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Getting started in UX/UI Design, a comprehensive guide

Last updated: November 23, 2023 Reading time: 30 min

In a nutshell

You want to become a UX/UI Designer or improve your skills, but you don't know where to start? This article presents the optimal steps in my opinion to enter and progress in this field.

Table of contents


UX/UI Design tempts you, and whether you’re new or retraining, this article is for you. Even if you’re already in the business, there are probably things you can learn.

To a lesser extent, it will also be useful for people working with UX/UI Designers such as developers, marketers and project managers who are curious to better understand their colleagues’ field.

All of this content is a synthesis of personal notes I’ve accumulated throughout my professional career, to answer questions such as: “What are the differences between UX and UI? Do I need to be fully proficient in both to get a job? How to practice effectively? Do I need to know how to code? Etc.”. It also comes from my wish to contribute to the democratization of UX/UI Design by better explaining its goals and issues in the modern world.

However, it remains a complex field, I tried to make it as synthetic as possible, but approaching the subject correctly required several articles to lighten this one.

Note: if you were looking for information about “product design”, you should know that it’s mostly the same thing as UX/UI Design. I’ll talk about the different titles later and their meanings.

Should I do UX, UI or both?

There are indeed people who specialize in one of the two domains, if this question keeps you awake at night, you should know that it is (very) common to meet UX/UI Designers or “product designer”. That said, rest assured, it doesn’t mean doing the work of two people for a salary (or else, you’re in the wrong place…). You can for example start as a UX/UI Designer, and with time, specialize in one of the two fields.

Without further ado, let’s start with the first essential question:

1 - Why become a UX/UI Designer?

Maybe you have seen flashy designs on Dribbble, used many well-designed mobile apps, come from the world of graphic design, development etc. The reasons you are reading this today can be multiple. Before going into more detail in the field, I think it is important to settle down and know your motivations well.

It’s a young profession, still in full mutation and evolution, the first thing to take into account to thrive in this field is that you have to be ready to question yourself and learn continuously, UX/UI Design is far from the job that you learn in 2-3 years and you’re good for the rest of your career. You will tell me that this is the case for many professions but it is particularly true with UX/UI Design.

The advantages of the profession

In summary, here are the five things I think you should remember when going down the UX/UI Design path:

  • 🔥 You are involved in creating products that help many people (examples: banking, online shopping, meals to order, investments, augmented reality, etc.).

  • 💰 There is more and more professional demand as more and more people interact with digital apps, which is driving companies to get into it and fostering the birth of many startups.

  • 🏠 You can work from anywhere with just a laptop and an internet connection (freelance or in many companies that practice remote working).

  • 📖 You can learn online as well as throughout your career more and more innovative techniques and will be at the heart of a rapidly evolving digital field.

  • 🚀 Beyond, for example, mobile applications, you have many areas available. See next point.

Beyond mobile and web applications

Although they are the majority in this field, there is not only the world of smartphones and computers that need UX/UI Designers, we can mention other more or less specialized sectors, among others:

  • The new generations of cars with their (multiple) touch screens (easy to use to avoid accidents).
  • Order terminals in restaurants, train stations, airplanes etc.
  • The latest generation of rockets like SpaceX’s Crew Dragon with its touch screens (which must be clear to use to avoid mistakes).
  • New nuclear power plants (where I let you imagine the importance of having in the control rooms, a top notch UX and a UI to avoid any misunderstanding).

And why not developer?

The question can be asked, of course we are not in design anymore but if you have already done a tour on the job boards, you will have seen that the demand for developers is stronger than for designers. If you’re here, you’re probably already on the design path but I know that many people, especially in retraining, may hesitate with the development path, often front-end (HTML/CSS, JS etc.).

This is not the purpose of this article, but if you still have doubts between these two paths, I strongly advise you to weigh the pros and cons before committing yourself completely to one. That said, and I’ll talk about it throughout this article, it’s more and more common for a UX/UI Designer to have knowledge in HTML/CSS (or even JS) and for a front-end developer in design, but I do say knowledge and not expertise, because trying to excel in both fields at the same time will require a significant effort over time that I don’t advise anyone to do.

In both fields, creativity is required, but as you can imagine, in design it is more visual and in development, more analytical and logical. The choice will depend above all on your preferences and your personality.

2 - Understand what UX/UI Design is

It’s a young profession that evolves rapidly and many questions arise when you start. Through the following articles, I will give you a more precise understanding of it, from its history to the present with a detailed example of a project, through the different professional titles and the necessary skills. I suggest you read them in this order:

3 - Pick your tools

This is an important step before going into the learning and practice part, as you will be able to test directly the things you learn.

