Independent UX Consultant & Mobile Specialist. Ask me anything about pursuing a career in UX or how to implement user-centered strategies in your business!

Ana Santos
Jul 17, 2018

I'm Ana, a UX strategist and Conversion Optimization specialist who offers consultations & training to goal-oriented businesses and individuals who want to grow the user-centered way. 

I also help aspiring designers and UX professionals in achieving their career goals

I fell in love with Design approximately 10 years ago and made the shift to UX a bit later. During my career, I've worked on many freelance projects, and also in full-time roles both in-house and agency-side. At the moment, I'm having the opportunity of a lifetime, working for Google as a Mobile UX Specialist! The path has not always been easy, and I love sharing my experience and knowledge with others who are trying to pursue a career in the same field. Everything is possible with a little bit of dedication and lots of passion.

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What's most important when developing a good app: UI or UX?
Jul 18, 10:48AM EDT0

I define UI a subset of UX, it's part of the overall process. The process of improving User Experience involves many steps, and designing a user-centered UI is one of them.

So to answer your question: A good app will have a UI with a good UX.

Jul 18, 2:56PM EDT0
When hiring a UI/UX what qualities or skills should a company look for?
Jul 17, 10:24PM EDT0

There are many skills that will be specific to the role but some must-haves: Design thinking, empathy, user-centered design process (it's important that the candidate understands the whole process even if the role is specific), problem-solving skills, communication, collaboration & team-work. 

Jul 18, 3:42PM EDT0
Is working for google as intriguing as it is perceived? Why do you say so?
Jul 17, 9:55AM EDT0

I'm SO proud and thankful to have had a chance to work for Google, and the whole experience surpassed my expectations. I'm based in Portugal and was hired for a very specific purpose and role. This was during a time I was mostly dedicated to my independent consulting business, but I knew I'd gain a lot from this experience. I was able to meet amazing people from all over the world - so much knowledge to share and so much to learn; not to mention being able to participate in great events and share my passion (UX) with a wider audience.

Jul 17, 11:10AM EDT0
What should go into a UX portfolio?
Jul 17, 9:44AM EDT0

Your UX portfolio should be tailored to the type of role you want to apply. So a portfolio from a UX researcher won't be the same as someone who's more focused on UI, for example. You should focus on presenting your best work & process, so recruiters and employers can easily understand how you work and what was your role on each project. 

Ideally, you'll want to have "real" business case studies, but if you're just starting out, it's good that you include your own fictional exercises that highlight your thought process and framework. Only present your BEST work - 3 case studies are enough.

Treat your UX portfolio as any other UX project! Tailor it to your "audience"; ask for feedback from different sources (Jarrod Drysdale has some great tips here) & keep it updated.

Jul 17, 11:19AM EDT0
Where can you learn how you be a UX/UX designer?
Jul 17, 9:00AM EDT0

Besides some great books, there are so many different online courses out there, but here are some of my own personal recommendations:

- Free & pretty much mandatory: Intro to The Design of Everyday Things (based on the book) on Udacity

- A well-known book to not only designers but anyone who wants to understand User Experience better: Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug

- Interaction Design's courses: affordable, in-depth, ranging from beginner to advanced.

- Springboard's UX course, where I'm one of their mentors 

- My own mentorship program, if you've already started with the basics and need a bit of guidance 

- Other platforms with UX courses: Coursera, General Assembly, ...

- Online Communities: UX Mastery

Hope this helps to get you started! 

Jul 17, 9:13AM EDT0
When you first started out as a UX designer, what was your biggest hurdle?
Jul 17, 3:24AM EDT0

My biggest hurdle was the fact I started as a "generalist" and solo UX designer in the company I worked for (as many of us).  Even though now I understand it was an invaluable experience and helped me define my main focus. The fact that I needed to drive the UX initiative & even evangelize it; the fact I was still learning a wide variety of things; the fact I had limited resources; and had to do the job of different professionals in the UX field with no team to support me  (jack of all trades, master of none). 

Jul 17, 4:09AM EDT0
How were you able to market yourself to the extent of being noticed by Google? What advice would you give an up and coming UX designer who is yet to leave a mark but needs to get the attention of potential employers?
Jul 17, 3:19AM EDT0

That's a very good question, and I wish there was a "right" answer or method that would 100% work for everyone. Honestly? I feel it was a mix of hard work, passion & dedication (because when you do what you love, it simply shines through), a bit of luck (there, I said it), and a good LinkedIn profile :) 

Now, this also depends on each one's goals. My ultimate goal was to build my independent consulting business. Working on this project for Google was an experience and opportunity I felt I just couldn't pass on (and honestly, it brought me so much already and it's impossible to regret it).  But if your ultimate goal is to work for a tech giant, then you should definitely work towards that goal - and you can start taking small steps towards that direction right from the beginning. For this type of companies, it's good to be referred by someone who already works there, so building a network is important. If you're just starting out, applying for an internship in a tech giant is a very realistic option as well. Persistence is key here. 

