Junior UX Designers, Never Stop Doing These 5 Things | by Briana Bui | Mar, 2023

A handful of tips and junior UX designer habits to maintain in order to advance in your UX design career.

Illustration Courtesy of Susana Salas.

I’m currently a mid-level designer in tech with over three years of professional UX design experience and five years of web design experience. I’ve been through countless trials and tribulations of career obstacles and for me to come as far as I have now, it wouldn’t be without maintaining these five core habits that I developed as a junior UX designer.

The best way to get a well-rounded experience in UX is to expose yourself to different UX roles and responsibilities. UX disciplines include but are not limited to design, content writing, and research. These areas are the core fundamentals of what shapes a successful user experience.

UX content writers are experts in crafting language that resonates with users and helps them achieve their goals. Collaboration between UX designers and content writers can create a more cohesive and effective product design.

A successful collaboration between a UX designer and a UX content writer is working in lock-step to solve user problems. Content can be used to explain complex concepts or guide users through a process, while design elements can be used to highlight important information or make interactions more intuitive.

Working with a UX researcher is another absolute must. If you aren’t doing the one doing the research yourself, you can learn a lot from your fellow researchers. These are the folks at the frontline of the product, listening to users’ pain points and needs, and gaining a deep and profound understanding of your user base in its entirety.

Collaborating with a UX researcher can help inform decision-making by providing data-driven insights into user behavior and preferences. This can help ensure that design decisions are based on user needs and preferences rather than assumptions or personal opinions.

If you are doing the research yourself, you’re still in a prime spot to gain not only knowledge about your users, but knowledge of proper research methodologies that yield quality learning.

Honestly, this applies to any level of UX designer. Not just juniors. Juniors are often told to always ask questions, however, you should never stop asking questions even into your senior years.

When I mean ask questions, I truly mean in any aspect. Whether it’s questioning a design, questioning your own design, questioning work culture, questioning processes, question it all. If something doesn’t sit right, voice it and ask questions to better understand it!

When it comes to design, good design never comes from everyone on the team just saying, “yup, looks good, let’s ship it!”. At least, not on the first iteration.

I mean, if you manage to get that response in your first draft, then I shouldn’t be the one writing this article!

In all seriousness, design in the UX field is meant to be questioned and meant to be challenged. Don’t be afraid to ask a question if you don’t know something. If you’re reviewing a peer’s design and something feels unintuitive or unclear, that’s the perfect time to ask the question because likely if you’re feeling confused, the user would feel that way too.

Overall, asking questions is an essential part of both the UX design process and working in a company. It helps you gain a deeper understanding of the business needs, company vision, and user needs, identify pain points, refine design solutions, and foster collaboration among team members and users.

Oftentimes, designers are spending the majority of their time either working in Figma designing, or in meetings. I find it quite ironic that for a role that designs solutions to users’ problems, they are rarely listening to the users in real time.

It’s one thing to read through synthesized research findings provided by your UX researcher, but it’s another to join the interview and truly listen in or even converse with the user.

By listening to user interviews, you hear the tone, you hear feelings, you hear sentiments, and non-verbal queues that otherwise wouldn’t be captured in writing. Through this, UX designers like yourself can develop a greater sense of empathy for your users. This can help you design solutions that truly meet user needs and improve the overall user experience.

Secondly, if you’re a junior UX designer that is looking to further develop your domain knowledge in whatever industry you’re currently in, one of the best ways to do it is through participating in user interviews.

I had a conversation with my director of UX recently and I asked him, “any resources, books, or general tips on how I can develop my domain knowledge in the C2C e-commerce space?”.

To which he replied, “domain knowledge doesn’t just get developed from a book, an article, or purely working within a C2C e-commerce company (for example). It comes from understanding the users within that domain. The better you can understand them, the better you understand what that domain is constantly optimizing towards.”

“it starts with listening to your users”.

I’ll never forget that advice and I’m passing it forward to you all today.

Sometimes UX designers who “age” out of the junior designer stage may come to this understanding that they’ve “made it” and they’re good to go. But the most successful UX designers that are seniors today never stop having the junior designer mentality.

This means investing in yourself and your professional development. Never stop learning new skills and improving your craft. Investing in professional development can help you advance your career by increasing your knowledge and expertise in the field. This can lead to new job opportunities or promotions within your current company.

Secondly, there’s always a mentor for everyone. Whether you’re a junior designer or a senior designer, as long as you’re willing to grow and push yourself even further, there’s always someone out there in the industry who has already done what you’re currently trying to do and can pass down their wisdom and learnings to you.

This is a huge must-do if you’re planning on staying in the UX field for the long haul. Considering how volatile the job market has been and in particular, for the technology industry, it’s imperative to keep your work up-to-date to reflect your most recent skill sets and experience.

It’s very easy to forget to update your portfolio while you’re actively employed at a company. However, if you do have permission to share your company works in your portfolio, I recommend setting a personal cadence to keep it up to date.

One way I hold myself accountable for doing this is every few months after I’ve likely completed and deployed a number of designs, I set aside time outside of work to update my portfolio.

Overall, building a portfolio is an essential practice for all levels of UX designers. It allows you to showcase your expertise, stay relevant, advance your career, reflect on your design practice, and stay prepared in case a layoff were to happen and you are thrown back into the job market.

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