Tools are not everything but taking the time to choose them well is important. I’m summarizing here the main ones, that is one for UX/UI Design and others for more general design. You will of course use others, for example for diagrams, note taking, task management, advanced prototyping etc. For more information, see the article The skills, tasks and tools in UX/UI Design as well as my free book on the best UX/UI Design resources.

Once chosen, you have to learn how they work. This is done in two steps:

  1. Learn the theory of the tool, either through the official documentation and/or a specific training like a YouTube or Udemy video.
  2. Practice with it to refine your understanding.

Note that you alternate between the two steps, for example when the tool has an important update, you go back to the doc to train on it.

Tip: don’t neglect the use of keyboard shortcuts, in addition to saving you time (which will put stars in your boss’s eyes 🤩 ) you will stay more easily in the creative “flow”.

UX/UI Design tool

The first choice is obviously this main tool which will be used for, among other things, wireframes, UI Design and prototypes. Today, three major products are competing for the first place: Figma, Sketch and Adobe XD. To make a long story short, the best at the moment is Figma, but this is of course a personal opinion.

However, I’m not the only one as proven by this UXTools study, which shows that Figma is leading among professionals. That said, Sketch or Adobe XD also do the trick because the tool is not everything, what counts above all are the background skills (on the other hand forget Photoshop for UX/UI Design, we are not in 2010 anymore 😅 ).

This is by the way the only important tool to start your learning and practice, learning for example Illustrator and Photoshop in addition is secondary and won’t stop you from starting.

That said, there are still some things missing in Figma like being able to use variables like in UXPin or conditions in prototyping like on Axure.

But be careful, you should not only compare the features of a tool but also other points equally important, which are:

  • The price (Figma has a free offer which is not the case for all)
  • The size of the community (example to ask for help)
  • The use in the professional world
  • The number of plugins
  • Compatible resources like official Apple or Google kits
  • Integrations with other tools like Protopie or Zeroheight

So yes UXPin is powerful, but it has no free offer, a smaller community than Figma, no plugins, doesn’t integrate with Protopie or Zeroheight and a majority of companies use Figma or Sketch so might as well go with them.

That’s why, personally rather than learning UXPin or Axure, I recommend Protopie in addition to Figma. Because it integrates well with it (along with Sketch and Adobe XD) for high-fidelity prototyping and the Figma-Protopie combo seems to me more powerful than UXPin or Axure alone. But again, Figma is more than enough for most of your designs, and unless explicitly requested by the company, you don’t have to master Protopie to get a job, although of course it’s a plus.

Beware, you might think that rather than using Protopie for more advanced animations, there are plugins to animate directly in Figma like Figmotion but I remain a bit critical of these types of plugins, see: For or against the use of plugins on Figma?.

General design tools (icons, illustrations, photo editing, etc.)

In most companies, a good knowledge of the Adobe suite will be required, usually Photoshop and Illustrator. Note however that Figma, Sketch or Adobe XD are quite adapted for the design of icons and simple illustrations, but for more advanced needs, the Adobe suite remains the most used.

What about the operating system? (Windows or macOS)

Spoiler: macOS 😉 but Windows can do the trick too (except for Sketch which only works on macOS). That said, there are good reasons why many designers and artists in general are on Apple machines, more info: Is Windows or macOS better for UX/UI Design?.

4 - Choose a learning/practice path

Now that you have a general understanding of UX/UI Design and your tool is sharpened, it’s time to start the serious stuff. Two learning paths come up: self-taught or with teachers, although one doesn’t prevent the other, but which main path to choose? Let’s dive in.

Note that in the previous version of this article, learning and practice were two separated chapters, but I decided to merge them because they are so mixed together that it didn’t feel right.

Indeed, we are constantly going back and forth between theory and practice, and it would be counterproductive to spend days on theory without putting it into practice at the same time, and vice versa.

How do we learn?

At the base of learning, in most fields, there is a list of skills to know, often in a logical order of progression. For example in cooking, you don’t learn how to make perfectly cooked cannelés (from experience, yes it’s not that simple 😵‍💫 ) before learning the basics (choosing ingredients, measuring, mixing, “reserving”, oven operation and modes, etc.) and starting with simpler recipes.

From this list of skills, you can either follow a full-path course covering all of these or learn with different resources such as videos, books, and articles.

Self-taught or not?

First, what does “self-taught” mean? For example, learning online from home does not necessarily mean self-taught. The dictionary tells us:

“Who has learned by himself, without a teacher.”