More advice in general to UX designers to get the attention of potential employers, besides tweaking your LinkedIn profile if you haven't yet: Join UX communities (you're constantly learning from other designers and UX professionals); ensure you keep your portfolio updated where you showcase your best work and process (your website and portfolio need to reflect the type of work you want to attract, and also be connected to your goals,  so treat your portfolio as any other UX project); if you are unable to showcase real business case studies because you don't have experience yet, take a pro-bono project (but ensure you get the commitment required for the tradeoff); if you aren't sure yet which aspect of UX you want to focus on, don't be afraid to take a "generalist" role (it's a great start!). And of course, keep applying to roles which interest you! Good luck.

Jul 17, 4:40AM EDT0
What frustrates you the most about what you do?
Jul 17, 3:05AM EDT0

For UX in general, I think the most frustrating parts are still:

1) executive buy-in (linking to this article because it's thought-provoking);

2) the fact there's still so much misconception about UX and the different roles involved in delivering a good User Experience. User Experience is essential, not optional. It's also about your users; it's not a set of "tricks" to improve conversions. Companies need to research more before advertising certain roles (and I'm not blaming generalist roles here, because they'll always exist, and they make sense at some point);

3) In general, companies who have poor alignment of business goals with user needs. This often results in ignoring users in order to prioritize business conversions (at any cost) and calling this "User Experience" because they're simply conducting A/B testing to convert better. It's okay when people don't know it any better, but this is done consciously. It's not UX if you're not thinking about your users. As simple as that.

“You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."

I only work for companies with my same principles and ethics. Google, for example, is customer-centric, and so am I. I wouldn't want to charge my clients /users money if they aren't benefiting from my service.

Jul 17, 5:40AM EDT0
What do you think software engineers misunderstand when it comes to user interface design?
Jul 17, 12:13AM EDT0

I don't think it's as much about misunderstanding but more related to how early developers and engineers have been involved in the design and planning phase of the project.  Generally speaking, it's normal that a developer will be more focused on the functionality and features of a website or app, being often unaware of the whole user journey / flow. However, it's important that both roles are aligned (UX & Development) in order to achieve the end goal - which should be the same: creating a product that delivers a great experience to its users.

So in the end, I think when misunderstandings happen more often than they should, the core issue has to do with the overall project management & collaboration (teamwork) aspects.

Jul 17, 11:31AM EDT0
For those interested in doing what you do, what do they need to become UX designers?
Jul 16, 11:14PM EDT0

The curious thing about UX professionals is that they come from many different fields

What you need to learn and what you need to focus on, will depend a lot on which aspect of UX you wish to specialize in. 

I always recommend starting with an overview, understanding the UX process as a whole, so you're able to understand what you'd like to focus on.

A few additional resources:

- Free & pretty much mandatory: Intro to The Design of Everyday Things(based on the book) on Udacity

- A well-known book to not only designers but anyone who wants to understand User Experience better: Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug

Interaction Design's courses: affordable, in-depth, ranging from beginner to advanced.

Springboard's UX course, where I'm one of their mentors 

My own mentorship program, if you've already started with the basics and need a bit of guidance 

- Other platforms with UX courses: Coursera, General Assembly, ...

- Online Communities: UX Mastery

Good luck!

Jul 17, 11:34AM EDT0
How does UX designers go about understanding how a user will behave towards a product?
Jul 16, 9:08PM EDT0

Short answer: We need to talk to the users.

There's no shortcut or way around this. We can't claim to do user-centered design if we don't talk to the users. 

Now, of course, there are different techniques and steps involved in this. When you're designing a product from scratch, you technically don't have "users" yet. You have potential users and a target audience. You need to reach out to these people. You need to interview them, observe them within the right context and environment, understand their motivations and pain points. It's this information (gathered during user research) that will allow you to draft the well known "personas". And with these personas in mind, you'll be able to create your first MVP.

The MVP is very important because it's when you'll get to see how people actually "behave" and use the product. It doesn't need to be "perfect", it simply needs to be viable. 

And that's how you begin to understand your users.

Jul 17, 7:38AM EDT0
When you come in contact with new technology, what is most satisfying for you as a UX designer?
Jul 16, 8:04PM EDT0

I think it's fascinating to see how technology keeps developing so fast and how users' behaviors quickly shift to adapt to these rapid changes. It's what it's so interesting about UX. It's an ongoing process, where you are constantly adapting as tech evolves and your user needs + patterns shift.

Jul 17, 11:38AM EDT0
What are your thoughts about the use of animation in promotional material?
Jul 16, 5:50PM EDT0

Animation in UX should be functional. As long as the animation follows the basic principles of usability and helps delivering the message, then I'd encourage its use.

Jul 16, 6:59PM EDT0
Considering how subjective UX designs are, are there some designs you would call bad, if so, what would be there characteristics?
Jul 16, 5:46PM EDT0

UX design shouldn't be subjective. The only subjective part might occur when we base the first design decisions on assumptions when we don't have data yet. Even so, we should still follow best practices and conventions. 

