#16 UX Resource Map: a holistic perspective on UX resources to help aspiring to-be-UX designers

There’s so much out there, I don’t even know where to start.

This is how you feel when you want to become a UX designer and want to make the first move. I know, it’s overwhelming, right? We now live in a world of information overload, which gives us information anxiety.

This UX Resource Map will help you understand what resources are currently available and what path may be the right fit for you, so that you can make an informed decision appropriate for your current needs moving forward to become a UX designer.

Obviously, the lists here are not exhaustive by any means, but it should give you a birds-eye-view to get started with your own research and journey.

UX resources are roughly grouped into these 5 categories:

  1. College degree programs
  2. Bootcamps
  3. Online courses
  4. Books
  5. Blogs

Cost vs. time

The chart below shows how these 5 categories are compared relative to each other in “cost vs. time” plain.

Cost vs. time: how college programs, bootcamps, online courses, blogs and books position
Cost vs. time: how college programs, bootcamps, online courses, blogs and books position

College degree programs are the most expensive with longer timelines typically 2–4 years.

Bootcamps are the next expensive category, typically taking between 12 weeks to 2 years.

Books typically cost somewhere between $10-$50, and take a day to a week to read through.

Online courses vary from a few minute courses to 30 minutes, 60 minutes courses, some with multiple videos.

Blog articles are typically 1–10 minute read depending on the length and depth of the topic.


Cost vs. structured information

Cost vs. structured information: how college programs, bootcamps, online courses, blogs and books position
Cost vs. structured information: how college programs, bootcamps, online courses, blogs and books position

Especially from UX starter’s perspective, whether the information is well structured or not is critical when choosing a resource. At a high-level, the more you pay, the more structured information that you will get overall.

Obviously, with college degree programs, which have 2–4 year time frame with relatively expensive tuition, you will get the most structured information.

Bootcamps also gives you a fairly well structured information, focusing on practical skills including technical aspects, rather than theory and academic research.

Books are generally well structured within itself, but because each book focuses on its own specific topic, you need to pick many books and structure those by yourself to have a decent coverage of the basics.

Blogs are similar to books, except each blog article tends to be more polarized, and less structured in general.


Cost vs. comprehensiveness

Cost vs. comprehensiveness: how college programs, bootcamps, online courses, blogs and books position
Cost vs. comprehensiveness: how college programs, bootcamps, online courses, blogs and books position

As for comprehensiveness, it is similar to structured information.

College degree programs with 2–4 year timeline offer the most comprehensive information.

Bootcamps in general have fairly comprehensive coverage overall, focusing on the practical aspect. But because of this practical focus, some bootcamps stresses the importance of becoming a “full-stack UX designer” a bit too much. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t aim for this especially as a UX starter. And in reality, most UX designers are not expected to work as a “full-stack designer”.

Most of online courses lack comprehensiveness, and only scratches the surface primarily with high-level theory lectures. Those are good general overview knowledge primarily for just to get a sense of the topic.

Books could be comprehensive in terms of its focused area, but each book is focused on a specific area, and it’s challenging to get a comprehensive coverage of UX basics just through books only.

Blogs are the least comprehensive resources. By nature, that’s not what blogs are meant for anyway. Blogs are for very specific opinions on very specific topics based on the author’s perspective, some of which are very informative, insightful and useful.


Cost vs. practicality

Cost vs. practicality: how college programs, bootcamps, online courses, blogs and books position
Cost vs. practicality: how college programs, bootcamps, online courses, blogs and books position

When you take a look at practicality, bootcamps are the most practical resources among these 5 categories in general.

Bootcamps are intended to focus on practical skills so that their graduates can get jobs. For this reason, they also put emphasis on technical skills too.

On the other hand, college degree programs don’t necessarily focus on practicality. It focuses more on students’ pursuit of their particular interests deeply and academically. For that reason, some of their curriculums may not necessarily be the most up-to-date.

Some blogs may have practical stories based on the author’s real world experiences, which could be very informative.