The key word is “without a teacher”, which means that an online course with live lessons given by pro designers or even pre-recorded ones but with a mentor to help you are not really self-taught ways.

But I repeat: one does not prevent the other and this is especially true in UX/UI Design which is a fast-moving field. Even if you come out of a full-path course, you will spend time throughout your career learning new things on your own.

Generally, self-taught is more associated with someone that wants to build something and find the resources to learn how to do it. It’s what I call the “custom stack course” way because it consists of a stack of multiple resources for learning the skills in an order that suits your situation.

In the end, the choice will depend on your personality, goals, background knowledge, financial resources, and the time you can spend learning.

Pros and cons of the learning paths

So, you have four main choices to learn. To help you choose, here they are with, in my opinion, their pros and cons:

Conventional schools 🏠

Example: SCAD UX Design

  • What’s cool 👍

    • Stimulation of being in a group
    • Well-structured “all in one” training
    • Feedback and follow-up from professionals on your projects
    • Reassuring certification for some recruiters
  • What’s less cool ❌

    • There has to be room left
    • You often have to wait for access to open
    • Not always up to date on the latest techniques
    • You have to be close to the school and commute to it
    • Often the most expensive path
    • Few schools offer UX/UI Design classes
    • Can take longer time than self-taught (lessons on things you already know)

Online full-path courses (live) 🧑‍💻

Example: Memorisely

  • What’s cool 👍

    • Often cheaper than traditional schools
    • You can learn from anywhere
    • Stimulation of being in a group
    • Well-structured “all in one” training
    • Feedback and follow-up from professionals on your projects
    • Reassuring certification for some recruiters
  • What’s less cool ❌

    • There has to be room left
    • You often have to wait for access to open
    • Often more expensive than the below paths
    • You have to sync with the planning (which can be a problem if you have another activity)

Online full-path courses (pre-recorded) 🧑‍💻

Example: Interaction Design Foundation learning paths

  • What’s cool 👍

    • Often cheaper than live full-path courses
    • You can learn from anywhere
    • Start when you want and go at your own pace
    • Stimulation of being in a group (if the course has an online community)
    • Well-structured “all in one” training
    • (Depend on the course) Feedback and follow-up from professionals on your projects
    • (Depend on the course) Reassuring certification for some recruiters
  • What’s less cool ❌

    • Can be less up-to-date compared to live classes
    • Not always feedback from professionals
    • Often more expensive than custom stack courses

Custom stack courses 🔍

Examples: Online courses on specific topics, blog articles, books, etc.

  • What’s cool 👍

    • The cheapest way
    • You can learn from anywhere
    • Start when you want and go at your own pace
    • Get a personalized path based on your skills
    • Often more up-to-date with the theory and the techniques
  • What’s less cool ❌

    • Can be slower (if you get scattered in many resources)
    • Can be hard sometimes to stay motivated
    • No feedback from professionals other than asking online (depends on the source though)
    • No certification (also depends on the source, but a good portfolio counterbalances this point 😉 )

Should I really go for a certification?

Most full-path courses and obviously schools too will give you a certification as proof of completion. Some may say that it’s important, but I would tend to say that they don’t matter much in favor of the experience and a solid portfolio, and this is indeed what most recruiters will see first.

Some designers can come out of good design schools but be outdone by the savvy self-taught person, who learned online with the right resources and had the motivation to practice.

Time to choose

Ok, I think you have enough info to find your way. But if you are not sure which one to go, depending on your background, here is what I can recommend:

  • If you are a beginner (or have little UX/UI Design knowledge), have the required time to learn/practice, and want to work in UX/UI Design: I suggest the full-path course way.
  • If you come from a similar design field like graphic design and so, you already know common knowledge with UX/UI Design: I suggest either the custom stack course way (best if you already know a lot) or a full-path course that allows skipping parts you already know.
  • If you want to do UX/UI Design just for fun as a hobby: I suggest the custom stack course way.
  • If you are a developer (for example) and want to get some precise UX/UI knowledge: I suggest the custom stack course way.

What if you are not sure if UX/UI Design is for you?

In that case, before spending a consequent amount of time learning UX/UI Design, you’d better try it before. Here is what I recommend for that:

  • Watch some vlogs on YouTube about UX/UI Designer’s days (like this one or this one). Like so, along with this article, it will give you a more precise idea of what you’ll be doing.
  • Practice right away, not necessarily a complete project but rather small steps as presented here, so you’ll quickly know if you like it.

