Realistic Design Execution
Prepare your mindset and design for the real world
Remember the third criteria of becoming a hireable UX designer: “be able to execute design in the real world”.
This is perhaps the most abstract and intangible skill you’ll need to learn. It’s not only what gets a new designer hired, it’s what makes an entry-level designer become a senior designer. It’s incredibly important - but because it’s so abstract and hard to teach, you won’t typically learn it outside of work.
Why do companies want to hire designers with past work experience? It’s because someone who has worked a design job before understands the complications of designing in the real world. They understand that designs can break; that errors happen; that users can encounter rare or unusual edge cases; that designs need to compromised for constraints, or be able to scale in the future.
A beginner designer has often not needed to think about these things, and may not be aware they exist.
Don’t despair - you don’t need an entry-level job to get into this mindset or exercise this skill. You can apply these concepts to your personal, academic, and freelance projects, and acquire a basic understanding of them over time.
Design Process Frameworks
When you first start out, the amount of things you need to learn and don’t know about can be overwhelming. To avoid getting overwhelmed, the easiest way to start is follow some well-known and established design process frameworks.
Read about the two below and practice them. Both are based off of a central focal point: solving a problem or meeting a need. Practicing these frameworks will help you get familiar with a good design process before you fully understand the reasoning why.
Essential Design Processes
The frameworks you looked at above are great as a starting point.
As you get better and get a sense of good design processes, you don’t have to so rigidly follow those frameworks. You can adapt them as needed to the time, resources, and context you’re in at the moment.
Below are explanations of the building blocks that you can rearrange into your own processes. Practice them and live into them whenever you’re designing.
Remember that UX design means more than just how something looks - it’s about how something is used. A use case is a defined way in which a user interacts with or uses your product.
Typically, a beginner designer only thinks about one use case - the happy path. This is the ideal scenario, the major flow or process within the product that an ideal user goes through in an ideal situation.
However, the real world is less than ideal. To exercise your design thinking, think about what would happen if the user was not ideal or the situation was not ideal. Make your design account for these non-happy scenarios.
This is often where beginners know the least - executing design within the context of a product.
Products are complex things to design for. They often have teams of people in different roles working together, and each role has different constraints to account for. Products often have some business goal to deliver in order to stay afloat - such as making a profit or driving down cost - besides needing to serve its users. There may be a deadline to meet, or not enough resources to deliver a feature. There may be great uncertainty on how users will respond to certain features or designs.
As a UX designer, you are not designing in isolation. You will have to make sure your design accounts for all these things, not just user needs or usability - business goals, engineering limitations, time constraints, cost/benefit tradeoff, unknowns about the users.
You’ll eventually learn the ropes as you work on more and more products. For now, to exercise your ability to execute design in the real world, you can become familiar with these basic concepts and begin applying them to your freelance and personal projects.
- Understand what MVP is
- Design for MVP
- Decrease or increase scope
- Prioritization matrix
- Design for scalability
- Manage design debt
- Learn Agile design
- Do UX QA
Gone are the days of the rockstar designer - in the UX industry, these rockstars or lone wolf designers are actively weeded out in behavioral interviews.
Collaboration is huge in the UX industry. You’ll need to work closely with engineers, product managers, other designers, industry experts, and stakeholders. Fostering good relationships will grow your skills and advance your career.
You don’t need to wait until you have a full team to exercise this necessary skill. Learn about the collaboration techniques below and use them with the people around you - friends, family, colleagues, classmates, and peers. Be open to criticism, feedback, and ideas, and get used to being challenged - or risk being rejected early on in every interview.
- Explaining your design
- How to take design critique
- Design studio or design sprint
- Design critique
- Design pairing
- PM/design pairing
- Developer/design pairing
|✅ Put yourself in the mindset that every design you create will be implemented in the real world
|✅ Practice good design processes and frameworks whenever you can
|✅ Get a basic understanding of product and how it affects the scope of your designs
|✅ Practice collaboration and receiving/giving critique