The 11 Most Valuable Lessons I Learned through my UX/UI Bootcamp
Remote work is common, and a pandemic shouldn’t keep you from learning. (Photo by Amélie Mourichon)
You do not need to have a design/dev/psychology background to be a good at UX or UI candidate
In fact, some of the best students in my bootcamp had previous careers in marketing and linguistics. You will benefit from having expertise in a wide amount of areas and disciplines since there’s no “best background” for UX or UI design. If you’re competent with UX/UI processes and your portfolio shows off strong case studies or design work, you should be able to land yourself an entry-level position.
However, completing a UX/UI bootcamp won’t make you work-ready
You need to set aside time to refine the skills and concepts you learn in the bootcamp, as well as generate new skills and concepts you weren’t taught. The great thing about UX and UI is it’s an ever-growing field of knowledge and community. Even once you’ve risen into higher roles than Junior designer, you must challenge yourself to keep networking and learning new practices and new tools.
A UX/UI bootcamp can provide you with some basic skills and portfolio content, but much of the burden is up for you to carry, regarding becoming work-ready.
Some of your projects will be unsuccessful
It’s important how you react to the unsuccessfulness of a project. Use it as a way to learn what to do better or differently on the next project. What was the root cause of the unsuccessfulness? How will you change your approach to your work next time?
The amazing part about UX and UI design is professional websites and apps are naturally ever-evolving. Once a website or app is released, there are countless opportunities in the future to make it better.
Remote work is common, and a pandemic shouldn’t keep you from learning
Did my hate of remote learning outweigh the benefits of the bootcamp? Not even close. In fact, I see my remote classes and group work as experience for remote jobs or projects in the future.
I’m slightly grateful I had my bootcamp projects to keep me occupied during the quarantine. And, I developed close bonds with my instructors and peers during this pandemic merely because we were some of the most consistent company we all had during the week.
Many people, due to familial or financial concerns, dropped out of the bootcamp once everything went remote. My heart goes out to them, especially because bootcamps are built to help you jump-start your new career.
If you know you will not have the time or money to spend on this high-intensity training, then it would probably be best for you to wait until you know you are able to dedicate your best efforts to your work.
Massive learning curves ahead
UX/UI bootcamps are fast-paced (even the part-time ones). Your curriculum will teach a wide array of topics, all with the expectation for you to absorb them and use them in your next project. Learning how to use new prototyping or designing tools will take time and patience. The occasional rage-quit is not unwarranted.
One of the best ways to learn is through failure. If there’s never a point during this bootcamp in which you do fail, you’re not pushing yourself to the limit and learning all you can.
Don’t wait a month after the project to write the case study
Case studies are one of the most common ways to present your process of a project in a UX/UI portfolio. In a case study, you explain your reasoning and thought processes. If you wait a while to write a case study, more often than not it’s hard to remember why you chose to make the main color on all the buttons blue, or the navigation bar x tall. By starting the case study during, if not then soon after you finish the project, the thought processes will still be fresh in your head and you’ll be able to better transcribe your ideas and decisions.
Design Mobile-First (I repeat, MOBILE FIRST)
A little more than half of all people in the world exclusively use mobile phones to access the internet, and that percentage is predicted to rise in the next five years (InVision). The Mobile-First approach is not only the best way to ensure consistency of the brand experience across all devices, but it also ensures desktop versions of your website aren’t cluttered and hard to navigate. Using the Mobile-First approach is considered best practice in the UX/UI fields.
When prototyping or wireframing, be sure you start with how the prototype would look on a mobile device. Make sure the mobile experience closely matches the desktop or tablet experience. The better your website looks on mobile screens, the better accessibility and versatility of your product.
Just when you thought you hit rock-bottom. . .
The scope and timelines for bootcamp projects will test your time management, prioritization, communication, and stress-management skills. My bootcamp instructors said to set aside about twenty hours of your week to work on out-of-class work, though I usually spent thirty hours a week on homework.
The software will crash, you’ll forget to save, code will break, and usability testing may not give you the best results, but through it all, you have to keep moving and keep churning out quality work. After all, the work you do in this class will likely end up in your portfolio.
You don’t design within a void
Be aware of current trends, but don’t rely on trends to make your prototypes attractive or accessible.
Any large current events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, or the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, affect the way apps and websites appear. Many companies have added banners to their websites in order to share their views on the BLM movement, or what they’re doing to ensure safety and protection against COVID-19. Don’t be afraid to make your prototype look like a current website or app by adding similar BLM or COVID-19 banners. This is a signal of your empathy toward your user, showing you understand what information the user wants to see.
Learn some basic front-end development skills
I’ve heard many arguments against learning front-end code as a UX or UI designer, as you may end up becoming more of a developer in your job if you have these skills. I believe the importance of knowing how to talk jargon with devs, and having a loose idea as to how your design will be rendered is more valuable than the risk of becoming more of a developer.
Self-care is important, especially during a bootcamp
Don’t be afraid to step away from the computer and get some fresh air, or distract your mind from your work. Burnout is imminent during a bootcamp, and you should be sure to take care of your health and mind.
If a UX/UI bootcamp is an easy experience for you, you must have not challenged yourself enough. UX work isn’t easy. UI work isn’t easy either. Keep that in mind as you redesign your homepage for the fifth time or do your seventh round of usability testing.
Your hard work will pay off in the end, though. In hindsight, you’ll look back at all your projects during the bootcamp and be astonished at how much you learned in such a short period of time. Even though my bootcamp classes moved remotely within March and there have been some unexpected happenings this year, this bootcamp has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Kathryn is a user experience designer in Denver, CO. They uncover practical, inclusive, and accessible digital solutions with great attention to detail and precision. Since graduating from a UX/UI boot camp in 2020, Kathryn has worked as a UX designer for two tech startups and a B2G software company. They're currently enrolled in the undergrad Emergent Digital Practices program at the University of Denver.