If after these two steps, you feel that you want to continue, choose your way of learning as outlined below:

1 - You choose the full-path course way

In short, you have many online services, I mentioned Interaction Design Foundation (IxDF) which is a goldmine with lots of UX and UI courses, and you have other ones depending on you preferences.

Go to the full-path courses list from my resources book, I’ve listed the best one according to me. You can then jump to part 5.

2 - You choose the “custom stack course” way

Continue reading ↓

Custom stack course: where to start?

Should you first start with theory or practice? Well, this is kind of a “chicken or egg first” dilemma question. Either is fine and will depend on your personality and knowledge background.

When we talk about learning styles, for me it’s like when someone buys a new device that he never used before, they are two types of people:

  • The one that will learn by trying and reading parts of the manual or check on Google when he can’t figure it out until he gets the device to do what he had in mind.
  • The one that will first read the manual and start using the device progressively as he continues reading.

We could add two more “extreme” cases of people that will either: try to memorize the entire manual before even pushing a button and on the opposite, the one that will never read it because he can “figure it out all by myself!”. As you can imagine, at least for UX/UI Design, both of these extreme paths are not to follow.

Start with a project

Generally speaking, when learning a topic, I think it’s best to start with a project in mind rather than learning just for the sake of it. Not saying it’s bad, but we generally learn better when we have a clear and tangible goal. So what I suggest is to pick a cool idea of an app or a website to work on along your learning journey.

In a nutshell:

💡 Project idea → 🤔 What do I need to know to make it real? → 💥 You’ve got a learning path

But what project? It could be a simple todo app tailored to your way of work, your future personal website, a calculator app for iPad, a better Instagram website (for desktop screens), etc. If you can’t find one, you have sites like Mobbin that can give you ideas.

Why do I insist on it? For these reasons:

  • You’ll be excited by it, thus keeping you more motivated to learn and you’ll have a first project for your portfolio.
  • It will shape your learning path because by working on it, you’ll come across blocking parts of knowledge that you will have to learn.

Also, beware of the “perfectionist” trap like “I will start a project when I’m completely ready on the theory side”. Spoiler: we are never “completely ready”, so pick a project and start your journey (I can tell because I tend to be like that 😉 ).

Identify what you need to learn

So you’ve got your project, now, I recommend outlining what you need to learn.

Depending on your background, you may, for example, have already a good understanding of colors but less on typography and layouts. Note them down, you can check the list of UX/UI skills on this article to be sure you miss nothing.

Then, from my book in the General UX/UI chapter, you’ll find resources to learn what you need on “Courses by topics”, “Books” and “Blogs”.

You can for example pick courses that cover what you need to learn from Interaction Design Foundation, combine them with some case studies from Growth Design and books like The Design Of Everyday Things and No Bullshit Guide to UX.

To fine-tune your list, start to work on your project, and the more you practice and observe, the more you’ll know which theory parts to focus on.

Learn and practice

And not only on your main project but also on shorter types of exercises listed here and the key here is to stay consistent. It’s indeed better to practice one hour a day, three to four times a week than four hours one day a week, this is well explained in the video “The habits of Effective Artists” that I present here.


I recommend, if for example, you picked a mobile app as your first project to do another one like a website, so you get to learn specific web design topics. Note that for some designers, web design is for web designers, not UX/UI Designers and well, it depends. Personally, I merged the two under UX/UI term.

5 - Keep up to date and collect inspiration

More than ever in this business, one of the keys to success is to keep up with new trends, new tools, new techniques, etc.

Among the most famous, you have Behance and Dribbble for inspirations and Muzli and Sidebar are among my favorite blogs. Personally, to keep up with inspirations I use Instagram, because by following the right accounts, we just have to scroll down every now and then to get a selected design inspiration feed.

It’s important to get “passively” inspired regularly, every day 10 min for example. See my book about the resources for the one I recommend.

How to collect inspirations?

Whether you use Instagram, blogs, or other sources, finding inspirations seen in the past, on the day of a project, can save you precious time (and as any CEO would say: time is money 💸 ). There are several ways and maybe you already have yours, but here is a summary of the ones I tested and the one adopted:

In folders on your machine

You just have to save the images in folders, which can be synchronized on a drive like Google Drive. This is the easiest way but not really the most optimal, because finding images in this case can take more time due to the simplicity of the explorer of your OS, and unlike Pinterest for example, they take up space on your machine.

On applications (Pinterest, Instagram, Behance and Dribbble)

All of these applications allow you to save the images you find in them. However, we are limited to their database and finding particular images among their collections is not so easy because their search functions are not very advanced. Moreover, it makes us juggle between several sites, not very optimal to manage our time. To make shared moodboards in a team on the other hand it’s not bad.

