in your ability to learn them on your own and would prefer the guidance of a mentor, it’s best to take a specialized course.

You can try popular online learning platforms such as Udemy or Coursera, which offer some great courses.

4) Get adjusted to prototyping for UX

As a web developer, you probably already have some experience with prototyping, but it is not the same as the UX field. Here, you will need to focus on constant iterations instead of creating the final product. The habit of creating sketches of your ideas can help you fill in the gaps, but you should also use a digital prototyping tool.

5) Practice the new skills before officially making the switch

Reading and studying the basics is a great place to start, but you’ll need to  get some real practical experience in the field. You can even find some opportunities to practice in your current workplace. For example, take your current projects and try to figure out which improvements you can make to the front-end, from a UX perspective. You can also ask to take part in a UX-related project at your workplace.

6) Be open to criticism

To see how you are doing, you need to seek feedback from experienced UX designers. You have to make mistakes in order to learn, but you’ll need to find someone who can point them out to you and steer you in the right direction. Don’t shy away from criticism. Also, ask opinions from real users and observe how they are interacting with your designs.

7) Create a design portfolio

When hiring UI/UX designers, recruiters look at two things: professional experience and portfolio. The former, you don’t have, at least not in this field, but the latter can be made.  

Here are some pointers for creating an impressive portfolio:
  • Consider the portfolio as evidence for every claim you’ve made on your CV about your skills and capabilities. So for example, if you state that you know Information Architecture, make sure to present the projects where you can back this up, and include site maps, content audits, etc.
  • Don’t try to cram in everything you’ve done, but only your best work. Include the projects you did for practice and try to choose the ones that showcase a wider skillset. You want to give a holistic picture of your abilities and creativity through the content you present. Don’t only show pictures and the final designs. Show the process of your work. By showing how you got to the final design, from start to finish, you’ll be telling a story through your work and prove that you understand what you’re doing.
  • Give information about projects, including target audience and context. You want to show through your work how you contributed to the overall project. Highlight the biggest challenges of the project and the solutions that have brought you to the final outcome.

Don’t wait for the opportunities to find you

The best way to find a job in this field is to connect with people from the industry. You can do this by visiting local UX events, finding professionals on LinkedIn, or choosing some established experts and following them on social media.

Conclusion

Web development and UI/UX design are related fields, so moving from one to another shouldn’t be difficult.

If you have decided to make the switch, you need to be aware that learning will not only take time, but it will take forever, as it is a constantly evolving discipline. However, it is also a rewarding one.

Written By
Natasha Lane is a web designer, lady of a pen, paper and keyboard and one hell of a tech geek. She is always happy to collaborate with awesome blogs and share her knowledge about IT, digital marketing and technology trends via creating high-quality content. To see what Natasha is up to next, check out her Twitter dashboard.
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