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How Junior UX designers can get a real project experience for their portfolio with Glide

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The article demonstrates the steps I took to design a mobile application with a no-code tool to gain real experience

UX design is a very demanding job in today’s market. The demand is so high that we see many new boot camps opening and providing education with the basic UX skills for new UX professionals.

New user experience designers often face difficulties in finding a job, as most companies prefer to hire a senior UX designer rather than a junior UX designer. On Facebook and LinkedIn pages, it is quite common to find people asking “Where can I find a job as a UX designer with no prior experience?”

Image og fast wireframes sketching from design process
Fast wireframes sketching from a design process

My personal belief is that it is possible to begin as a junior designer but most companies don’t want to hire junior designers without experience because:

  1. They don’t have the time to invest in a junior designer and study them.
  2. They want to get value from the employees as quickly as possible..

If you want to get a job as a UX designer you must understand that it is possible but you need to improve your ux design skill and show it in your portfolio. Now the question is, how can I be a professional UX designer when companies don’t want to hire me? From where I can get experience that I can show in my portfolio? This is a great question and in this post, I will explain how you can study and get experience and confidence once you take ownership of your career and not wait for companies to give you the first chance.

On Facebook and LinkedIn pages, it is quite common to find people asking “Where can I find a job as a UX designer with no prior experience?”?

Improving your marketing and sales skills is as important as improving your design skills

I hear a lot of times from different designers of different levels from junior designers, senior designers, and everyone in between that your UX portfolio is most important to get hired as a user experience designer. In my opinion, there is a misconception about it and I don’t see it like this. From my perspective, it is important to improve your marketing and sales abilities, just as you do so for your design skills.

You want to be a professional, so improving your UX skills through continual training and practice is more than important, but you will do it by default since this is the most important aspect of your position.

It is now logical to ask, why is it important for me to develop my marketing and sales abilities, I am a designer. Why do I have to do it?
I think that this is a great question and from my standpoint, I believe that a designer today is one who not only needs to design but also needs to sell and market their ideas.

In the end, your UX portfolio is a tool that helps you sell yourself and your work to the organization you wish to work for. Studying how to sell and make marketing will help you to build your portfolio in a way that will be attractive to the hiring manager or the manager of the design team. More than that, if you know how to market and sell yourself, it can be helpful in an interview, in a home task presentation, or a whiteboard session.

Here I would like to point out that marketing and selling your ideas is an essential part of your job as a ux designer, not only to sell yourself to a company or a client. In each meeting, you will find yourself explaining and selling your ideas to your teammates (UX designers, UI designers, developers, product managers, QA testers).

In conclusion, remember that your portfolio is a product that helps you sell yourself to the company you wish to work for, and by improving your sales and marketing abilities, you will be able to understand how to do it more effectively.

In this post I will not go into detail about how to study it, I recommend reading books or viewing YouTube videos to begin learning it.

An illustration of a UX designer explaining his ideas to the team
A user experience designer must be able to sell their ideas during the process

A real project is better than a prototype

Typically a junior UX designer portfolio includes imaginary projects, such as applications for task organization, food delivery, or hotel booking.

The portfolio includes use cases with an explanation about the UX design process with user research, wireframes, and visual design elements such as typography and colors.

Sometimes the UX designer provides a link to a prototype so the hiring manager can feel the product to better comprehend the design. This is ok, but today a UX designer can build a real app without writing a code, it is possible because of the no-code applications.

If you do not know what no-code apps are, I will explain that they are applications where you can build an application with logic without writing a line of code, which means that you can build a whole product without code knowledge.

The real benefits of building a real app instead of a prototype are:

  • You can get real feedback from real users.
  • You can build the app for a business or someone who needs it so that you will have more confidence that your product works and you can learn from feedback.
  • By building an actual app you can grasp the logic behind it, which can be very useful when you will collaborate with developers in your future job.
  • If you include real work in your UX portfolio, the hiring manager can be more confident in your UX skills and abilities.

There is more than one no-code app in the market, among them Webflow, Bubble, Adalo, Bravo, and Glide that I personally like, among many others.

I am specialized in Design SASS B2B desktop applications, I am not a mobile ux designer

There is a common misconception that UX design falls under one category, but in reality, we have many specialized areas within the UX design field, and I am not referring to UX researchers, design system designers, or designOps, I mean more narrow than that.

User experience designers can have different specialties we can study and become masters at. For example, I have worked as a product designer for more than 7 years, but I am a specialist in SaaS-B2B desktop applications and design systems. A close friend of mine specializes in design applications for the finance industry.

If you give me the task of designing a mobile application, I will feel like a junior designer because I am not an expert in touch screens, I have never designed an app for touch screens, so I need to spend more time studying the interactions and components before beginning to design.

In comparison to software developers, I would say that developers who specialize in Python generally will not be familiar with Swift (Apple’s language of programming).

UX designers who are looking for jobs often do not realize that if their ux design portfolio contains only mobile applications, it can be challenging to get a job in a company with desktop products only.

