How to become a UI/UX designer and Figma for beginners

Hi! My name is Alina Rakhimova, and I'm a teacher at Beetroot Academy and co-author of the UI/UX design course. I want to share my story, insights, and tips for those wishing to start a career. I will answer the questions that students most often ask me about UI/UX design. So make yourself comfortable and get ready to take notes!

When did you first get the idea to engage in UI/UX design?

— I worked at Wizardry for a long time, where I grew to become an art director, but I only created web design. I dug into UI/UX and mobile design when I got bored making websites.

How did I start my career? After graduating from university, I wanted to try design because I have been drawing well since childhood. At first, I started working in interior design, then went to the printing industry as a graphic designer. I ruined an order for a good amount of money by making a mistake in a word, so switching to working as a web designer looked like a better idea. That's a short story, but it took me 3 years and a month's salary to find the profession I needed. If there had been designing courses in 2009, I would have found what I wanted to do much sooner.

At first, I was gaining knowledge on my own, which was freely available on the Internet. But in 2016, self-study was no longer enough to grow in my work, so I enrolled in courses. First, I took the UI Digital communications design course, then art direction at the School of visual communication, and realized it was much faster!

Web designers can be graphic designers or developers who have acquired enough skills to create a good website or application. 

UX design stands for user experience design and is usually the invisible or “behind the scenes” side of design. This is all the work that goes into creating an application, website, software, or service. UX design includes user research and design, information architecture, interaction design, and usability testing.

UI design stands for user interface design, which is the design's visual or graphic side. Some UX designers also do UI, but others limit themselves to research and wireframes.

What was the most difficult thing about your new profession?

— For me, it was difficult to draw up questionnaires and prepare for an in-depth interview because I worked more on the visual part. But each time, I got better and better at it.

Surveys are a research method widely used in various fields, including user research in interface design.

A survey is good because it doesn't require moderation and can be sent to many people, giving you statistically significant results.

A survey, like other research, is conducted to obtain data about the user. There are two types of data: quantitative and qualitative.

An in-depth interview is a qualitative research method that involves conducting intensive one-on-one interviews with a few respondents to discover their viewpoints on a particular program, service, or development.

For example, we may ask participants, staff, and others associated with the program about their experiences and expectations related to the service and what they think about the processes and outcomes of their interactions with the program.

And what was easy?

— The whole visual part and understanding of the process.

A few words for those who are taking their first steps into the design career:

  • Be bold and start from scratch – you will always get results; the main thing is to start!
  • Choose an area of interest (user interface design, mobile application design, web design, game design) – study your chosen profession, and decide what is closer to you.
  • Gather all the necessary information on your chosen field (books, websites, videos, social media groups, and look for information wherever possible).
  • Now that you have collected a lot of information, it is important to avoid drowning in it. Make a study plan. Otherwise, you will randomly rush from the book to the website, from the website to the video to social media, and miss something essential. Be sure to set deadlines. Otherwise, you may need more time for your self-study. 
  • Stick to your plan and deadlines. If it's hard to concentrate, or you get confused by a lot of information, pick a course and not waste time.

In the job descriptions, one of the requirements is to be proficient in Figma. Why this particular tool? Please tell us.

— Figma is the most popular graphic editor in the world for creating design projects. It's easy to learn, there's a free version, and most importantly, you can work on collaborative projects in Figma. Figma has become an integral part of my workflow, like my third hand.

How do you usually use Figma?

— I define the main theme and styles (colors, typography, etc.). If I use certain design elements more than twice, I turn them into Figma components. I use frames and the Auto Layout feature to create a logical hierarchy for layouts and design elements. I use plugins for prototyping. I customize and test the prototype. I understand that these words sound like killer whales singing for beginners, but all this is an important part of the designers' work, which is easier to do in Figma.

Figma has a lot of advantages:

  • Firstly, it is teamwork in one project, as well as access to the project not only for designers but also for all other team members; 
  • Figma has an intuitive interface;
  • Figma is constantly introducing useful features for designers; 
  • There is no need to store all the variants of one file on your computer; all of them, including different versions, will be freely available on the cloud;
  • Figma is great for designing a mobile app, “playing around” with it, and testing it;
  • All projects can be easily transferred from other programs without losing fonts, images, and curves.

Please share your working practices at Figma.

— I recommend creating components and Variants as often as possible. If an element appears two or more times in my file, I turn it into a component. Using components, I can change something in one place and instantly see how the same component will look on other frames. It also makes my file more organized and easier to work with.

If you're not using Auto Layout yet, I recommend taking the time to understand how it works – it's well worth it. This functionality helps you create flexible, scalable designs and brings the design process as close as possible to how developers implement our projects.

Hotkeys are love at first sight. They speed up the designer's work several times over.

How do you stay updated with new features and best practices in Figma?

— I am subscribed to Figma's YouTube channel, where I receive instant notifications about new features in the program. I really like working in Figma because the software is constantly updated and releases useful functionality that simplifies my work. If you build your workflows correctly, Figma only helps to speed them up.

In your opinion, what are the key factors to consider when creating a design with Figma?

— Organizing projects, files, and layers using components, Auto Layout, styles, learning, and new features from Figma.

How should a beginner start learning Figma?

— I started with planning and structure when I learned Figma from scratch. I also found consistent lessons for beginners on YouTube (there are many of them now), which I followed. Repeat after the video tutorials. It doesn't matter what website, landing page, banner, or business card. The main task is to learn Figma to the maximum and get the hang of it. If you see a beautiful landing page, repeat it one by one. This way, you will remember how good solutions are created. You will have mastered the basic level of understanding and working in Figma. But if you want to move further, taking a course is better. This way, you will progress much faster in your studies. Mentors will help you and share their advice. Plus, you will have a portfolio ready at the end of the course. All materials can be found on the Figma channel.

3 things about design that you wish you had known earlier?

  • Learning design on your own is very long and difficult.
  • Focus on quality, not quantity (in a portfolio, in a project, in the process of work, in life)
  • That good design is thought out to the smallest detail.
If you learn UI/UX design, keep going, and you will reach your goal! I know how difficult it is to study and start working in this field, especially in difficult times.

Enroll in the UI/UX design course at Beetroot Academy to make your professional growth faster.

Alina Rakhimova
UI/UX design teacher
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