Learning UX design is a marathon, not a sprint.
If you’re reading this guide, then it’s likely that your interest in UX has tipped past the point of browsing free UX resources. You’re ready to invest in UX education.
In this post, I’ll specifically cover the three learning modalities of UX Books, UX Courses and UX Bootcamps.
The main takeaway: leverage your learning style to make faster progress learning UX.
By the end of this post you’ll get a sense of which method fits your learning style the most, helping smooth the path of your journey into UX.
📚 UX Books
|Low||Low||Self-guided. Requires active reading.|
The benefit of reading UX books is that the information is easy to skip around – you can flip to whatever chapter you’re interested in. With a physical copy, you can “personalize” your learning by jotting down notes and annotating in the margins.
UX books also tend to provide more nitty-gritty details – more detail than you might find in a video that’s trying to be concise and engaging.
Sometimes a lot of the gems can be found in the precise pages of books. From exactly how to write a testing script, or how to run a competitive audit.
That’s why UX courses often reference material from UX books.
The drawback of reading UX books is that it’s generally a less engaging format. It’s self paced and there’s no one to hold you accountable to the material.
Recommendations for learning with UX books
If you’re a bookworm, then this one’s easy – roll on over to the recommended UX reading list and get your learning on.
As of this writing, there’s hundreds of UX books on Amazon. I recommend the top UX books by category here.
I’d start with a foundational book that covers user experience in general like The Elements of User Experience and A Project Guide to UX Design. Then as you get a sense of it dive into specific niches of UX like user research and interface design.
But…if you already know you hate reading books, then don’t make the journey hard for yourself. Skip on over to UX Courses or UX Bootcamps.
💻 UX Courses
|Low – medium||Medium||Self-guided. May be passively consumed.|
Do you find yourself absorbing information much faster when watching Youtube, TED talks or video lectures? There’s a good chance that UX courses fit your learning style.
Because there’s such variability in how courses are defined, the advice here is focused on a-la-carte courses covering individual UX topics like UI design, user research or How to build a UX portfolio.
The benefit of UX courses is that they can feel less like manual “work” than reading. Watch or listen to a video passively and let your brain take in the information.
Courses can range in the levels of interactivity, such as quizzes to test your knowledge, or templates that you can use in your work.
The drawback of UX courses is that only 5-15% of students complete online courses, according to one source. While some formats like cohort-based learning can experience much higher completion rates, I think the low completion rates come from lack of accountability.
Some UX courses also lack detail (as aforementioned) found in UX books.
Another nit-picky drawback is that sometimes you just don’t vibe with a certain instructor’s voice, style of teaching or individual quirks. If you’re sensitive to this, watch previews before you buy a UX course.
Recommendations for learning with UX courses
- Go in with the right mindset to finish the course, or at least complete the major sections of the course
- Do know that you can skip around the course and don’t necessarily have to do everything in order.
- What’s worked for me: Set aside an entire weekend to blitz through a video course. Most courses are under 5 hours, and I find that “bingeing” on educational content for a short amount of time makes the content stickier for me sometimes than trying to break it up into 30 min/day. There are so many distractions in a day.
There’s countless UX courses out there, but I’ve managed to filter down to 25 UX courses broken down into 5 categories. Check ‘em out.
🥾 UX Bootcamps
If you’re dead-set on a UX career and want hands-on guidance, take an immersive UX Bootcamp. User experience bootcamps like General Assembly, Springboard and CareerFoundry all provide solid curriculums along with support from instructors and mentors.
The drawback? UX bootcamps are among the costliest options in terms of UX education – except if you opt for a 4 year university degree. Decent UX bootcamps cost at least a few thousand dollars, and require months of study and hard work.
For those same reason, UX bootcamps are also one of the most effective educational options for career transitioners. Bootcamps are the most immersive, guided learning experiences and often have resources to help their students – from career coaching to alumni support networks.
Recommendations for learning with UX courses
- Preview the bootcamps and ask to see the curriculum up front
- Connect with other people who’ve taken the bootcamp and ask about their experience
- If you haven’t been able to find the time, focus or guidance with self-guided learning, then choose the most immersive bootcamp with access to instructors and TAs. It will make a huge difference in your learning.
Out of the many UX bootcamps out here, check out UXBeginner’s top bootcamp picks – ranked and reviewed.
UX learning options compared
Most of you reading this have the goal of breaking into UX. And ideally, the shortest path into a UX design role.
|UX Books||UX Courses||UX Bootcamps|
|Cost||Low||Low – Medium||High|
|Guidance||Low guidance||Some guidance||Most guidance|
I’m going to be blunt and just say that only a tiny fraction of career transitioners are true “do it yourself” (DIY) types who can stitch together their own curriculum from short courses, books and free resources online. It’s completely possible and it takes a ton of self initiative and hustle.
If you consider yourself a hacker in this way, you the buck stops at the plenty of free resources you can get on this site: UX podcasts, UX articles, UX book recommendations and UX courses. You probably don’t need to drop $$$ on a bootcamp.
Reality check – that’s not most of us.
If you’ve been stuck in your progress, it’s time to step up your commitment level. You’ll know this is true if you’ve seriously been thinking about getting into UX for 3 months or more, but haven’t really made progress. (The effort should feel like a sustained, high level of stress and excitement).
What does higher level commitment look like? It might be spending more money on that UX course you’ve been eyeing. Or really saying “fuck it, I’ll do a bootcamp” and set the intention and focus for it. Or hire a UX career coach if you need a custom career plan.
With all that said, Wherever you are in your journey, remember – you’ll be fine. Everything good comes with time.