UX design is bad when a) you don't follow usability best practices / heuristics;  b) you don't test it with your users.

Bottom line: You can't do user-centered design if you don't talk to your users. And not designing with your users in mind is bad design.

Jul 16, 6:56PM EDT0
How do you feel when the work you have spent hours on is heavily criticized?
Jul 16, 4:49PM EDT0

I don't encourage spending a lot of time working on something that hasn't been validated yet (with your users, but also with the stakeholders and team involved in the project).

In general, with a lean UX approach, you should avoid getting to a point where you've "wasted" too much time working on something that needs to be completely changed. If this happens, then something has gone wrong through the process, either during the requirements gathering, user research, etc.

That being said, constructive critique is always encouraged. Your work will be "evaluated" by usability experts, your team members, the stakeholders, and most importantly, your users. Remember, in the end, it's about the people who'll be using your product / interface / website / etc. Your users.

As both a designer and consultant, I always reinforce the fact that my recommendations are always subject to testing with real users. It is okay if you don't get everything right - technically if you're starting something from scratch, you don't have users yet, so you can't simply "guess". In that sense, I welcome "critique" because user feedback is invaluable, and your hypotheses being wrong is part of the validation process, they're still learnings that can be applied to improve the design and adapt it to your user needs.

Jul 16, 7:10PM EDT0
What is user onboarding and how have you used it to help businesses?
Jul 16, 4:02PM EDT0

User onboarding is the process of making your users understand your product and its benefits - it's essential. The more complex your product is, the more important this process is. But even for simpler products, you need to take some basic principles into account.

How I use user onboarding to help a business with their product, and what do I recommend in general: 

- Ensure that your users are aware of how your product can benefit them;

- Ensure that your users know how to use your product to their benefit so they can make the most of it. For this purpose, and especially if your product is complex, you can use different techniques such as "tutorials", "product tours", "educational content", etc.

- If it's difficult for the users to understand the benefits without trying, consider implementing something like a "free trial" or "demo";

- Remember user onboarding applies to returning users who haven't used your product in a long time, or whenever your product goes through major updates.

Jul 17, 7:27AM EDT0
Which UX design trends are you most excited about and what type of innovations do you hope to seen in the future of the industry?
Jul 16, 3:58PM EDT0

I'm most excited about conversational design (chatbots and voice assistants) and the general development of voice-based interfaces. I'm hoping to see more voice-activated interfaces in the near future and looking forward to seeing any new technological developments that find a solution to current constraints. 

Jul 17, 7:13AM EDT0
How can someone interested in learning UI do it without having any previous experience?
Jul 16, 3:42PM EDT0

UI is a subset of UX more focused on the visual aspect of the interface and as such, lots of practice is encouraged. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't start with some UX-focused theory first. I recommend getting started with a holistic view on UX - The Design of Everyday Things is a must read, but you can also take the Udacity course which is a great intro to design thinking. Tons of information on the Internet but I particularly also recommend Interaction Design's courses, which range from beginner to advanced level. 

For UI, even if you already know that this is what you want to focus on, you still want to be aware of the user-centered process so you can collaborate with your team members better. Ensure you document the whole process in your portfolio & case studies, and explain your role and how you contributed to the team. Which brings us to the next step... The practical part. 

You need to practice a lot - start designing! Pick the tool of your choice (Sketch and Figma are very popular in UI design at the moment, and they both have their pros & cons); get inspired (subscribe to inspiration feeds and see what others do); remember to follow conventions & patterns and keep usability & accessibility in mind (remember what you've learnt about UI design patterns and heuristics during the theory part); ask feedback from others; talk to potential users of your fictional project (even if you won't be focusing on user research, it doesn't hurt to understand the impact of it); and when you feel ready, take a pro-bono project to understand business constraints. There are some online bootcamps and UX practical courses that can help you on this journey too: For example Springboard (where I work as one of the mentors). 

Last edited @ Jul 17, 6:38AM EDT.
Jul 17, 6:36AM EDT0
For people who do not understand what you do, how would you explain it?
Jul 16, 3:07PM EDT0

I help your business grow by improving the overall experience for your users. User Experience refers not only to your website but to any interaction your end-users have with your company. It's about not only making your product or system easy to use but also ensure that this interaction is pleasant and meaningful. 

Jul 17, 6:05AM EDT0
Is knowledge in coding vital for a UX designer? Why?
Jul 16, 12:42PM EDT0

No, not at all. And since I think it's impossible to be able to be an expert at absolutely everything, I'm an apologist for focusing on what you do best. In fact, there are many different fields in UX and you should definitely focus on one. 

Now a few things to note:

- It's good to have coding knowledge (the basics) to communicate with the developer and understand project constraints ;

- In UX, while it is better to be a "specialist" rather than a generalist, it's also true that you might benefit from a generalist role at the beginning of your career. This usually is the type of "solo UX designer" role where you're supposed to be able to do a little bit of everything (which generally though, doesn't involve coding). This will allow you to understand what you like best, and develop your skills further. 

Jul 16, 5:01PM EDT0
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