Books vary depending on the author’s approach, intent and the background. But in general, it tends to be more on the theoretical side, partially due to its format limitations.

Many existing online courses tends to get theoretical with lecture style, which focuses more on high-level theories. Some of the reasons for this is because in order to get concrete and practical, you need to show case studies in-depth, which are typically not possible due to copyright and confidentiality issues.


Cost vs. pace flexibility

Cost vs. pace flexibility: how college programs, bootcamps, online courses, blogs and books position
Cost vs. pace flexibility: how college programs, bootcamps, online courses, blogs and books position

When it comes to whether you can learn at your own pace or not, college degree programs and bootcamps put you into their calendar structure such as semesters. So at a high-level, you need to work in a forced-pace environment, even though there may be some flexibility in terms of duration to complete a course, whether in 2 semesters or 3 semester, 1.5 year or 2 year, for example.

On the contrary, online courses typically allows you to proceed at your own pace, which gives you more flexibility and control over your time management.

As for books and blogs, it’s completely up to you as to how fast or slow you read through.


Cost vs. collaboration opportunity

Cost vs. collaboration opportunity: how college programs, bootcamps, online courses, blogs and books position
Cost vs. collaboration opportunity: how college programs, bootcamps, online courses, blogs and books position

Collaboration is an important part of a UX designer’s work. In most projects, you will be working as part of a team, which means you do need to collaborate with other team members.

College degree programs and bootcamps both offer good collaboration opportunities typically in form of team projects. These provide many chances for you to be immersed in a group environment working with your peer students on a project. The current limitation is that these team projects typically don’t have members from different disciplines such as engineering or project management.

However, some very few bootcamps may give you an opportunity to work with engineers.

Online courses, books and blogs don’t offer collaboration opportunities primarily due to their format limitations. Online courses and blogs could potentially allow participants and readers to exchange comments via message boards.


UX related colleges in the U.S., cost vs. time

Numbers and links are all subject to change, whenever listed institutions make any changes on their end.
Numbers and links are all subject to change, whenever listed institutions make any changes on their end.

While this is not an exhaustive list, it covers some of the most well known programs in the U.S. relevant to the field of UX. As you can see, college degree programs are very expensive, ranging from $48K to over $200K. As for the duration of programs, in general, undergraduate programs are typically 4 year long, while graduate programs are typically 2 year long with some exceptions.

UX related college programs ranges from HCI (Human Computer Interaction), interaction design to digital media. At the moment, college degree programs are relatively more respected compared to UX bootcamp certificates, as it is a huge commitment for anyone to go through 2–4 year program with substantial investment.

If you can afford that kind of money and time, and would like to take a long shot devoting yourself deep into learning, pursuing a college degree program could be the right fit for you.

As for graduate programs, many people apply after having some real world work experiences.

Some people get accepted by these graduate programs even though coming from different backgrounds.


UX bootcamps in North America, cost vs. time

Numbers and links are all subject to change, whenever listed institutions make any changes on their end.
Numbers and links are all subject to change, whenever listed institutions make any changes on their end.

Compared to college degree programs, bootcamps are relatively less expensive and shorter. The cost ranges from $400 to $58,000, and durations range from 4 week to 2 year.

Bootcamps have become popular in the past several years. Even though it’s relatively less expensive compared to colleges, it’s still quite an investment, so you need to be careful before making a full commitment.

Bootcamps typically market themselves with very strong messages, some of which could be misleading. Some of their most typical marketing message is that “once you complete their course, you are fully ready to take a full-time UX designer position and start earning big money.”

But you need to be careful about this so that you don’t get the wrong expectation. You should not expect just riding on their program without making any serious effort on your end will automatically get you what they promise in their marketing message.

At the end of the day, it comes down to how much serious effort that you put in during the course, and continue your effort even after the course.

Because just completing a bootcamp program will not turn you into an experienced UX designer all of the sudden. Your learning continues.


