Getting Started in UX

Two weekends ago the much anticipated Fluxible, the party disguised as a UX conference descended on downtown Kitchener.

It was a jam packed two days of workshops, talks, and of course, partying (and some epic fail Rock Band playing by yours truly). It is interestingly, an exercise in user experience, as every aspect of the conference is thoroughly considered, tested, and designed with the attendees in mind. It was also an amazing opportunity to learn about User Experience as a profession.

For those who are just starting to consider a career in User Experience, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. Does human behaviour fascinate you?
  2. Do you enjoy learning about the how and why people engage with things, and what makes that experience a positive one?
  3. Do you have a passion for easier, more intuitive experiences?
  4. Do you frequently get frustrated by poorly designed experiences where you question why the person who designed it hates humanity?

Did you answer ‘yes’ to all these questions? Congratulations! User Experience may be the field for you. So…now what?

Dr.  Jill Tomasson Goodwin, professor of the University of Waterloo’s Digital Arts Communications faculty and one of the Felt Lab’s UX experts has compiled a list of specific readings to get you started on your User Experience journey:

User Experience Design

Smashing Magazine – What is User Experience Design? Overview, Tools and Resources
UX Magazine – From Industrial Design to User Experience
Pleasure & Pain – 10 Most Common Misconceptions About User Experience Design

eLearning and UX Design

eLearning Industry – User Experience Design and e-Learning: A Conversation with Julie Dirksen
Usable Learning – Design for How People Learn
UX Magazine – Say Hello to Learning Interface Design


Cooper – Kim Goodwin – Perfecting Your Personas
Information Today – Alison J. Head – Personas: Setting the Stage for Building Usable Information Sites
Alan Cooper – The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High–‐Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity (book)

Narrative Storyboards/Context of Use Scenarios

Saul Greenberg, Sheelagh Carpendale, Nikolai Marquardt, Bill Buxton – Sketching User Experiences: the Workbook (book)

Further Sources

Now that you’ve gotten an overview of the industry, here are some further sources you should routinely follow for industry specific information. These blogs and learning sites feature tips and tricks on user experience research, design, user interfaces, UX reviews and recommended tools for UX designers.

Online Resources


There are a ton of resources, and the great people at UX Mastery generously put a list of 100+ Awesome UX tools for UX designers, which you can catch here.

Local UX Support for Waterloo Region

There are several local groups, conferences, and associations you can get involved with so that you can make connections, learn from your peers, and stay current in your field. These include:

UX Waterloo

A meet-up group that meets once a month at varying locations lead by our own resident expert Mark Connelly, and Robert Barlow-Busch, both V.P.s of UX at Boltmade. Each meet-up is different: some get hands-on with UX specific tools, others are talk backs from relevant case studies, and some are relaxed pub nights which turn out to be great networking opportunities. Either way, it’s always a good time.

Fluxible – A UX Party Disguised as a Conference

This annual conference held in September is frequently sold out weeks in advance because it is widely considered to be one of the best conferences on the topic. Not only is it a great opportunity to hear from experts in the field from companies such as Facebook, Apple, and Google, but it’s also a great opportunity to connect with hundreds of other working professionals in your field.

Oh, and added benefit? It’s super fun.

Boltmade Meet-ups

A local software consulting firm, Boltmade is a leader in combining User Experience with software development. They are also generous enough to open their offices to offer free sessions to the public.  They also host and/or sponsor a lot of Waterloo Region UX events.

The Felt Lab

Having two leaders and educators in the field of UX as advisers to the lab, and working in anti-disciplinary teams where you will have the chance early on to develop these skills hands-on is potentially the best possible way of learning how to be a User Experience Designer.

If you’re a student at UW, Laurier, or Conestoga College and would like to get involved with the Felt Lab, feel free to fill out our Student Application form.