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How to Survive Your First Week as a UX Designer

7 minute read | December 28, 2020
Simona Galant

Written by:
Simona Galant

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You’ve just scored your first gig in user experience design. Whether it’s a short-term contract or a more permanent position, you might find yourself developing the tip-to-tail presentation of an app with a small team, or fine-tuning the structure of a large-scale corporate project. No matter the circumstances, whether you are freelance or in for the long haul, there will be many “i’s” to dot and “t’s” to cross in your first week at work. 

Check out this handy breakdown to help you tackle your first week on the job as a UX designer with ease.

  1. Give yourself a design audit

  2. Plugin and play

  3. Hit the ground running

  4. Bring lots of supplies (figuratively speaking)

  5. Research, research, research

  6. Make it simple, smarty

Give yourself a design audit

The UX design team is responsible for creating and curating an experience for the users of the product that is intuitive, satisfying, and compelling. No matter what product you are working on, you need to have the people who are going to use it in mind. Being current and staying on trend is important across every sector of big tech, but in the case of great design, you have to take it one step further.

A word you will hear many times in UX design is empathy. After all, you are responsible for understanding the user’s needs, and ultimately your presentation heavily influences how they are going to feel using the product. It is crucial that you focus on the problem you are trying to solve for your user. Detachment from your users and their reactions to the product interface can be detrimental to the user experience, and essentially weaken the product you’re creating. 

Even when you are not designing, it is possible to practice empathy in your everyday life. When you observe the people around you and pay attention to their needs, this will invariably improve your approach toward design. Familiarize yourself with the approach of your new team, your product’s various categories of user demographics, and spend some time thinking about how you can get inside their heads.

Plugin and play 

Before any hands-on design can take place, there will be some time carved out in your first few days to get in step with both your fellow design teammates and the web development team that is scheduled to build out your concepts. 

A big first step in your onboarding process, according to a senior UX design team leader, will be to synch up with the people who will be powering your designs. Take some pressure off yourself at the start by acclimating early to the communication platforms used by your new team as well as the frameworks they use and the design tools they prefer. There are hundreds of potential tools and apps available to enhance design and create effective coordination.

One of Springboard’s UX design mentors, Renata Amatore, currently works as the UX Lead at Trafilea, an e-commerce group that builds and expands transformative brands online. Amatore highlights the importance of a well-organized design platform such as Jira, along with a design roadmap. The roadmap is the design team’s north star, so it is best to get an understanding of how your team organizes their work. These onboarding meetings are a fantastic opportunity to ask your teammates about their roles and introduce yourself. 

Remember, making a good impression on your team is a great opportunity to engage with the feelings around the product being made, and essentially the motivation behind your frameworks. Unlike UI design work, proper UX design must both look good and also function in a fundamental manner. You’ll have the most success if you focus on the interpersonal foundation you have with the other teams building out your project.

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Hit the ground running

You’ll need more than a crisp No.2 pencil and a pretty portfolio once the housekeeping portion of your onboarding process is over. In your first days on the job, you’ll likely be asked to access the previous deliverables, whether that is user reports research, previous iterations of the design end of the product, sketches, systems, or graphics charter. You may be assisting with a collaboration alongside a product owner, or additionally the client. Many positions in UX development require coordination with the development team. 

Take a breath. Meeting a whirlwind of new faces and names (particularly via remote video chat) can make you lose your cool and make you feel unprepared. Remember that before anyone lets you get your paws on new designs, you’ll likely be asked to do something in which you have competence. 

According to Amatore, it is likely that your team leader or senior designer will have you conduct a UX design audit, wherein user experience is evaluated to identify potential usability issues based on established heuristics and/or prior user research. For instance, an audit of an online checkout process may expose that it is far too complicated, and it offers limited payment options that could result in a loss of revenue. 

What your responsibilities are will vary depending on what kind of client you are working for and what kind of consumer-facing/user experience system you are helping create. Here’s a shortlist of typical role responsibilities you may be asked to complete in your first job as a junior UX designer:

  • Consulting with clients to understand their goals and explaining research results
  • Conducting usability testing
  • Creating wireframes, storyboards, sitemaps, and screen flows
  • Creating product prototypes
  • Assisting with content development
  • Conducting competitor and customer analysis
  • Developing personas and usage scenarios
  • Analyzing user feedback and activity, and iterating to enhance the user experience
YouTube video player for iEW--dVNqOU

Bring lots of supplies (figuratively speaking)

There are many factors beyond the technical or creative that can make or break how you feel about your new job. Amatore is steadfast in her belief that attitude is the key factor in determining a new designer’s success as part of a design team. “You can coach an app or a framework. You can’t coach attitude,” she says.

It is important to remember that curiosity and creativity go hand in hand, and the openness to learn from others and receive feedback is the underlying strength of any teammate. You can help visualize a strategy for yourself, much like the plan map for a design, by building a trait map for what you value in a collaborator to help you bring that energy into work. 

There’s the possibility that project managers, operational staff, investors, and developers will question your designs from their own perspective. What will you do in this case? Can you turn a potential conflict on its head and find how its solution fits in the user’s life? If so, you might be a great UX designer

Your understanding of societal, technological, and personal standards over time, and how these factors influence the efficacy of your design will display not only the understanding of basic design principles but also will help your team focus on their ability to empathize with users.

Research, research, research 

An important goal at this early stage is to affirm hunches and discard outdated assumptions. Don’t ignore the data and insights that you come across in your first month. Bring your observations to the team. Ideally, this research should be done before the effort is wasted on focusing your designs on the wrong things or on building things for the wrong people, but it can also be used to get back on track when you’re working with an existing product or service.

Get a jump start on yourself. This is where you clarify the plan ahead with your team members and also let the owners/customers pitch in. Here you let the ideas in your pre-production notes into material things like a sitemap, journey maps, and wireframes and double-check on each aspect within the team and with the stakeholders. This ensures that the groups’ ideas are practical and also bridges the gap between usability and stakeholder’s expectations. 

There is a wealth of UX design communities discussing cutting edge tactics in design as well as a surplus of methodologies and tools available to put to use in your development. 

Make it simple, smarty

It’s easy to get mired in the stress of joining a new team and a new project, and often when we start in a new position, priorities can be difficult to juggle. Treat yourself as you would the people you design for. Make the materials work for you. Remember these short tips to keep a clear head and have a killer first week. 

  • Empathize. Your job is to listen to people. Pay attention. Think about what they need, and create an intuitive, pleasantly presented, concise piece of design. You can’t do your job to the best of your ability if you are not enjoying your fellow teammates and users. 
  • Fill up on feedback. Being open to criticism, being able to take it in stride, and utilizing it to your advantage, will make you a better designer. Not only that it will make you a more successful and effective collaborator within a company structure. Appropriating feedback is the key to every great success. 
  • Look for the story. The blueprint of excellent tools is the story of human beings. People are at the center of every crisp interface and every beautiful presentation layout. Keep in mind the goal of the work, and the tedious parts of work become a lot simpler.

Since you’re here…
Interested in a career in UX design? Rise to the top of the CV pile when you enroll in our UX Bootcamp—you’ll get a UX job or your tuition money back. Take a look at our student reviews and test out our free UX course to get a feel for our style and results. TL;DR: average starting salaries for our students = $85,440. Let’s do this.

About Simona Galant

Simona is a freelance writer who focuses on the intersection of tech and lifestyle experiences. At Springboard, she helps tell stories about how technology comes together with education.