How did you build your UX skills and improve over time ?

I have mostly been a backend engineer in my career. These days I work as a product lead but I feel I lack the UX chops. I am good at building wireframes with tools such as balsamiq at work but , when I try to do something of my own in my personal life, I struggle with inspiration and end up focusing more on tools than the product.

I would love your candid feedback/advice on how I can improve and ultimately build something of my own.

  1. 4

    First of all, much of ui/ux is taste, flavor of the month. The real improvements come from watching users struggle, then making very small minor changes until the struggles dis apprear. Let your users design the ui.

  2. 1

    Thank you everyone for sharing your views. Really helpful :)

  3. 1

    For trying to come up with side-projects focus on the problem that you're interested in solving, have a clear understanding of the target user and their pain points. If you're scratching your own itch that's also fine just know why you're doing it. The best advice I've gotten is to find a group of people you really like and listen to what pain points they have, you'll eventually find some commonality if it's a small enough niche.

    As far as tooling, try to avoid the tools until it's really necessary, the who and the why are much more important than what in the beginning. My favorite tools are pen and paper for rough concepts. If you're trying to hone your UI/UX skills so that they translate to your job you can potentially partner with someone who already has an idea that you can help with. I spent a lot of time at hackathons and helping others with their side projects before starting my own.

  4. 1

    Reading the book "steal like an artist" helped me a lot. I got inspired by many websites in a different way after reading the book.

  5. 1

    I'm an engineer who recently got into more design work since I've had to put on that hat for my new startup.

    I would say most engineers are pretty good at the UX portion, generally answering "how efficiently can my user do or discover X, Y, Z"? I've picked up the UI design portion by browsing for inspiration on dribbble and other websites / apps that solve similar problems to the app I'm designing for. I keep a healthy bookmarks folder full of design inspiration.

    One other thing that I think helps a lot is using the right tools. Often as an engineer, if I open up my text editor to design something, I get carried away by the code that's involved. Instead, I usually start with a WYSIWYG kind of program with a design goal in mind and then write code after (e.g. Figma or Webflow). Tools like Webflow make the code / design portion even more seamless.

  6. 1

    It sounded like you talking about idea generation in general rather than how to apply UX when working on an idea?

    I have a friend that is the same, we talk about ideas and his always starts with a specific tool or technology that we could build something with.

    I on the other hand just try to forget about that and start with a NEED, something myself or someone else would want and fixing that (with software if applicable) add value to their life/work. I tend to feel more like I stumble onto ideas, try day to day being aware of gaps where opportunity lay.

    Once you’ve got that you’ve got a starting point, then try running your ideas through various “filters”:

    • do I know know your audience
    • is there a market and if so roughly how big
    • would solving this problem provide obvious value
    • if so would it be something they would pay
    • what would motivate them
    • how you I reach these ppl

    Just a couple but hopefully that helps a bit. Best of luck 👍🏻

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