Joe Leech

How to get a job in UX and User research: ask @mrjoe.

I often get asked, ‘How do I get a job in UX?’ Specifically a job in user research. I thought I’d share my advice with everyone.

Nick asks:

How do I move from a more graphic design role into a UX role?

Simon asks:

I was wondering if you had any advice on what kind of roles are out there and how I could transition into that [user research] area? What skills would I need to move into a more user-research role?

Tim asks:

I’m really keen to move into a more digital-focussed UX research role

To get a UX job you need to be able to conduct user research

To make the transition to a UX role you’ll need to be able to plan, undertake and report back on user research. To get a UX job you’ll need to show that you have done user research before.

The best way to get started is to, well do some research in your current role. If you are working on a digital product speak to some users. Ask them to talk you through the website or app as they are using it. Note down what problems they have. It is that simple.

The hardest part of research is getting hold of the right users.

It might be that you are working on a product for consumers, in which case pop down to your local Starbucks and offer to buy a piece of cake in exchange for 5 minutes of someone’s time. This is called Guerrilla user research and is quick and cheap.

If you work on a product with a more specialist audience try and get hold of them on the phone, using Skype to share their screen. You could ask People for Research to get hold of some users for you but that will cost.

Ask the user about your website, what do they expect to see and what do they think they can do? Then ask them to complete a task they have just mentioned. Note down what works and what needs improving. Next ask the user to look at your competitor’s website, note down what the competition do well and what could be improved.

You now have power to get the website improved. The best UXers use evidence to decide what and how to fix the website or app.

Prepare a couple of slides in a presentation with screenshots and some quotes.

It doesn’t have to be huge PowerPoint deck, it just has to tell a story of what needs to be fixed and where your product sits against the completion.

user research ux report slide
This example is taken from How to do a UX review by me on 24ways.

That’s it, that’s how to do simple user research.

To get that UX role you need to show that the research you’ve done has been listened to and the website or app has been improved.

Research approaches for design based UX roles

If you are looking for an information architecture or UX designer style job you could do some very basic card sorting online research to inform the design. Take out a free 30 day trial with Optimal Workshop and use their card sorting and IA research tools. They are a dream for defining what lives where and validating your design thinking.

Getting the job

Having that evidence you’ve fixed something based on research opens up UX jobs to you.

The role of a pure digital researcher is pretty rare in business. However, it does exist in the public thanks to the Government Digital Service creating the role and advising that public sector bodies do the same.

If you are looking for a job with an agency or company expect it to be a broader UX role. You’ll be expected to undertake information architecture and basic design work like completing wireframes or making a simple prototype. There are very few pure UX research roles in companies and agencies mostly as there isn’t the work to keep them researching all the time.

Books on user research

I find that books on user research are better than the majority of online articles.

Further Resources

James Chudley’s presentation UX Skills That Pay The Bills offers some great tips on the interpersonal and soft skills every UX needs.

Laith Wallace has a good video on YouTube about the skills and attributes a good UX designer should have. Well worth a look.

Any more questions

I’m happy to answer any more questions about getting that job in UX, add a comment and I’ll reply or drop me an email:

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1 reply on “How to get a job in UX and User research: ask @mrjoe.”

Karen Rae says:

Really enjoyed your advice and your generous links – thank you!

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I’m mr Joe and I help CEOs and their businesses thrive.

Success isn't incremental. It's a game of chutes / snakes and ladders; it's time to climb the ladders. I bring 15 years in tech, $20b in added revenue, experience with 30+ startups and FTSE / NASDAQ / Fortune 100 giants. Together we can do great things.

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