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Austin Knight is a UX Designer, speaker, and author at HubSpot in Boston, MA. He currently oversees the UX for HubSpot.com,INBOUND.com, the HubSpot Blog, and a range of additional front-end web properties and tools, which are used by more than 4 million visitors per month.

Previously, he’s worked with teams large and small, in organizations ranging from startups to public tech companies.

He serves as a UX and IxD mentor at Columbia University and General Assembly, speaks internationally on the topic of UX, co-hosts the UX and Growth Podcast, and runs a popular blog and newsletter at AustinKnight.com.

You can follow him on Twitter: @ustinKnight

He will be live on Feb 23rd from 930 AM PT for one and a half hours during which he will answer as many questions as possible.

  • BW

    Brand Winnie

    4 months ago #

    Hi Austin,

    Many thanks for committing to doing this AMA and nice job on all the pre-upvotes! ;)

    My question is, when it comes executing on a UX strategy internationally, how do you handle the different experiences for the different locations around the world? The second part to that is, what is the most interesting country where the UX strategy was completely flipped from what we're used to in the US and what sorts of elements in the experience stood out as being drastically different?

    • AK

      Austin Knight

      4 months ago #

      Hey Brand, great questions. Internationalization and localization are two fascinating, intricate, and sometimes unpredictable areas of design. We actually have an entire Internationalization and Localization Team here at HubSpot and the work that they do informs all areas of the business, including design, marketing, and product.

      1.) From a UX perspective, I'm focused on delivering as consistent of an experience as possible, while respecting and emulating local cultural values. As with all design decisions, I think it's absolutely critical to test them within the unique context of the audience that you're designing for. This applies to everything from copying what a competitor may be doing to applying your North American design strategy to Latin America. When you carbon copy things like that, you end up operating under way too many assumptions, resulting in an uninformed or misinformed design. We regularly discover design patterns and tactics that work well in one market and utterly fail in another.

      At the same time, this is still a relatively new area for HubSpot and one that I think we can improve upon a lot. We've made incredible strides on this in the past year, but I'm much more excited for what we have planned in 2016. In a way, you have to completely change your mindset and approach to design when you introduce international audiences (and offices), and that can be quite the undertaking.

      I recommend adopting a rigorous experimentation strategy (tailored to each locale), studying up on design leaders in the market that you intend to enter, being familiar with what it means to build a truly flexible design (foreign languages can occupy > 100% more space than English), and working with a domain expert on the ground (native to that region) if you can.

      2.) The most interesting country so far has been Japan. We just recently announced an office in Tokyo, but we've been working on a Japanese web presence for several months now. We're lucky to have HubSpotters like Shohei Toguri (who is native to Japan and on the ground in Tokyo) helping us with our entry. A few highlights:

      - Japanese fonts are a big deal. To an English-speaker's eye, the differences in Japanese font characters may be completely unnoticeable, but they are there and they matter. The Japanese are a very detail-oriented people and as we were selecting fonts for our blog, Shohei was able to catch us before we pushed live a font that was "offensive to the eye" and replace it with an elegant font that represented us perfectly. Looking at them side by side, I could hardly tell the difference between the two.
      - Japanese takes up a lot of space and line breaks matter. When adapting our English-based (Latin Alphabet) designs to Japanese, we saw our lines of text multiply. And depending on where we placed line breaks, we could end up sending a completely different message.
      - Mobile isn't really a thing yet in Japan. Here in the states, responsive design is standard and many are even designing mobile-first. That's not really the case in Japan, so our optimization strategy for mobile has been a little different. We're dealing with a different set of devices and software.

      6 Share
  • JM

    Jessica Meher

    4 months ago #

    What is the biggest UX challenge you've recently had to work on and what did you do/learn during that process?

    How do you balance having great user experience while solving for business goals, and have those two ever clashed?

    What companies do you admire from a design/ux perspective?

    • AK

      Austin Knight

      4 months ago #

      Hey Jess, thanks for the questions. These are great.

      1.) My biggest challenge to date has been producing the HubSpot Product Tour (http://www.hubspot.com/marketing/product-tour). It's a web app that guides users through our (gigantic) Marketing Software product. I was brand new to HubSpot, I had never built a web app before, I was the sole designer on the project, and I was responsible for leading it from start to finish. More than anything, this project taught me how to navigate a big public company, deal with multiple super busy stakeholders in VP and C-Level roles, and still get shit done. I have since led much higher impact projects, but this one was the most mentally taxing because it forced me to grow the most (and I was so scared that I was going to screw it up).

      2.) This is one of the most critical and yet under-acknowledged responsibilities of the modern designer. We love solving for the user, but we very rarely own up to solving for the business as well. The best and most mature designers will recognize that both are equally important. The best design solutions will solve for the user and the business, even if they have conflicting goals (in fact, conflicting goals are sometimes exactly what force us to dedicate the brain power to creating a truly remarkable design).

      So, to answer your question, many designers will tell you that user and business goals clash. They'll blame it on the VP of Marketing or the CEO. They're probably right in a certain respect. But more than likely, they're also not completely respecting and fulfilling their responsibilities as a designer. Business and user goals won't clash if you know what it means to be a designer and you respect the fact that you answer to both.

      3.) So many. My list is disproportionately B2B because I'm immersed in that world at HubSpot right now, but a few that immediately come to mind:

      - InVision: Incredible aesthetic and understanding for their user
      - MailChimp: They've really grown into their own lately...wow
      - Buffer: Lightweight, useful, culture-driven
      - Product Hunt: Taking what we all learned from Reddit and making it better
      - Slack: The app is killer, but you should check out the website too (my favorite iteration was the one where they just led with productivity metrics - data first approach)
      - Salesforce: You won't believe the experimentation process

      • JM

        Jessica Meher

        4 months ago #

        Well, I think the product tour came out pretty kick-ass. I'm sure you can tackle and accomplish anything now. Great work.