UX related books

Illustration of books

Free UX online resources

A laptop showing a web page

UX online forums

Illustration of text bubbles representing online forums

UX designer’s journey — college path

Illustration showing a person taking a college path to become a UX designer

If you can afford money and time, and want to take a log shot immersing yourself deep into learning, college path could be a good fit for you. It will give you a great opportunity and resources for you to leverage. You will have a chance to work on team projects with peer students, which is a great way to get used to collaboration setup. Internship opportunities are another great advantages that you could get from college degree programs. Internship allows you to get a real world experience while you are still a student. It could also open up a potential to get a full-time position upon graduation, if the company really likes you and if you like the company.

Some of the possible down sides are that the program could be a bit too academic, could lack practicality.

Another thing to keep in mind is that most programs put UX in a vacuum, and don’t cover how UX is positioned in a larger product team including engineers and project managers.

But at the end of the day, it all comes down to how much effort that you can put in. The more you put in, the more you will get out of it.

Also, keep in mind that just taking a college degree program and completing will not turn you into an experienced UX designer all of the sudden. And this is not the end of your journey learning about UX. It is just the beginning. Your journey continues.

College path example journey maps (based on true stories)

Example 1:

College path journey map example 1
College path journey map example 1

Example 2:

College path journey map example 2
College path journey map example 2

Example 3:

College path journey map example 3
College path journey map example 3

UX designer’s journey — bootcamp path

Illustration of a person taking UX bootcamp path to become a UX designer

If your budget and timeline are more limited, but still can afford $10,000+, bootcamps could potentially be a good fit for you. If you already have a graphic design background for example, that would make something like a bootcamp a good fit for you, because in that case you already have a design foundation to build on top of.

Similar to college programs, bootcamps offer team project opportunity, where you can work with your peer students on a project.

Some of the possible down sides are that many bootcamps tend to have a hyped marketing message around “how you can immediately earn a big money right after graduating their courses” which is not necessarily true. This caused some mixed opinions about bootcamp graduates among company’s hiring managers.

Another thing to keep in mind is that most programs put UX in a vacuum, and don’t cover how UX is positioned in a larger product team including engineers and project managers. But there are some bootcamps that allows you to collaborate with engineers.

There are quite a few discussion around whether bootcamps are worth the money. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to how much effort that you can put in. The more you put in, the more you will get out of it.


UX designer’s journey — self-taught path

Illustration of a person taking self-taught path to become a UX designer

Now there are certain people who can go with self-taught, independent path.

If you have a strong passion, will and persistency, this is a good way for you to structure your path in any way that you want even if you have a limited budget. But it definitely requires a lot of energy, effort, and trials and errors.


UX designer’s journey is a continuous learning

Illustration showing a journey of a UX designer

Whatever path you take, keep in mind that UX designer’s journey is not like choosing one resource and it’s all set. If you choose to take a college degree program, that’s great, but completing college program is not the end. Your journey continues. The same thing with bootcamp, or any other path.

Whatever you choose to do, put in as much effort that you can. By doing so, your thought process kicks in. Once it kicks in, it’s like starting an engine of your car, and it will take you further and further to the next level.

UX designer’s journey is a continuous learning. That’s what’s exciting about being a UX designer. The field of UX is still new, and it’s constantly evolving and expanding. Great UX designers enjoy this continuous learning.

If you are a type of person who can absolutely enjoy the learning process, and have all the traits shown below, becoming a UX designer is the right fit for you, and will give you an amazing experience.

Great UX designer’s traits shown in a diagram with inter-connections
Great UX designer’s traits

The above diagram shows 12 traits that great UX designers typically have.

In order to become a successful UX designer, it’s important that you possess these traits. As you can see in the diagram, many of these traits are interconnected with each other. Take a look at each trait, and see how many traits you think you have!

Are you ready to take your next step?

Good luck with your journey, and thank you for reading!

Illustration showing a journey of a UX designer is continuous learning

UX Resource Map is created by Ryu Sakai, who is passionate about helping to-be-UX designers find their ways to succeed.

This article was originally published on Medium in UX Collective on June 30, 2019.

To get the updated version, download a PDF here.


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