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I am an absolute beginner to UX. I've been doing lots of reading and I'm taking a course for Human-centered Design on Coursera. I've even joined up with a meetup group of UX designers. I've got background in business analysis (recent), and graphic design (almost 20 years ago).

I'm ready to get my hands dirty, but I'm not sure how to do a mock project for UX design. Look for a friend or family member who wants to do a website or app? Should I just do my own, even if I don't expect to actually have it coded in the end? A mock-project?

Any insight would be much appreciated!

Thanks! Marie

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While it's great to work on a project from scratch UX is also applicable to existing apps and websites.

Honestly, wherever you find bad UX you can make a practice project from it.

If you're looking for something for your portfolio then the important thing is not necessarily what project you choose to work on but how you document your work. As long as you can demonstrate correct use of UX principles, a good understanding of the UX process, valid conclusions and wireframes or even mock-ups to demonstrate the end product of your work, then your portfolio will work.

You may even be able to go back and demonstrate these skills in projects you've completed in the past - Take a project where you feel you have demonstrated some UX skills/principals and write it up as a case study.

Bad UX is everywhere. Ever since I first starting working in UX (almost a decade ago) I have found myself frustrated by door handles, lift interfaces, automated checkouts, road layouts... the list goes on - plenty of material for projects.

I would suggest breaking things down so that you're not launching into an entire project - think about small projects: quantitative research, qualitative research, wire-framing, user journeys, rapid prototyping... do lots of short limited projects until you feel like you've got the hang of that particular task. One of my personal favourites is the 'OK' button: OSX places the 'OK button to the left of a row of buttons where Windows places it to the right. Which, if any, is correct and why? - You may even find your own personal preferences lead you to looking for particular roles.

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  • THAT IS AWESOME! Thank you for the insight, Andrew! I really appreciate it! – Marie Williams Jul 6 '16 at 11:30
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I will point you to an article that Jared Spool wrote. https://articles.uie.com/ux_practicing/ In it, he says that doing side projects is not considered practice. You will be focused primarily on the deliverable more so than the skill building itself. I think that practicing involves making mistakes and learning from them quickly through feedback loops. It is rarely accepted to make mistakes in a project-based setting. While he does make a good point, I still think gaining UX experience is also important. You should partner with a mentor and work on practicing UX skills with them. Then, work closely with them on a project. This way you can get feedback to let you know if you are on the right track or if there is a better way to achieve the results you are looking for. There are hard skills and soft skills in UX. In my opinion, the soft ones are the hardest to learn by yourself. As you are gaining your UX experience, I suggest writing everything you learn from your projects in a blog or journal. E.g. why did we decide to do this? what were the alternatives? This will make you much more likely to get the job or gig you are looking for.

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  • THAT was an amazingly insightful article, thank you for sharing it! Lots of great ideas from both these answers! THANKS! – Marie Williams Jul 3 '16 at 2:41
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The above is all very valid. But I don't think personal works are a waste of time for a newbie. You could, for example, take a well-known site/app with a less-than-stellar customer experience (iTunes, looking at you!), create a critique of the app and then do rough wireframes of some possible solutions. This will show critical thinking about a real world case (even if it's not yours). Low fidelity wires would be fine for this. Take an existing highly-used app and come up with a good additional feature and wireframe that out. Would you remove something else to add it? Write up a defense for your change to the UI. Etc. You have to start somewhere! I followed a similar path from print design to UX...

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