Moving into UI design / UX from another web specialism

12 Mar 2009 - 7:38am
7 years ago
3 replies
2958 reads


This follows on from a discussion I was involved with regarding
education for UX professionals. I'd be interested to know how easy
it's considered to move from one area of web work into a more
UI/UX-focused role (but still within the web industry).

I've read a couple of comments on older discussions that suggest
that it isn't that easy but I'd be interested to get wider

I'm currently working as a Web developer but have always been more
interested in the interaction / UI aspects of the job rather than
just the technical side, although it's only been reasonably recently
that I've realised this is a whole separate area!

Ideally I'd like to move from my current role into a "proper" UI /
UX role. In order to do this, I'm currently studying a
postgraduate-level course in UI design and evaluation (not a
Master's). I'm also trying to refine my experience a bit -- pushing
UCD where I can in my current work, redesigning my portfolio to
emphasise the UI design aspects of it, reading the blogs /
discussions etc. I'm also considering whether to take on voluntary
work or contacting agencies / individuals to find out a little bit
more about what they do.

Do people have any views on this -- indeed has anyone made the
transition from another web role (web designer, developer etc.) into
a UI/UX role and if so do you have any comments or recommendations?
Or is education to the key here, e.g. is an MSc in HCI etc.

With many thanks,


12 Mar 2009 - 9:09am
Jeremy Kriegel

Welcome aboard! It's always great to have people with deep technical
expertise move into the UX space. I have coached a handful of folks
in this transition who have found it very rewarding.

How easy or hard depends on you and your employer. For you, education
is key, but 'formal' education is not necessarily required. Read
books, attend local gatherings, go to conferences, take classes, find
a good mentor, etc. A masters will certainly give you some instant
credibility, but it shouldn't be required.

Your personal growth is within your control. How much you are able to
apply your newfound knowledge on the job depends on your employer. It
really comes down to how much they support the change.

One common place to look is to startups or small companies with no
UX. The good thing is they will value your technical skills and you
will have room to grow. The two biggest downsides are that you may
likely spend more time coding than on UX related tasks and you may
not have a solid mentor to help you along.

Some large companies have very fixed roles and moving to new teams
can be challenging, especially in these budget sensitive times, while
others, because of their size, can accommodate and even encourage this
kind of growth to keep you and your knowledge within the company.

You could also look for an agile environment as that would also allow
you to wear multiple hats.

Ultimately, find a place that will support your growth and work like
hell to learn everything you can.

Good luck!

Jeremy Kriegel

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Posted from the new

12 Mar 2009 - 4:30pm
Den Serras

David, I'm in the same boat as you, having started off as a
web/graphic designer before moving into UX. I changed around my
portfolio and titles as you did, and have been boning up on all the
literature. I think you are what it says on your biz card/LinkedIn
page, since there's no vetting degree or guild. The trick is backing
up whatever your title says with your experience and education, and
thereby meeting expectations.

There's enough people out there at mid-to-high level with clear UX
portfolios that I'm competing for low-level which is tough to pay
the bills. If I could afford it, I'd even push for an internship at
an agency like Cooper or Huge.

That said, I have been able to get freelance projects as a web art
director who is UX-oriented and then apply UX principles and
processes even though I'm not getting paid for it. I'm documenting
the hell out of everything, and I hope to turn those into true UX
case studies to prove I know what I'm blathering on about.

The main thing is that I can win over clients to being user-focused
in their sites & apps. That's half my title, right there.

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Posted from the new

12 Mar 2009 - 10:38am
Mark Hurd


I made the jump to UX after many years of web front-end development

At the moment I am working for a very small agile shop so I am
responsible for both the UX aspect of a project, and often get called
on again to help with the markup/CSS/JS/CMS integration side of
things. Personally, I like this because I've got something new going
on every day. :) My previous UX job was full-time UX, and every once
in a while I'd find myself getting slightly bored with analyzing
process flows in Omnigraffle.

I can absolutely say that a specialized degree is not necessary.
However, you have to be willing to consume as much information and
research as you possibly can. Read every book, study, whitepaper,
blog, feed, etc. that you can get your hands on. This reading,
combined with doing many rounds of user research (formal or
informal), will get you very far.

Having a mentor would be wonderful, but again, they're not
necessary. I haven't had the luxury myself (after starting the
"official" UX practice at my previous job and working with such a
small team currently). That being said, I look to the great and
timely advice of many on this list - Jared Spool, Will Evans, Dan
Saffer, Dave Malouf, etc to help fill that gap.

I'm still relatively new to the field (~2 years now) and still
learning more every day. I've found my previous development
experience to be invaluable though - knowing what's possible in a
browser, how complicated it can end up being, code jargon, etc - has
given me a good "in" with development teams. They give me a bit
more respect instead of treating me as another sales-type guy, which
I've heard can be a big problem for those in our field.


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