Why I wanted to study mobile app design

As I mentioned in this article, for the majority of my career I have been designing desktop B2B products and building design systems, but I do not have experience with mobile applications.

There are two main reasons that I wanted to study the basics of touch screen interaction design and usability.

  • Since I work in a company that has apps that have different user experience design needs from desktop to mobile and tablet apps, I realized at some point I would have to design a mobile or tablet app, but I didn’t want to start working on them with no knowledge about its interactions. I preferred to study it by myself before I would need to do it, in that way I could start to design the app and not start from studying the basic interactions of touch screens.
  • Apart from that, I work as a UX design team leader and I’m aware that I must have the knowledge and be able to use it when a member of my team needs me. In other words, if I want to have a real impact on my team members I need to have an understanding of mobile applications and touchscreen. Being a team lead is impossible without helping and supporting other designers on the team.

You can get experience in designing mobile applications without writing code

As soon as I realized that I wanted to study ux design for mobile applications, I began to investigate how to achieve this objective.

Although I could design in Figma and build a prototype, I did not want to do so. I desired to study it and have experience with a real product so that I could feel the real interactions without spending time building a large prototype.

My main skill is not writing code, I am a designer, but it is possible to build real projects with no-code applications, so that’s what I chose to do.

What application I will design

The question was what application will I design to gain experience. Because I’m not familiar with all the mobile interactions and also with the Glide app, I wanted to build a simple application.

Children begin to walk and then run, in much the same way that I think when I study new things. I start from small, gain confidence, and grow.

I know I will become more proficient when I design more mobile applications, but my preference is, to begin with, smaller projects to gain confidence and learn the details.

I could design applications for myself like a to-do list but I wanted to design a real application and give it to users so I could see how people interact with the product and get value from it. In that way, I can get some feedback and understand the users, and study from errors. To be honest I was lucky because I found myself struggling with a digital menu in my favorite coffee shop in Malaga and below you can read a story.

The story

I have always enjoyed coffee, and more than that, I have always enjoyed good coffee. I can recall searching for high-quality coffee since I was a child.

A few years ago I moved from Barcelona to Malaga, a beautiful city in the south of Spain. Malaga has a small technology industry that keeps growing year after year, so I decided to work here. From the moment I arrived in Malaga, I was struck by the fact that there is a lack of places where I can drink a cup of quality coffee.

Last year, a couple that is passionate about coffee opened a coffee shop that specializes in high-quality coffee. The shop is called Next level Specialty coffee. After two years living in Malaga, I was quite elated to find a real coffee shop that serves great coffee. With time, I became a regular client in this coffee shop; sometimes I come there just for coffee and sometimes I also come for breakfast.

Several months ago, I went there to drink a coffee, and the owner told me that they have a new menu that I can view on my phone. The concept sounded great to me, so I used my smartphone to scan the QR code, but after a short time, while I realized the design was not clear, I could not understand the menu.

Firstly, the menu was in PDF format, so it was not responsive. But more than that, I had difficulties reading the menu, as it was not designed clearly. I closed the menu and asked the barista to prepare me a cappuccino with marmalade ​and butter on toast.

Upon returning home, I decided to design a new menu for them, so that I will have a real project and that they will have a new menu that will help them sell more.

Image of a coffee and cake from Next Level Specialty Coffee
Coffee and cake from Next level specialty coffee

Start the project and deliver the vale

I decided to start working on the menu without consulting the owners. I wanted to design the menu and deliver value to them right away. Generally speaking, I would say that it can be a risk since we need to conduct research or consult with our clients before designing any product.

In the case at hand, I didn’t do it because I am a client of the coffee shop, I am accustomed to the concept and I am familiar with the owners, so just by looking at the menu, I knew what the owners intended to communicate. It was difficult for them to design the menu since they are not designers, and I felt that I knew how to translate it.

I will put an important point here: If you’re a junior UX designer, it can be a risk to work this way because you might design something that doesn’t fit the client’s or user’s needs. Make sure you understand the client and the users. Therefore, I believe that it is usually better to talk to the client, do a full ux research, or only a user interview before you begin any project, as this will help you reach better conclusions.

Why do I choose to build the app in Glide?

While I could build the app in Webflow, Bubble, Bravo, and Adalo, I chose Glide due to three main reasons:

  1. My experience with the application was easy: I found the interface to be intuitive and easy to learn.
  2. Glide has a fantastic community, so I could look it up in the community when I had a question.
  3. Glide It is an app that focuses on the mobile app, and that was my aim, to build and study mobile apps.

There are a variety of no-code products out there and you should test them out and pick the one that you believe will benefit you most.

This is how I studied Glide

Studying Glide is relatively easy — there is a large amount of information available on the Internet. Aside from videos on YouTube and content from the company, you can also find a lot of information on the community. The members of the community are very active in the community, and you will find that many of them have asked the same questions in the past. It is therefore beneficial to search for information there.

