I‘ve had a few people ask me how someone becomes a UX expert. Some are simply curious about getting into the field, while others are looking to understand what it is I actually do (while ensuring I’m not just making up a job role to sound like I’m not unemployed).
For those looking to get into UX, I tell them they most likely have some of the skills and knowledge required already.
To elaborate, everyone has had a bad experience with an interface in the past. We’ve all considered throwing our computers out the window to avoid dealing with terrible websites any longer than we have to.
Bringing this back to UX as a career, often it is just a case of reminiscing about those moments and understanding why (and for what reasons) that website infuriated you.
Testing on your own – without any formal training
A great place to start is to set yourself a goal related to a website you interact with on a regular basis. Try to find things that you like and dislike about the interface. Delve deep and try and understand ‘why’ you feel that way towards an inanimate digital interface with no emotional investment in your life. Maybe you like the colours and you find it aesthetically pleasing? Or maybe you dislike the main navigation because nothing is grouped in a logical order? Whatever your reasons are, start listing them down. You’ll quickly learn the ‘why’ and ‘what’ behind a good or bad site.
There is a lot of material out there that can help, if you’re after something more tangible. A common resource is Nielsen Heuristics. Such a resource will help you validate the basic dos and don’ts you most likely already know (subconsciously) through your use of digital interfaces over the years.
From there, you can start conducting usability sessions with friends and family (or an enemy if you know it’s a particularly terrible site). Ask them to accomplish certain tasks on the website (and occasionally laugh at their ineptitude).
Over time, you’ll start to notice there are things you find easy that others do not – or you could just hire a professional who has already gone through all that pain and anguish to find out what works and doesn’t.