As a UI/UX designer in 2023, it’s imperative to go above and beyond the basics of what a job entails. Whether you’re just starting out or have a few years of experience under the belt, you likely have all the basics – design skills, software expertise, basic communication, teamwork and the like – in place. In this blog, I share some lessons that I’ve gained over the last three years working at Flooid, that I believe I couldn’t have learned any other way, than through experiencing real circumstances on the job. Design skills aside, these are the things that have given me a richer professional experience.

1. Be proactive and self-managed.

I have come to believe that precise and timely communication is the game changer in handling projects. It introduces a little bit of additional accountability and self-management to my work and has made the difference in how I have progressed at Flooid over the last 3 years. The culture of managers closely monitoring everything is changing quite rapidly. Especially in smaller, flatter organizations, the opportunity to get involved, in a deeper, wider way is easily available. It is an opportunity to get a holistic view of every project, involving speaking with clients directly, understanding their requirements, selling your ideas/work, and taking their feedback. Without the active involvement of a manager in doing this, I have learned to
1) better manage my time.
2) better manage client’s and team members’ expectations.
3) to confidently and proactively take projects from one stage to the other without waiting for anyone to direct me.

An ideal way to work is when every team member and the manager/lead is self-managed to a certain degree. Next steps of action can be planned and with a reduced dependence on your manager, their intervention only required to provide a final greenlight for action. Over time, both your manager and you will be more confident in your capacity to handle a greater scope of work, so they can focus on core areas of their work such as bringing in additional business or larger aspects of planning and strategy.

2. Make simplifying, not complicating, your core design principle.

Our chief job as designers is to solve problems. Usually, the solution is simple, but most often, we put innovation first and overcomplicate what could have been a simple solve. If you were to measure the complication that any design process can have, understand that it is also a measure of complication that your user will undertake before they get what they need. If the curve is complicated and not empathic, the user is likely not going to be patient with the product.

The sooner you imbibe an empathy-based approach to design that puts the user and their issues at the heart of it, and design skills and prowess next, the more successful you’ll be at cracking what a product needs. When good design works, the “designers work” is almost invisible and so seamless that it goes unnoticed. When design doesn’t work, it becomes visible and jarring for anyone who sees it.

Curiosity and critical thinking in defining the problem at its most basic form will be your best guide. Ask as many questions as you need, because solely relying on what a client shares may be incomplete. A well defined problem is half the problem solved. And an idea that can truly solve a problem is useful when it delivers the desired outcome, is feasible, sustainable and meaningful for the need.

3. Keep improving wire-framing, prototyping, observing and use-testing.

How do you measure if a design or UX is effective? You cannot rely on intuition alone, beyond a certain stage in a product’s life cycle. This is where the ability to continuously  observe, prototype, test and analyse data is invaluable. We use tools like Crazy Egg to help with this part of the design process. 

Developing an analytical, yet flexible/fluid approach can help you arrive at the right solution. There may be a number of ideas to address a problem. Sometimes it takes exploring all routes, not just running with the first one that comes to mind, and then working by the process of testing and iterating to reach the right solution. This is a crucial part of learning how to eliminate ideas that don’t work and really elevate your designs.

4. Stay curious and keep learning.

Building some degree of business acumen will hold you in good stead. Be curious about aspects of your work that aren’t just limited to your role alone. Research the client’s field, go deep into the vertical you are designing for. Ask questions about how your agency works. Analyse the multiple aspects of the client-agency relationship, to understand how to deliver better results that meet your client’s requirements while also valuing your design principles. Build in-depth research skills, the capacity to analyse data. This will help you get your teeth into every project, how users work, what businesses need, how to sell an idea convincingly, and to go beyond just delivering a set of designs.

The best tip I have is to keep asking questions. Not only to clients or managers or your teammates. Ask yourself questions too. This is a great process of self-reflection and improvement. Every time you cross a milestone in a design roadmap, take some time to question yourself, throw up alternative routes and possibilities and convince yourself why you eliminated those and arrived at what you did instead.

When you have answered your own questions, you’ll be prepared to take on questions that your manager, teammates or clients may have. You’ll make a strong case for your work. Your work will be more robust.

5. Be open to inspiration, always.

Inspiration for design, for a solution, for a yet to be explored idea can be found anywhere, especially in places you don’t think as obvious. The art of seeing things differently, looking beyond the obvious is a a special skill that can be cultivated. Our obvious go-to when we look for inspiration is to google a bunch of search strings and go with what the internet throws up. While that is definitely useful, and I would say a skill in itself – knowing how to search widely and accurately – it is also good to be open to inspiration in places you might not be looking for it. A walk in the city, a movie, a piece of art, travel, books – developing the openness and keenness to grasp inspiration from a range of sources is a skill.

Engage in learning outside the workplace as well. Inculcating habits of practices that engage and stimulate creative and cognitive thinking alike has been immensely helpful. Finding outlets for this outside the workspace, especially so. This has given me several opportunities to understand real-life circumstances, products and how the solutions may have come to be. Reading about user-psychology, staying abreast with new developments in the design field, attending bootcamps, design events, finding a mentor whose work you want to follow and admire – whether within or outside of your workplace – are some of the habits that helped me find inspiration and gave me tangible ways to grow. 

This list is by no means exhaustive and I’m curious to hear your thoughts on what skills, habits and perspectives you have learned on the job, that have helped you grow as a UI/UX design professional.