How long will it take to learn the basics of UX? UX Question #12

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Terry from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, asks: how long will it take to learn the basics of UX?

I love that question. Thanks for asking, Terry. This is UX Question number 12 and I am Ben Judy.

How long will it take to learn the basics of UX? Well, if we’re just talking about head knowledge of essential UX theory, you can read a book, watch a few YouTube videos, and get the gist of UX in a day or two.

Actually learning to do the work of a UX practitioner will take much longer. That’s because UX is a multidisciplinary career field. Being a UX professional, even at a basic level, means you learn how to practice experience strategy, user research, information architecture, interaction design, visual design, usability analysis, and more. UX work is complex and multi-faceted.

Realistically, you need to practice that holistic skill set of UX design and research and analysis for at least two or three years to begin to really build basic competency. People entering this career field are often dismayed to find very few, truly entry-level job postings. Even job postings for junior level UX positions say you need to have at least two or three years’ experience. This is why: you just have to practice it for that long to even begin to learn the basics.

However, there are things you can do accelerate your learning. Working across different industries can expose you to how UX work is different, for example in a highly regulated industry such as financial technology (fintech) versus, say, digital publishing. That’s why agencies are a good place to work early in your UX career because you can get that broad experience quickly.

Another way to accelerate your learning is to practice the different sub-skills or sub-disciplines within UX. Seek out projects and opportunities to do the things you’re not experienced in. If you have a solid grasp of the basics of user interface visual design, take the role of user researcher on your next project.

You can also accelerate toward mastery of the basics by continuing to invest in ongoing professional education. Go back to episode 8 and hear me talk about ways to learn about UX. Keep learning.

And connect with other UX professionals in online communities, Slack channels, Discord channels, social media, Linkedin discussions—good ones, not ignorant rants, there’s plenty of that—but also local meetups and conferences.

Hey, Malcolm Gladwell popularized the notion that it takes 10,000 hours of intensive practice to become a master at anything. That’s over two and a half years of full-time work. The good news is, only takes another two and half years to become completely jaded and cynical about UX work, and then the rest of your career, you just fight to stay connected to what drew you to UX in the first place.

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