How to Improve Your UX Skills for 2017

I have made a handful of changes to my workflow over the past 18 months by taking full advantage of Sketch, continually refreshing myself with UX resources, having a plan for consuming knowledge, and I am beginning to create content around UX. My goal is not to follow everything that is going on in the industry but rather—focus on new ideas, techniques, and information that will help solve problems that our clients face today.

If you are wondering about how to squeeze new habits into your routine, I suggest using a Pomodoro timer. I often have tasks that I feel will take 2–3 hours to complete and there is a natural tendency for me to put them off until the “perfect time” arises. It is a lot easier for me to allocate a 25 minute block or “pomo” to at least start the task and create a todo list for follow up blocks of time.

I use a free Mac app called Pomodoro One and I like to keep the timer open (on screen) while I’m doing pomos as a constant reminder that the clock is ticking. I make a point of focusing on something completely different once I have finished a pomo so there is a strong emphasis on the time I have left and I try my best to make it count! For example, I may spend one pomo writing an article, the next pomo playing a video game, and another hacking away on some CSS.

Start Taking Full Advantage of Sketch
From 2010–2015 I primarily used Illustrator and sometimes Photoshop as my primary design tools for web design. It’s important to note that their initial purposes were not intended for web design. Illustrator was built for creating vector graphics and print media—Photoshop was designed for editing photos, painting, illustrations, special effects, etc.

Sketch was built with responsive web design in mind. Some of Sketch’s defining features include: reusable elements (symbols), shared font styles, organization through pages, groups and layers (which you can search in). There is also a ton of useful plugins along with Framer and Flinto, which have been capturing my attention lately.

Not only is Sketch great for the design phase, I have begun ditching wireframe tools like Balsamiq and I now create wireframes directly in Sketch. It is more efficient for me to create accurate wireframes in Sketch that showcase the intended results of the grid and true sizes of page components which I can build upon in the design phase.

Refresh Yourself With Resources that have Stood the Test of Time
There are several advantages to keeping up with great blogs and news sites within the UX field. Potential clients and employers may use these resources to research how to hire you.

Many resources have been around for the past 5–10–15 years and have gained a lot of respect for all the right reasons. They are the backbone of our industry and in a lot of ways shape the outcomes of our projects. From my experience, being knowledgable about what is currently being talked about and new opportunities is only going to help you succeed.

Some tangible examples are SVG Graphics, Material Design, Mental Models, SASS vs Post CSS, BEM syntax—all these topics are relevant regardless of if your current project is taking advantage of them. Reading articles is a great way to get a preview of what’s coming and stay current.

My Top 5 Favourite Resources

  • A List Apart
  • Invision
  • Awwwards
  • UX Mag
  • Creative Bloq

Make a Plan for Consuming Knowledge
After previously relying on Facebook, Twitter, and other random places to receive articles—I decided it was time to change things up. I discover a ton of excellent articles while I’m working which is generally not the best time to stop and read them so, I started using Pocket.

The beauty of Pocket is that you can use the app solely for storing articles. I like to set aside time every Sunday for a deep dive so I have fresh ideas for the following week. Pocket also simplifies article content by stripping out the websites interface which turns the experience of reading into what you’d experience with a traditional book, love it!

Create Content Around UX
As I mature as a designer, the importance of our decision process through planning, brainstorming, revisions, and communication weighs in a lot more than the final result. I am beginning to track all these thoughts as a way to showcase my approach and improve.

Creating content around UX will help you dig deep and explore your thoughts, it’s a great way to step back and think. One of the resources I was inspired by for writing articles is A List Apart’s guidelines on writing for us. I highly recommend it as a starting point for how to communicate yourself and add clarity to your thoughts.

I enjoy Medium, Instagram, Behance, and I plan to create content for Pick whichever flavour you prefer!

2 Hours Per Day
To take advantage of everything I’ve covered, my plan is to start with 4–5 pomos or roughly 2 hours per day, every day. I prefer a sustainable approach rather than trying to smash through everything at once. You could also experiment with less if you find this too overwhelming.

Please let me know if you end up experimenting with these ideas or have other ideas that you’d like to share!