The Top Ways to Break into the UX Industry as a Non-Designer

First of all, I would like to give a special thanks to Carolina Maria, who is a digital marketing strategist and UX analyst. Carolina posted a common, yet crucial question on LinkedIn and I found it necessary to share the discussion that developed some great responses. In my time evaluating the responses, I came across the following answers to Carolina’s question, “what is the best way to break into the UX industry as a non-designer?” Before I present the answers, I would like to introduce you to the UX friends who made this discussion so valuable. Please meet… Steve McAdam, Senior User Experience Designer at Barclays UK Retail and Business Bank Mike Wheaton, Software Designer & Developer at IWK Health Centre and Niels Skatfe, MSc Student, Digital Design and Communications at The IT University of Copenhagen, specializing in Usability and UX And now, the answers from our esteemed guests and friends… While answering Carolina’s question, Steve McAdam is of the opinion that, like him, not everyone in the field needs to have a design background. In fact, it even helps easily segregate roles to better focus on tasks like concept designing, insight work, etc. Here are some tips. 1. Get as much knowledge as possible about general UX industry stuff, like user interfaces on various platforms (iOS, Android, etc.) and different approaches to the same task. 2. Develop a personal approach to UI and process design, and be able to defend it logically. 3. Understand how to work well with graphic and visual designers, without too much conflict. Be able to comprehensively describe your wireframes, the important elements of the final design, etc. 4. A good UX designer should be a believer of the user-oriented design process. Demonstrate your focus by being part of the design process right from the start (rationalizing user requirements, user insight, etc.), to the middle (testing and concepting), through to the end (managing usability testing on the almost-finished version). 5. Always focus on the needs of the user and their preferences, and not anyone else. Be vocal about it during interviews so that they know how you will work. Mike Wheaton says that since it is a multi-disciplinary field, you will find people who come from different areas and backgrounds. You are unlikely to find anyone with a specialized UX degree and it is your passion which will determine how far you will go. There is a lot of demand for a designer who combines UX and UI skills. According to Mike, this is because of two reasons. Firstly, small firms can’t afford individual specialists and seek people with broad skillsets. Secondly, a lot of people don’t realize that there is a difference between UX and UI. 1. Read as many books as you can on the topic. There is no such thing as the best book, and read whatever you can find. 2. Look for large firms which have UX-specific jobs and find out if you can assist on a project or job shadow for a day. It is a great way to pick up some skills and demonstrate your passion. 3. Find non-profit organizations that need your help. It’s a win-win situation where you will gain some experience and skills while the organization receives some much needed help. Niels Skatfe has some suggestions on the books and other material you could read. A lot of information can be found on this LinkedIn page. Although some of the publications are very design oriented, a lot of them are very relevant. Now that you have read what everyone had to say, let me add a little personal note. In my experience, the best way of getting into the field is to start making some designs. If you hit a stumbling block, there are several resources you can refer to help you out. UX mastery is a great place which offers some resources. I have also written about getting into UX as a novice. I hope this has been helpful!
Megan Wilson is user experience specialist & editor of UX Motel. She is also the Quality Assurance and UX Specialist at WalkMe Megan.w(at)