My preferred method is to examine applications developed with Glide. You can duplicate for free on the website different types of applications ranging from restaurant menus to real estate applications. In this way, you may reverse engineer and study different aspects of the application, from the user experience design to the technical aspects.

Additionally, you can take an online course if you so desire. These can be found on Udemy and SkillShare.

Image of Glide app interface
Glide app interface

I am not an expert. I am on the way, so respect the process and accept mistakes

One of the things that junior designers think is that the ux design needs to be 100% from the first moment, but from my experience, it is not true, I believe that we gain quality and knowledge from the iterations and failures. It is not possible to know something from the first moment. just by making it again and again we can be masters.

It took me 48 hours to complete this project, I could have taken more time, but I preferred to set a deadline and complete the work within one weekend. I knew there may be errors in my design, but I believe it is better to ship the product and study it. Another way is to wait until everything is perfect, but in life, there is no perfect.

Adapting to the app’s limitations was another challenge. Below you can see an example of how I used the same icon for the English and Spanish menus. This is because Glide icons cannot be uploaded, and its library does not contain the icons I was searching for, so I used one general icon for both. It’s a UI error, but at the time that was all I had.

Professionals working on mobile applications may wonder why I use the tab bar to switch between the languages. The tab bars are an example of a mistake I discovered after I shipped the product to the coffee shop.

The menu should be available in two languages, Spanish and English. In the original design of the app, I used the bottom bar to switch between languages.

Then I discovered that I had made a mistake and I went to read some information in Apple Human Interface Guidelines and Google Material Design. Some information I found there was:

1.It is recommended to use between three and five tabs.

2. Destinations that must be accessible through the app from anywhere.

First, I had two tabs, and apart from that, I assumed the language would be the first thing the user would notice if they wanted to change it. As soon as the user changes the language, it does not need to stick in each place the user navigates. By doing so, I can save space on the screen. Then I spent two hours redesigning the app with the knowledge I had acquired.

The before and after image of the menu
The before and after image of the menu

As you can see the app is very small with no complex logic, And that is the way I prepare to work, make small things, study from it, and continue.

Mistakes and errors are part of the work and process, and we must embrace them and move forward.

In the past, I heard someone say to me, “it is not possible to wait for all the traffic lights to turn green before you start.”. I believe this phrase summarizes this paragraph well.

What the coffee shop owners said about the app

On Saturday morning I came to the coffee shop when all the clients enjoyed coffee with good vibes. The owner asked me what I wanted to drink and I said to him, one moment I will take a look at the menu.

As I showed him the app he was impressed and asked what it was. The app isn’t ours. I explained to him that I designed an application for the coffee shop because I thought I could improve the menu UX design.

Screenshots of the app interface
Screenshots of the app interface

A few days after we met, I duplicated the application so they could change details or images as they wished. I must say that one of the biggest advantages of Glide is that it’s integrated with Google Sheets which makes it so easy for people who are not very technical to work on it and make changes.

The week after they started using the new menu, I went to the coffee shop and asked if the new menu had any impact on clients’ experience. They said that people are interacting with it and they feel that sales have increased as a result.

I must say that one of the biggest advantages of Glide is that it’s integrated with Google Sheets which makes it so easy for people who are not very technical to work on it and make changes.

It made me happy because I was able to assist people, whom I greatly appreciate their great products.

For those of you in Malaga or interested in seeing the place, you can look at their Instagram account.

Image of Glide app spreadsheet interface
Glide app spreadsheet interface

Where can you find a project?

If you don’t any idea how you can find an idea for a project here I mention some ideas:

  1. Look for a business that you feel you can help (just as I did with the coffee shop in Malaga).
  2. Identify a problem that you think an app could solve for you (task management, recipe listing, etc…).
  3. Ask your friends which applications they would like to have.
  4. Consider re-designing an application that you think could be improved.
  5. Explore challenges at

If you feel that this technique is difficult for you and creating a prototype is more appropriate to your skill level, do not use this technique.

https://medium.com/media/45913d902ecf3f58524946893b6fd6fb/href

When not to use the technique described in this post

I wish to emphasize an important point regarding ability.

Some junior ux designers may think the following after reading this post: I have a recipe for making something different and sharing it as a real project in my portfolio.

I agree with you but:
If you are new to the ux design field, you must ensure you understand the basics. Apart from the ux design skill that can be challenging for the first time, studying Glide is also an effort and can be over your skills and understanding.

If you feel that this technique is difficult for you and creating a prototype is more appropriate to your skill level, do not use this technique.

Please don’t run before you study to walk. As you become more skilled, you will be able to make a real project using the technique described here with ease.

In any case, I wish you the best of luck on your portfolio building and the job searching process🤞

The menu template

In order to make it as accessible as possible to everyone, I plan to upload the template to the Glide community. In the meantime, you can take a look at the template here.

I hope this article will help you. Feel free to share it with your friends or team members, and if you have any questions, feel free to share them with me.


How Junior UX designers can get a real project experience for their portfolio with Glide was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.