Design

50 things I learned from spending 3 years as a UX intern

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Over the last 3 years, I’ve worked as a UX design intern at 2 independent advertising agencies and a famous product company based in Australia. As a passionate and young beginner, I learned how to be open to different perspectives—and how I actually didn’t know anything at all.

This list is a culmination of the important lessons I picked up along the way. I hope this helps you in your own path as a designer, as I continue to tread mine. Enjoy!

  1. Design isn’t about how things look—it’s a plan, strategy, and an execution.
  2. Appreciate the small details. Things like whitespace, padding, and consistent iconography go a long way.
  3. Most UI redesigns are done without the context of business goals or user needs, goals, and motivations. They’re just there for eye candy.
  4. Your ideas are just assumptions. Therefore, all assumptions should be tested.
  5. You also have your own set of biases and prejudices, so it’s important to neutralize and bracket them.
  6. UX design isn’t done in a silo. Interview, inquire, observe. Step away from the computer screen.
  7. Designers who can code have the advantage. It’s not a requirement.
  8. “Design isn’t about how things look—it’s a plan, strategy, and an execution.”
  9. Research methods are your best bet to an informed design.
  10. Qualitative data provides context to quantitative data—these are partners in crime.
  11. Presenting findings is part of the job.
  12. The term “user experience” is ambiguous—people have different conceptions, definitions, and meanings for it. I think it’s about making products and services easier and delightful to use.
  13. Articulating design decisions is important so your stakeholders can trust you.
  14. Just create an MVP and test it out. You’ll learn along the way.
  15. Bureaucracy brackets the growth of UX in traditional organizations.
  16. Your portfolio should show your thought process more than the final “look” of the product.
  17. Psychology is deeply intertwined with UX. Learning it will give you an edge.
  18. Nothing matters more than the humans who will use your product. Design for them!
  19. True UX experts design for scenarios.
  20. Your perception of the world changes when you understand UX.
  21. UX designers need to come up with solutions that not only look good, but have a solid research foundation.
  22. Your formal education won’t be able to keep up with the industry, so curate your own design education. (Though, it’s worth noting that thinking critically, negotiating, presenting ideas, and doing research are essential skills to be learned while you’re in school. These are skills important to a UX designer.)
  23. Design systems make prototyping faster, but they’re hard to maintain.
  24. Gestalt principles, Occam’s razor, and Fitts’s Law for UI design solve most UX problems.
  25. The best companies in the world hire UX designers because they inevitably bring in more profit in return.
  26. Finding UX mentors is crucial to your growth as a designer.
  27. Hiring a UX designer is cost effective. What will happen to your time and resources when you find out people wouldn’t use your product? So hire a UX designer.
  28. UX is more than just building apps or websites. It’s about representing the user in the whole design process.
  29. Listening is one of the best soft skills UX designers can have.
  30. Creating a strategy document at the beginning of a project will guide all design decisions and help you thwart bad client suggestions.
  31. Eye-tracking should only be done when absolutely necessary—when it’s the best way to solve a research question.
  32. Avoid leading questions when doing interviews.
  33. You have to independently learn both Android and iOS ecosystems to be an effective UI/UX designer.
  34. You can specialize within user experience (analytics, UI, etc.).
  35. You know someone is a good designer if they can demonstrate intentionality in their design decisions.
  36. You will eventually choose if you want the “product” kind of UX or the “agency” style.
  37. “UX is about representing the user in the whole design process.”
  38. Product UX is deep in nature. You get to think about and work on one thing for a long time.
  39. Agency UX is about determining logical next steps and low-hanging fruit for quick deadline projects.
  40. You meet the best designers at UX conferences.
  41. Keep track of all the new tools and find the ones that help you do your job best.
  42. Personas can inform design. Base them on real data.
  43. Educating clients and stakeholders about UX is part of the job. Not doing so will cause you more headaches in the long run.
  44. You appreciate how architects design physical spaces and how they care deeply for their users.
  45. People have a wide range of emotions, motivations, and perceptions that can influence how they see your brand—ultimately affecting the product as well.
  46. There are tons of UX resources out there. It’s easy to find them and learn the various methods and tools. The hard part is actually applying them to specific business situations and contexts.
  47. If you’re the lone UX wolf at your organization, it’s your job to get others on board with design.
  48. Go to more meetups. Meet more people. Listen and learn. Connect with people you look up to. That’s one of the best ways to learn.
  49. Follow your UX inspirations.
  50. Read UX articles daily. My favorite resource is Sacha Greif’s sidebar.io.
  51. Listen to UX and design podcasts. I like Design Details because it gives me an insider look at how UX is done in San Francisco.
  52. Mediocre standards translate to mediocre products. Always design for greatness.

This was originally published on Medium.

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Author

Alexis Collado
Alexis Collado has interned for award-winning companies such as Jump Digital Asia, Freelancer.com, and NuWorks Interactive Labs—usually being the first UX Design intern. He had been passionate about web design and user experience ever since high school, so he founded User Experience Society — the first student organization of aspiring UX and product designers in the Philippines. Alexis is relentless in seeking challenging opportunities that push his knowledge and talents to the limit. You can reach him at alexis.collado@uxsociety.ph.

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