Self- takes a lot of effort and stick-to-it-ness. You essentially need to put together your own curriculum while trying to learn what you need to know, at the same time. Sound confusing and hard? It is. But for those of us who lack the funds to go to a boot camp or pay a university, this is the route we need to take.

I set off on my journey to learn UX by taking the Introduction to User Experience class offered by the University of Michigan on EdX. I found Professor Mark Newman to be a very good teacher and just loved the 10,000-floor elevator exercise he had us do. In this exercise, we needed to think up different ways that the elevator controls could be designed. One of my favorites, that I came up with, was a Harry Potter wand controller. This exercise opened up my mind to thinking about many different alternatives. I was hooked on becoming a UX Designer. I now believed that I could do it.

I took a few more of the classes offered by the University of Michigan on EdX. I learned some great stuff, but when I tried to apply some of it I wasn’t able to. It turned out that some of the classes only scratched the surface of that particular topic, which is not enough to apply it. It was time to look for more resources to discover what info I was missing.

Illustration by Jules

So I took additional UX courses on Coursera from the University of Minnesota and the University of California. Paid a few bucks for Udemy UX courses, got some books, read lots of articles and blogs, watched YouTube videos. All of them had something to offer. However none of them organized my learning how I really needed it, and all of them were missing needed information about the topic they were teaching about. It was like a puzzle I had to put together. One article has one piece of info, while a class had more of those pieces but not the piece that I learned from the article. Are you dizzy yet?

But, I wasn’t about to give up. I kept on trucking and continued to improve my skills and knowledge.

I had been applying my new skills to personal projects that were solving real-world issues. My favorite project has been reinventing the universal remote control. It is a futuristic concept with technologies still in the early development stages such as hover engines:

Illustration by Jules
Illustration by Jules

I had fun. I also hunted down and sign up for various UX related slack communities so I can ask questions and get feedback from those already in the field.

Additionally, I found non-profits that I tried to help out. And I started my own EdTech project and recruited other wanna be UX’ers to help out (not a business, just teamwork experience and practice). It was the school of hard knocks for a while there but I learned a lot. It has been great learning from others and understanding the difference between doing a project on your own and a project with others. Plus, I’ve made a couple of friends.

Finally, it was time to go job hunting for a UX Design job.

Illustration by Jules

Well, to make a long story short, even before I went job hunting I kept getting feedback from others in the field that my visual design skills may not be up to par. But, since I kept getting conflicting and vague feedback I went for it anyway. The job market told me the same thing, that my visual design skills are not good enough for what the market wants out of a UX Designer. However, everyone saw me as a researcher.

So, I re-evaluated things and took a deep dive into learning UX research.

And wow, was everyone right! Just about all of my strengths lend themselves very well to the research part of the design process.

Illustration by Jules

Having lots of resources already established, finding my way to a good UX researcher education has been a much easier route to travel on.

Joyfully, all of my hard work has been paying off.

But, if I could do it again, I would rob a bank and go to a university for my UX education. 😛

Illustration by Jules

What has your journey been like? Feel free to share some of it in the comments below.

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