A Journey from Web Design to UI/UX Design
April 3, 2014. Delete this article in two years, as it will be irrelevant.
My name is Joe Richardson and I’m a new UI/UX Designer for DNN. UI/UX refers to
User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX). I‘m really exited to start working here. I'd like to tell you a little about myself, my involvement in design and how I arrived at DNN.
Photo source: Charles Williams on
Design Interests Started an an Early Age
As a child, I spent countless hours playing Nintendo. I'd dream up
inventive ways that I could play the games on a wristwatch. I’d dismantle the nuances of the game screens and how they were put together with such precision. I would take apart an entire bike, or skateboard, get better parts, then put it all back together. Most of the time, my mother would just shake her head and tell me I was wasting my time. With care for performance, visuals and a natural curiosity, I was unwittingly preparing for my future as a UI/UX designer.
My First Job
My entrance to the design field occurred around the turn of the century when the Y2K fears were all the rage. I had just started as a web designer for a small company and was attending a respected design certification program at the same time. I worked on an ugly beige Mac, which was running OS9 (insert groans from older designers).
A Design Certification Program
At school, there were only two of us taking the web design track. Everyone else wanted to be a print or packaging designer. Although I love most forms of design, I have always been
drawn to technology wrapped in beauty and usability. Most of my teachers had careers outside of teaching, so they possessed real world, practical knowledge (always a bonus for students).
When traditional designers looked at the discipline of web design, I noticed some misunderstanding and fear. I received a lot of mixed messages and had to sort out what was what. For instance, a print designer taught my first web design class directly from the Dreamweaver (version 1) manual.
I like to ask questions and as you can imagine, it didn’t go over too well. After class one day, he confided in me that he was forced to teach the class for the semester and had just completed the book himself. I felt a bit bad for him, so I started researching my questions online and helped him with answers from time to time. Over the next few years, I found that I was on the right path with this exploratory attitude. “New” designers were going to have a hard time just sitting back and relying on past experience. They would have to keep up at a much faster pace than previous generations.
Admiring Apple's Product Design
I finished school, moved on to another job as a web designer and received the first version of the iMac (with OS10 installed) - it was a huge step up from the beige G3 tower I was working on before. At this time, my colleagues and I felt the tide turning as design was improving, both in hardware and software products. Steve Jobs played a major role here.
Photo source: User godserv on
I moved on to having my own design consultancy for seven years, which gave me an
amazing opportunity to work on a wide range of projects: web, print, packaging, collateral, identity systems, branding, video editing. Around this time, the iPhone came out. I remember opening the first iPhone: the design on the box, the packaging, the manual, the phone hardware, the apps, it was almost too much to absorb. It sang to me immediately, just like those video games had years before. I knew everything had changed and I wanted to be on board.
Becoming a UX Guy
A few months later I was designing my very first app for the iPhone. Then a funny thing happened. I realized I was going through a career change: I was becoming more of an analytical designer than I use to be. I could tell you why every pixel belonged in every design I had done, even the ones I wasn’t happy with. I could also tell you why I set up menus a certain way, why I placed items in certain areas, and why the app or site had the interactions built the way they were. I was
studying human behavior for fun! I was becoming a UX guy.
Donald Norman coined “User Experience” in the 90’s. It started catching on, thanks in large part to Apple. I had heard the terms "UX Design" and "UI Design", but didn’t know how it pertained to me. The terms kept popping up around the Internet and in publications, however. At the time, these titles felt interchangeable, so I investigated and found that UX positions were usually tied to those coming from a human computer interactions (HCI) background and UI positions were heavier on the design end. I feel like I am a hybrid of both, with a slight inclination to the design end (UI).
Moving to The Bay Area
Photo source: Joe Parks on flickr.
Things started to click into place. I was living in San Diego and met the woman who would become my wife (a talented clothing designer). We had both dreamed of moving to San Francisco, so when she was offered a position there, we packed up and didn’t look back. Since being here I have met some great people, been involved with some amazing companies and had the chance to lend a hand in the creation of some wonderful applications and designs.
It really is an amazing place to live and has breathed so much into my soul and work. I'm really excited to be part of the great team at DNN. I will share samples of my work in future blog posts.
My 11 Rules to Success
There are many things I’ve learned over the course of my design career. I’ve thought about it and have penned eleven general rules to help you succeed. Why eleven? Because
it's 1 louder.
- If possible, set one career-growth goal at a time (too many goals creates confusion and lack of sleep)
- Lose your fear of looking foolish (we are all fools at times)
- Ask questions (goes with the above)
- Research, investigate, concept, build, test, refine
- Learn... I don’t mean memorize: Put your theories into application
- Stop being afraid to fail (we all fail)
- Lean on your past experience. If no past experience, lean on others' experience. If no others around, make up your own experience
- Have a thick skin
- Don’t be afraid to trash your work and don’t take it personally
- Share your successes
- Stay positive
Please use the Comments section below to share your thoughts with me. And, feel free to
connect with me on LinkedIn.