Stepping Up Your Game: Updating Your UX Skills

We are what we do.  It seems like such a simple and trite phrase, but nowhere is that mantra more true than in our professional lives.  In the world of User Experience, concepts, best practices, and trends are ever-evolving. Remember that updating your UX skills is key in staying in front of the pack and relevant in the industry.

The only way to stay up-to-date with our world is to commit to a lifetime of learning.  The best UX designers are constantly learning from both the academic landscape and the world around them.

After all, we are what we do.

There is a tremendous amount of good to be had out of establishing the daily practice of self-care and self-improvement. Even though I’m no longer new to UX, I constantly feel like I have a lot to learn. Imposter syndrome and the Dunning-Kruger effect have many UX professionals constantly second-guessing their knowledge and skills. One of the best ways to destroy these demons is to seek for constant improvement.

Committing to learning isn’t enough in itself.  It’s important to have both resources and a game plan at your fingertips.

Here’s a handful of ways that UXers can step up their game.

Read something to help you keep updating your UX skills, no matter what day of the week it is.
Read something to help you keep updating your UX skills, no matter what day of the week it is.

Read Something

If you’re here at UXNewsMag.com, the chances are you’re probably already keen on reading to keep updating your UX skills.  And while we think we’re a great resource, there are so many other amazing sites, blogs, and Twitter feeds out there that deliver amazing UX content.

UXMastery.com is constantly producing articles, AMAs, walk-throughs, and blog posts that cater primarily to the “just getting started” crowd, but also have a lot of utility to more experienced UX professionals.

SmashingMagazine.com, on the other hand, is definitely geared towards those with at least a couple of years of UX experience under their belt.  As a very cerebral bunch, their pieces tend to go deeper into UX theory and strategy than some other groups.

We’re also big fans of the work that’s being done over at UXMag.com (and no, there’s no relation between us). While their posting schedule appears to be less frequent than ours, everything they put out is top-notch in both quality and readability.  They’re a grab bag of articles for experts and newbies alike, and well worth a visit to see what they’ve offered lately that might help you in updating your UX skills.

And if you’re not in the mood to read something, remember that writing something can be just as valuable.

Interact with the community and grow friendships. It'll help you keep updating your UX skills.
Interact with the community and grow friendships. It’ll help you keep updating your UX skills.

Interact with the Community

The UX/UI community is notorious for being welcoming. It’s rare to find a more welcoming group of professionals in any walk of life, let alone the technical world.

As a result, there are a number of great places to get involved with the community focused that are focused on updating your UX skills.  And perhaps as a result of the empathy and problem solving that is the core of our profession, the communities are places that believe in the mantra that we all have something to teach and learn.

#UXChat on Twitter is a weekly Twitter chat hosted by the folks at WhatUsersDo and UserZoom every Thursday at 11 AM ET.  The chat is usually co-hosted by a great UXer with experience in a particular area, and features three questions for the community to discuss.  The best way to participate is to set up your Tweetdeck to follow along with the questions and responses in real-time.  If you’re new to Twitter chats, here’s a quick guide on how to setup your Tweetdeck to help you follow along with the action.

UXMastery.com’s community is the first real UX community I participated in, and it’s a credit to their amazing team there that I have visited them daily for years.  The community definitely is centered around the newcomers to the UX world, but there is also a core group of experienced professionals helping problem solve and guide conversations.  If you’re a member of any UX community, this should be it.

The User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA) is a great resource for making both virtual and real connections. While membership can be steep, there is a discount for student UXers and professionals from countries with a developing tech or design scene.  Apart from the meetups and conferences they host, there’s also a lot to love with them in terms of their professional magazine, courses, and certifications.

The best way to keep building your UX skills is to solve the problems of others.
The best way to keep building your UX skills is to solve the problems of others.

Problem Solve

One of the keep updating your UX skills to work on tackling real-life problems other people are facing. While the previously-mentioned UXMastery community is a great place to practice and collaborate, don’t overlook ux.stackexchange.com either. Take a problem that you feel is just a little out of your comfort zone, and get to work. Approach it like you would if you were working on a UX team. Do research, whiteboard, iterate, and test.

You don’t have to post your answer to the question if you don’t feel comfortable doing so, but posting will help you get used to putting you work out there for public consumption, and defending position as well. Additionally, you can compare your approach to others to see how your outcome is different, and analyze how your process may have affected that outcome.

What do you do to build your skill set on a daily basis?

What are we missing?  Do you have other resources you’d like to add or practices to suggest?  Leave us a comment and let us know!

Before you know it, you’ll be updating your UX skills, one day at a time.

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