5 Ways to Learn UX Outside of the Office or Classroom

Joanne Lau

There is no doubt that you learn a lot about UX when you study or work as a UX designer. However, there are always opportunities to learn more.

As a full-time UX designer, I try my best to learn outside of the job as well. Here are some tips on how you can also learn UX outside of your work or school environment.

Books

Books are invaluable sources of knowledge when it comes to user experience design. You can dive into the mind of an expert in the field and gain their insights and learnings. There are many recommended reading lists online for UX and design thinking in general.

Another way to discover books is to visit your local library. Many libraries have a design section where you can browse and find helpful books.

One neat thing I’ve learned is that a lot of the authors are designers themselves and are always looking for feedback. That means that you can actually directly contact these authors and start a conversation!

Some books that I’ve read and recommend as a start:

  • The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
  • Don't Make me Think by Steve Krug
  • Articulating Design Decisions by Tom Greever

Online Resources

With the internet you already have countless resources available to you. Learning user experience has never been more accessible than today. There are blogs, articles, web courses, tutorials and videos that you can access and learn more about any aspect of UX. You can also use social media as a tool to follow people or companies that post about these topics.

Some websites that I follow and recommend:

  • UXDesign.cc – This is a great site dedicated to UX with links, blogs, books, methods and events to keep you updated about user experience design
  • Smashing Magazine – An online magazine targeted for web designers and developers with lots of practical articles and tips
  • Nielson Norman Group – This is a user experience firm with lots of great articles, reports and research on user experience design

Events

The design community is a sharing one and there are often in-person gatherings where you can learn and be inspired. Many cities have Meetups where people form groups and communities around common interests. See if you can find a group you are interested in!

Here are examples of some of the Meetup groups in Gothenburg that I’ve participated in:

  • Got UX– An IxDA Gothenburg local chapter for people who help create digital user experiences
  • Sketch & Design Göteborg – A meetup dedicated to sharing tips and tricks on using Sketch App
  • Women in IT – A group for women who are working or are interested in working in the IT industry

There are also events that run on an irregular basis such as conferences, hackathons and workshops. With these you’ll just have to be on the lookout to keep up to date with these events. Social media is a good way to stay updated or you can periodically do searches online. You can also checkout InUse Academy  for courses or workshops.

Speaking of conferences, there is also From Business to Buttons, a great User Experience and Service Design conference held in Stockholm. I haven’t had the chance to go yet but I am really excited about going this year! It’s not too late to sign up for this year’s conference which will be on the 15th of May 2018.

Talking with other Designers

A lot of the resources I suggested were rather “formal” and “structured”. You can also learn a lot by just chatting with other people. Many people (including myself) enjoy sharing their experiences and I believe that you can learn something from anyone. Ask a fellow colleague, student or friend for some tips or tricks on something you are trying to learn or just find out how they got to where they are. Chances are you’ll both learn something new. You can also reach out to people online via email, social media or by participating in forums.

Side Projects

You learn a lot through school and work but it’s sometimes nice to learn something on your own terms. Find a problem you want to solve and just do it. You’ll encounter challenges along the way and you can learn by doing.

Some examples of side projects you can do:

  • Start a blog or collection of something that inspires you or that you can learn from (InUse runs the Instagram account ux_fail and documents moments of UX gone wrong).
  • Create illustrations to test out or to improve your skills within a design tool.
  • Build a mobile app or website based on something you are passionate about.

School and work experience is a fantastic way to learn but it can also be supplemented. There are countless ways for you to learn and you can choose what makes the most sense for you.

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