Not a day goes by that I don’t receive an email from someone who’s new to the world of UX and isn’t sure where to start. Whether you’re just out of college or are transitioning from a related field, the discipline can seem daunting because it’s comprised of so many parts and processes. But while there’s definitely a lot of ground to cover in answering that question, there are 3 keys to launching your UX career that are absolutely at the top of the list.

So if you’re at the beginning of your journey, take a deep breath, focus squarely on these 3 things, and let the rest come by itself.

  1. Become an Information Sponge. Absorb and learn everything you can about ALL areas of UX — don’t fixate on any single aspect of UX or UI design. Take a wide, holistic view, because ALL of these things have to work together in order to create a valuable User Experience. Design isn’t enough, technology isn’t enough, good ideas aren’t enough. Consider Interaction Design, Information Architecture, Ethnography, Graphic Design, Programming, etc. You may not be able to do all of these things equally well — and you don’t have to. But you do need to understand what role each discipline plays and what impact it has on work in other areas. You DON’T need to know every new practice or process or method that comes out and is talked about on the Internet. The critical stuff isn’t what you DO; it’s how you THINK.
  2. Build Evidence — and Experience. No one has real-world experience when they’re new to the game. Doesn’t matter. You can absolutely show proof of what you know and have learned, and how you are able to apply that knowledge. It’s the doing that counts — your UX career will stand or fall based on the evidence you can show to prove your worth. And if you don’t have any evidence, you create it. Pick a website (any website) and redesign its Information Architecture. Diagram a new registration workflow that’s simpler and faster. Create UX deliverables for your own website  — IA maps, use scenario diagrams, and interactive wireframe prototypes. Show every part of the process — demonstrate how you think. The point: don’t wait for a project — create one and use it as evidence of what you’re capable of.
  3. Get Out There. There is no perfect time, moment or scenario. As one of my favorite quotes from W.H. Auden says, “look if you like. But you will have to leap.” In other words, don’t be afraid to go out there and get your nose broken. Don’t be afraid to say yes, don’t be afraid to be wrong, don’t be afraid to trust your instincts. If you’ve done all the things in the previous steps, if you feel like you have a firm understanding of the fundamental principles of UX and if this is what you really want, then you have to leap. Announce that UX is what you do, put your evidence on display and start looking in earnest for someone who will give you a shot to prove it. Volunteer to design an app for a non-profit organization, or redesign a friend’s business website. Offer to improve a local store’s online ecommerce process and waive your fees in exchange for a small percentage of sales.

Forget the idea that successful people are somehow fearless in their endeavors. That’s not true. People who succeed are almost always feeling more fear than they think they can handle, and they dive in and do it anyway. It’s a mantra I repeat to myself daily, and I want you to do the same. Say it with me:

Feel the fear. Do it anyway.

Announcing my upcoming book, Think First!

Announcing Think First, the upcoming book on UX strategy from Joe NatoliI truly believe Think First is unlike no other book on the subject of UX strategy. Instead of addressing the narrow, tactical pieces of the design process, Think First shows you everything that must be considered to create great UX — and gives you a roadmap to make it happen.

Think First details my no-nonsense approach to creating  successful products, powerful user experiences and very happy customers.

The book shares lessons learned from my 25 years as a UX consultant to Fortune 100 organizations. You’ll find step-by-step methods and straightforward, jargon-free advice that can be applied to anything you’re designing or building. Here are just some of the things you’ll learn:

  • Simple user research methods that anyone
    can conduct and apply
  • The right questions to ask stakeholders and users
    at the outset of any project
  • The 3 crucial questions you must ask of every
    client, every time
  • How to tell the difference between what people say
    they need
    vs. what they really need
  • A better, simpler way to generate meaningful
    UX requirements 
    at the outset of the project.
  • How to avoid scope creep and the never-ending
    project scenario

Think First will be available in Spring of 2015, as an exclusive hardcover edition, eBook and audiobook format for all device platforms. As we move closer to publication, I will share updates and excerpts from Think First — stay tuned!

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If you’d like to get more advice from me every month on UX, UI and Product Design + Development topics — in the form of training videos, full-length courses, e-books, downloadable templates and more — check out my NEW online school, the UX 365 Academy. Every month I publish new content, and you also have access to every course, book and training video I’ve ever created — some of which have never been published online before now.

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