28 || September || 2022
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How to become a product designer
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Have you ever downloaded an app or visited a product website and thought, “Wow! These are some beautifully designed pages and buttons?” I definitely had that thought after Flutterwave launched their re-designed website a few months ago. Product designers are the goated in these ecosystem streets. From Aderinsola at Eden to Osemudiamen at Big Cabal Media, I stan exceptional designers who know how to take a product from meh ? to wowza ?
In today’s edition of Entering Tech, we will share most of what you need to become a product designer and land your dream design job at a technology company.
by Koromone Koroye and Timi Odueso.
Tech trivia questions
Some trivia before we begin. Answers are at the bottom of this newsletter.
Who is a product designer?
What app or website do you spend most of your time on?
TikTok? Netflix? Maybe even OnlyFans? ?
Take TikTok for example: the average user spends about 52 minutes per day on the app, and 90% of users visit the app daily. Why? Because they enjoy it. Using the app is pleasant and enjoyable.
Product designers are the reason you enjoy apps like TikTok. They’re also the reason why you may dislike other apps.
Product designers use imagination and empathy to design products that users find easy and delightful to use, while helping businesses make money. When a business finds something it wants to build, a product designer is going to bring that thing to life using colour codes and funky shapes like hexagons.
Good products can make a company, especially when users enjoy coming back to it.
If you’re looking to become a product designer, you will do more than just website pages, (FYI: product designers are NOT graphic designers), buttons and apps, you will also build something that people will enjoy using.
How product designers work
Product design is a pretty broad term, and product designers have an extensive array of skills. It’s not just about bringing shapes to life, there’s some research involved too.
Product designers need to think about what the user wants, build prototypes, and test out these prototypes.
To build the best products, companies have a product design team with designers that play specific roles or have specific jobs. Some of the jobs included in product design include:
A product designer can usually perform all three roles effectively; they know how to use research, and how to design interfaces that make users’ experience seamless and enjoyable. From the font choice, button location, or colours you use in the app, product designers choose the very best in bringing a product to life.
If you find companies hiring for roles like “UI/UX Designer” or “UX Researcher”, you’ll know that they’re asking for someone with product design skills and experience.
What are the tools of a product designer?
Product design involves a lot of visual storytelling; if you’re looking to become one, you’ll be using tools that will help you manipulate lines, colour, shapes and text. Most of these tools can only be operated on laptops because they use a lot of graphics power. Here’s a list of the most common ones.
Design: These tools help you create the visual aspects of any products
Adobe XD (paid) || Figma (free for individuals) || Adobe Illustrator (paid)
User research: These tools help you find out what your users like doing and how they like doing it: they tell you your users’ behaviour. For example, Hotjar will show you a heat map of a website I.e. which buttons or pages are used most.
Userlytics || Log Rocket || MouseFlow
Hear it from a product designer
This week, we’ve brought you a self-taught designer who spent the first years of her career as a medical doctor.
Barbara Odusola-Stevenson is a Product Designer who helps organizations thrive. She believes people are the center of everything and is an avid preacher of user centric design. Her favorite things to do are read, hang with friends and watch K-drama.
Q. When and why did you choose to become a product designer?
That was in late 2019, I was doing some studying on human computer interaction and I found myself wanting to know more about people, products and businesses and how they interact.
Q. What were you doing before you became a product designer?
Medicine, primarily. Make up,interior design, and forex trading, mostly cause they were fun and I was quite good, haha.
Q. How did you become a product designer, and what was your learning path?
I’m self-taught and what helped me was to follow and interact with people in the design space like Teslim Alabi, Mitchelle Chibundu, Bojan Novakovic, Pablo Stanley, and Ema Ike.
Everyone I reached out to was always willing to help with their time and resources which was super valuable. YouTube was a big help; there’s tons on info on how to use tools like Udemy, Figma, Shiftnudge, Medium, Behance, and Dribbble. I also followed a number of podcasts including Design Life, The Design of Business, and User Defenders.
Q. What should a product designer not be doing/what or who is not a product designer?
A product designer should not be coding, the knowledge is nice to have and it helps understand how some things work and also constraints, but it’s not a compulsory requirement.
Q. What are the hardest and easiest parts of becoming a product designer?
Well not hard per say, but product design is fast paced; there has to be continuous learning and keeping up with new standards and industry practices. Also you have to have an integral understanding of whatever product you’re working on, fintech, health etc. The easiest part is that it’s quite fun and you get into people’s minds and understand how they behave and respond to specific problems .
Q. From beginner to landing your first job, how long does it take on an average to become a product designer?
It’s different for everyone because of access to resources and time but I’ll say hard work and continuous practice over an average of six months will help. It also helps to put yourself out there and interact with people.
You can be a product designer too
Check out some of these resources that can upskill you into a kickass product designer.
Ask a techie
Q. I’m facing some difficulty in finding actual entry-level product management roles. How can I approach my job search? What sort of courses should I be taking and what skills should I be working on improving?
Finding entry-level roles can be quite challenging, especially for a niche role and fairly new role like product management.
In job searching, you may need to keep your eye out on several job boards. Here’s a detailed list of African tech job boards that promote jobs like product management. You may also want to go the extra mile when applying for these roles; reach out to the hiring managers and ask them what kind of applicants they’re looking for or ask your network to refer you to open job roles. You can also check out other roles like “product owner” or “product specialist” which are monikers for product management.
For courses, you should look at Product Dive. It’s a 6–month product management course made by Africans for Africans and many great product managers on the continent, including those at Flutterwave and Paystack, learnt at Product Dive. Also check out Utiva and AltSchool, they have courses that will help build you as a skilled product manager.
Finally, skills you need for product management include teamwork, leadership, and most importantly, communication skills. A product manager is the bridge between different departments and you need to learn how to communicate effectively. You can check out this conversation with a product manager on Centre Stage.
That’s all we can take this week. Have any questions about tech in Africa? Ask away and we’ll find answers for you.??
Tech trivia answers
- It’s TikTok. As of September 2022, TikTok is the most downloaded app globally with over 2.6 billion downloads.
- Strangely, it’s the Snake game on Nokia 6610. It’s considered the first mobile app as the first version was built into the Nokia 6610 in 1997.
There are more jobs on TechCabal’s Job Board.
Disclaimer: TechCabal is not affiliated with or associated with jobs and opportunities listed on all its job boards and newsletters. All applicants bear the responsibility of researching about the roles and companies they apply to.
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