Talk for IxDA Hong Kong — How I became a User Experience Designer

Who are you?

I am Tim Chan. I am a Senior UX designer and I work for a company called GoAnimate. GoAnimate, what is it? It is a tool that lets you create videos through drag and drop. Think of it as PowerPoint, but for video creation.

What is your background before you entered the UX industry?

It goes all the way back when I was in high-school. I studied this course called Design & Technology, and I learned this word — Ergonomic. It basically means design for the human body. For example, if you are designing a chair, make sure you know how tall your target audiences are. It made so much sense to me. This planned the seed on how I perceive design should be — Designing for people.

I am the guy in blue heart T-shit.

How did you get into the field? And how your previous background contributes to what you do now or not?

I was lucky enough to be assigned to a mobile app project from the telecom company. My intranet project was a success and I was handed this opportunity. I put in everything I learned in building the intranet into this mobile app.

What is it you actually do at your work on a daily basis?

I work in Product development for an online tool.

What are the opportunities you see in the industry?

As long as employees and founders respect their customers, there will be plenty of opportunities. There are a lot of start ups hiring UX designers now, but that doesn’t mean they can do good UX work. If the founder insists they are going to put and ad. on every step along when people use their app, or use design that tricks or manipulating people, then there is no UX at all.

What are companies looking for in designers?

That depends on the kind of company you are interviewing for, and actually, what kind of company you want to work for.

What tips do you have for newbies?

  1. Be realistic — What I mean is that design is a total different skill set. It doesn’t matter how senior you were in your previous company, or took a 3 months hardcore course in UX, when it comes to UX design, you are still very junior at this craft. Some people thinks that since they were a manager before, and they took an UX course, they could just magically become an UX manager or had a managerial role in UX. Well, that is not entirely impossible, but would be incredibly rare. Frankly speaking, how confidence are you in leading a design team that had more experiences than you and you had 0 practical design experience? And how much respect will you have from the team? Chances are, you had to start at the bottom. So, as a junior UX designer, are you going to be OK with that pay grade? That is the first question. Let’s say you still want in, what are the actual career path out there? Some company only has Junior → Senior and that’s it, there is nothing further, are you going to be okay with that? There aren’t really that much jobs out there that gets what UX is and can offer a good career path in the same time. Also, plan for the worse, this UX thing might not work out for you. Think about what if you don’t like UX, what are the outs? Think about how the skill you learned as an UX designer can be transited to other places.
  2. Portfolio — Prepare for a portfolio because it is one of the most important things that will get you into the door. It proves to your potential employer that you care about this stuff (After all, you spend a good chuck of time doing this) and how much you get what UX is. The best kind of portfolio are actual works you did, they are much better than made up projects because you are dealing with real business needs and with real constrains. Business needs and Constrains, the 2 most important thing most junior designer doesn’t get. A portfolio showcasing real work can separate you from those designers. Take everything that can be related to UX and document it, take pictures or whatever. You might skipped some steps during the journey and the project might be 80% done. You might skip the user research or user testing part because your company didn’t allow you or what knot, doesn’t matter, be creative, ask your friends, family or colleagues or people from other departments. No one has to know you didn’t do things sequentially. Make sure you don’t just documented What happened, but also Why the decisions has been made. If you really can’t relate anything from your current job into UX, by all means create a fake one, just know that the portfolio would have less of an impact.
  3. Job Hunting — You need to be very, very knowledgeable to what UX is about. The reason for that is a lot of company doesn’t know what UX is and would have a wrong expectation of what kind of people they are hiring. The worse case scenario is that people that hired you know nothing about UX at all. This might be OK if all you cared about is getting the title such that you can look for “Real UX” jobs in the future. But if you don’t want to waste time doing that, you need to get good and wielding these company out, in order to do so, you need to have a thorough understand of what an UX designer actually do and can tell from the company’s jobs ad. whether they get it or not. So, figure out what you want. Is it “A” UX job or a good UX job.
  4. Job interview — Use this opportunity to interview the company as much as they interview you. Find out what UX means to them, find out how much support they have for the UX team (Do they even have a team?), find out whether they have any budgets allocated to user research or usability testing. Ask them how regularly do they do that and how hard is it to gain approval. Really grill them to make sure there is no BS lying around.

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Tim Chan

Tim Chan

UX designer from Hong Kong. Obsessed about Micro-interactions and Product Design.