Dropmark and Raindrop

They are more like bookmark managers, but they are also, more or less, adapted to save your inspirations.


For me, the best solution to manage your inspirations and favorites in an optimal way 👍 .

Eagle is an application for macOS and Windows that offers many features to save, sort and find all types of inspirations (images, videos, music, etc.). They have a plugin for the most popular browsers that allows you to capture or save images with a single click.

I also use it as a bookmarks manager, because the browser plugin also has this possibility, and you can even manage multiple file formats such as Word or Photoshop.

I have written a full guide that introduces you Eagle and how to use it in an optimal way for UI Design inspiration management, check it out:

6 - Create yourself an online presence

Your online presence, or in other words your portfolio, is an important aspect of your job because: your portfolio is your resume. In other words, you can’t just write on your resume that you designed this application or that website, because for your future employer (or client in freelance), having only text in front of your eyes will be too ambiguous. Your job is visual and describing it only with words would be a shame, as the saying goes: “Show, don’t tell”.

It goes without saying that it must be digital. The paper portfolio is rather reserved for print designers, to stay in the mood, but most of the time, they also have it in digital version, much more useful to apply for a job by email than to send it by mail.

Maintaining your portfolio: a job in itself

Keep in mind that unlike other jobs, maintaining your portfolio is a job in itself to be done on your own time. I say “work” because most of the time, you will have to create a special layout, images, text, etc. for each project. Example on one of mine: AR Editor.

Personal site or community site?

You must know the most famous ones like Behance and Dribbble. Some designers choose to put their work only on these sites, others on a personal site and still others, on both. There is no perfect choice and it depends on you. That said, for me, it is better to put them on community sites, because it is easier to be discovered that way, the constraint being that you will have less freedom of layout than on a personal site. At the same time, this does not prevent you from making your own site, at least to centralize all the sites where you are present.

Note: Behance tends to be used to show and explain large-scale projects whereas Dribbble is more about small parts of projects or even concepts. You could compare them to Facebook where we usually make longer posts and Twitter, more concise ones.

Personally I recommend Behance and Dribbble. As I explain it here, using only Dribbble is not necessarily a good idea and for me, a good portfolio includes important projects like Behance and explorations like Dribbble.

What about social networks?

In any case I would say yes, you should have a presence there, at least on Instagram. After that it’s secondary for me but it all depends on your job. As a Freelancer for example, it may be wise to post your work there in addition to your portfolio (on Behance/Dribbble or your site) to reach more people and potential clients.

Apart from Instagram: Twitter why not, TikTok if you feel like it but it’s for me more targeted as a type of content and not necessarily adapted to show your work except of course “quick design” type content where you film the conception of a design. Facebook on the other hand, sorry Zuckerberg, but it’s not really “the place to be” anymore… (well who knows, in 10 years maybe everyone will have their portfolio in the metaverse 😎 )

Posting online, also useful to get feedback

In school you’ll get feedback from professionals but as a self-taught you’ll have to ask for it on communities like Reddit, hence the interest of posting your designs online.

7 - Understand and enter the professional world

Once you have an understanding of the principles of UX/UI Design, with some practice and the portfolio that comes with it, it’s time to put your new skills to use 💰 .

I advise you to read: Is it better to be a UX/UI Designer employee or freelance?, As an UX/UI Designer, how much can I earn? as well as these two articles:

Bonus: taking notes ✍️

Throughout your learning and career I strongly recommend documenting your knowledge and more generally anything that is important to you. It’s a good practice so you don’t have to rely on your memory alone, and in general it makes you remember things better. It also makes you practice writing documentation, which is a useful skill for example when writing design systems.

I personally use Notion which is a kind of advanced and flexible note-taking tool.

Conclusion 👋

I hope my articles have helped you to better understand UX/UI Design, it is an exciting field but as we have seen, rich and complex. Stay motivated, with patience and practice, you will succeed for sure.

To complete the article, I advise you to read this last one on the frequent questions in UX/UI Design. It’s a good complementary approach where I come back to things discussed in the previous articles with other words, as well as others I didn’t talk about:

And if you haven’t already, check out my free book on the best UX/UI Design resources.

The last word

Stay hungry, stay foolish" - Steve Jobs

By this sentence, the former Apple boss meant to stay open to try new things and to get out of your comfort zone. I think this is indeed a quality in any designer, because this is how he evolves and becomes better.

Doko Zero avatar

Doko Zero
UI Designer with UX and web development skills

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