Are you at the beginning of your UI/UX design career and looking for some solid piece of advice to get you started?
We’ve had the pleasure of interviewing and presenting a lot of UI/UX designers who, just like you, were at the outset of their careers.
Navaf Muhammed from navafmuhammed.me is someone you can relate to – a young, talented designer willing to learn and put in the right work to make it.
Here you’ll find distilled words of advice that Navaf is following to build a successful career in user interface and experience design. Remember that this is a road map that will help you to express your uniqueness once you add your personal experiences and ornaments to it.
Ready for the good stuff? Let’s go!
Stay on the learning curve
If you’re a graduate or attending college like Navaf, remember that the learning process never stops for successful designers.
A UI/UX designer’s job is to create a product that users will love. Moreover, that includes having a range of technical, creative, and people skills. From his LinkedIn profile, we can see that Navaf is constantly working on improving his craft.
That’s why it’s very important to always improve your skill set by taking up UI/UX design-related courses. Apart from enriching your theoretical knowledge, pick a course that can help you build up your portfolio. So look for courses where professionals and experienced mentors review your work and provide feedback.
Practical work also gives you hands-on experience and material for your portfolio. This leads us to the following point.
Create your UI/UX design portfolio
There are a couple of questions we are positive all of you have when thinking about a portfolio. By looking at Navaf’s example along with all other designers we’ve written about in our Success Stories, here are the most common questions all novice designers have.
How can I create a portfolio if I have no experience yet?
We know it sounds extremely frustrating when you hear that if you want to land a job or a client, you have to have a portfolio.
Do you really need it?
To make this work, you can do any or all of the following:
- Create your own fictional project. For instance, Navaf designed Route Diary, an app that helps users keep track of their travels during the global pandemic. A project like this is a great way of showing your technical and creative skills. At the same time, it presents you as a person that understands people and their current needs. In case you’re out of ideas, platforms like Reddit have a huge section where people share app ideas.
- Improve an existing service/platform/app. This doesn’t mean making carbon copies of the design and stealing ideas from others. It means offering your take on the design with improvements that would benefit the users. Make sure you clearly define those improvements and explain why you made those changes.
- Take part in UI/UX design challenges like Daily UI, Behance Daily Design Challenge, or 100 Days of Product Design. Navaf produced different designs as a part of the #10DDC Challenge which he shared on Instagram and Dribbble. This allowed him to show his work, try out different design trends, and in parallel connect with other designers.
- Do free work for your friends and/or acquaintances. Not only will you work on real projects and get experience, but also add projects to your portfolio.
The point here is not to wait for a project but create your own as a step closer to your first UI/UX designer gig.
What kind of projects should I present in my portfolio?
This depends on what job you’d like to do, or the client or company you’d like to work for. If you want to design mobile apps, for instance, it’s only logical to showcase examples of that kind of work.
In his online portfolio, Navaf shows examples of two additional app designs (Walkmenu and Vella) which are a definite sign of his interest and experience in Android and iOS app interface design.
If your dream company is looking for a UX designer, then your portfolio needs to include projects and details about the task, problem, how your design solves the problem, and details about your work process.
What you should pay attention to here is the phrases and expressions used in the job ads/vacancies. They will be of great help when you describe your skills or areas of expertise as Navaf calls them.
How many projects should I include?
What comes across as the ideal number of projects is from five to six of your best and finest projects. It’s not necessary to include all the things you worked on during your career. Unless it’s all you’ve got at this point of course.
Right now, Navaf has a total of four projects in his portfolio but they still speak tons of his work. In all honesty, recruiters spend little time reviewing candidates’ resumes and work. That’s why you need to make it easy for them to find your prime projects that best show your capabilities and talents.
Build your brand
Now that you’ve seen why you need to create your online portfolio to get hired, you need to start thinking about your brand. These are the basic things you need to do.
One part of building a brand is connecting and networking with other people from your field. Networking is a hugely important part of any designer’s journey and is especially important at its very beginning.
Navaf is a member of the Dribbble community and like other professionals, he uses the platform to present his works. There are other design communities like Behance for example, where you can connect with other UI/UX designers, share ideas, find inspiration, and ultimately serve as a touchpoint with clients and collaborators.
Also, Navaf has a LinkedIn profile which is another amazing business platform where you can highlight your certifications, achievements, work, and educational experience.
Whichever platform you decide to join, make sure your visual identity is the same across all of them. We guess there’s no need to explain this point further, after all, you’re the design professional here. 😉
Personal website details
However, something that these professional platforms don’t have is space for showing people who you are on a personal level. And that’s why having a personal website is essential. There are many examples where designers shared their stories and got contacted by clients who had a similar experience. Personal stories can represent powerful connecting points.
Give the people a chance to easily connect with you, just like Navaf did. With easily accessible social networking and contact buttons, people will see Navaf as a person open for collaboration. What’s more, this is a focal point when it comes to gaining credibility and, as a result, personal brand development.
In addition, all the works on his website include short project descriptions which complement the high-fidelity project images greatly. Along with a list of services he can offer to his clients, all of these elements are part of a Navaf’s effective online portfolio.
Navaf is a great example of how to start building a great career in UI/UX design. Even if you don’t have many or any projects under your belt, create an online portfolio.
Then start adding work, the one you initiated yourself that would serve as illustrations and samples of your skills and talents.
All successful designers were once beginners just like you and Navaf. Follow the roadmap, add your unique mark to it, and never stop working on your craft.