        Thanks, Austin

  • AK

    Austin Knight

    4 months ago #

    Hey everyone, I'm looking forward to answering your questions today. I'll be sending the author of my favorite question some HubSpot swag :) Thanks for participating.

  • MR

    Matt Rheault

    6 months ago #

    Thank you for doing this AMA Austin!

    Here's my question for you. You've experienced tremendous career growth over the past few years (and deservedly so), but you're still remarkably young for someone who's now looked at as a thought leader in UX. I know that I was really surprised when I found out how young you are. I'm curious how you think this has affected your career thus far? Do people respect you more for your youth as a digital native working in UX? Do you feel that your age is sometimes a barrier that you have to overcome? Do you think that you have an inherent advantage in UX having grown up with digital technology?

    • AK

      Austin Knight

      4 months ago #

      Hey Matt, thanks for the questions.

      1, 2, and 3.) I honestly think about that very little, but I can say that I've always been proud of the fact that I was able to find a passion at a young age. At the same time, I may indeed have experienced a disadvantage because I've almost always been the youngest guy in the office, but it doesn’t really matter to me. It’s not something that I can change and I would never blame an individual or a company for it. I could run the risk of getting paid less than someone older than me with the same experience or having to spend more time justifying my design decisions to people. No problem; I’ll do it if that’s what it takes for me to work in the field that I love. And to be completely honest, I don't feel that I've experienced any of that at HubSpot. It's a very diplomatic, "no BS" type of company.

      I’d say that I have an internal locus of control (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locus_of_control), which I believe has contributed a lot to my career and my personal happiness. Rather than focus on the advantages or disadvantages that I have, I instead choose to stay solely focused on my career and the things that I know I can impact. The things that I am personally responsible for. I never want to create excuses for myself. That’s a guaranteed ticket to failure.

      And ultimately, my age will turn out to be an advantage in the long run. I’ll have more experience and credibility when I’m older, thanks to my early start.

      4.) Yes and no. This stuff is new, but it’s also not new at all. Most people in the workforce today grew up in a world full of technology. Yes, it’s dramatically changed over the course of their careers, but that’s just the nature of technology. It will continue to change at an accelerating rate. From a technical perspective, work experience that deals with specific technologies is may only be relevant if it occurred within the last 2-5 years. The true advantage of experience lies in the maturity that the individual has earned and the ways in which they leverage the fundamental elements of their field.

      For example, UX deals with many new and advancing technologies, but the core elements are age-old. It’s just a hodge-podge of research, design, and development. It’s a field that optimizes devices and technologies (which are new) for humans (which are not new at all). So if you can understand the principles of cognitive psychology and adapt them to new technologies, then you’re already going to be in a really good spot.

      For this reason, I don’t think that age is a major factor, other than the fact that young people may be more passionate and open-minded when early in their careers. At the same time, older and more experienced individuals may possess the maturity to make better decisions. But regardless, the biggest advantages that one can have are passion, maturity, and an open mind. Those qualities are what drive a career in tech and design forward. And fortunately, they aren’t exclusive to a single generation or age group. It’s just up to the individual.

  • HM

    Hayley Marsden

    4 months ago #

    Looking to understand a bit about how a company like HubSpot handles user research in their product development please, such as:
    How often are you running User Research at HubSpot?
    How do you ensure it's timely for the pace of the business?
    How do you ensure the results get brought into the product? Do you have mandatory observation by devs, and that kind of thing?

    Thanks!

    • AK

      Austin Knight

      4 months ago #

      Hey Hayley, thanks for the questions.

      User research here is non-stop. Our product team conducted 480 user tests last year and I personally conducted an additional 97 for HubSpot.com (More cool stats like that here: http://www.hubspot.com/move). We're scaling our design teams aggressively, and as part of that, we're building out research even more. It's critical to the success of our work and I've really enjoyed seeing the increased investment + payout from it.

      HubSpot's flat & embedded organizational structure actually helps to solve many of the pacing, implementation, review, etc. issues that you've alluded to. Designers are placed in small autonomous product teams that have control over the product they represent, so they work directly with the responsible engineer and make decisions together. As we scale the organization, we're introducing new levels to this structure (Tim Merrill, our Director of Product Design, has done an excellent job at this), but I really believe in having designers work directly with developers, PM's, researchers (depending on how specialized the team is) and having the authority to make decisions (and the accountability for the outcomes of those decisions).

    • DS

      Daniel Sosa

      4 months ago #

      Hayley - Great! Question I look forward to this response as well.

  • DS

    Daniel Sosa

    4 months ago #

    Hi Austin!
    What are you thoughts on Personalized Video email and video email in general? I've been using a tool that does (personalized) video email with tons of success but have heard that a lot of individuals are not comfortable with it.

    • AK

      Austin Knight

      4 months ago #

      Hey Daniel, thanks for the question. I haven't given a ton of thought to video email, but I have seen it floating around a lot lately. A few general thoughts:

      Video is really weird in that it's an age-old medium, but for some reason still a relatively unharnessed part of the web. This is especially the case with video in email, but I question if that's because nobody has ever thought of using video in email before or because the two just don't jive well (which, in all fairness, could be caused by the fact that email clients have classically been very limiting in general).

      I like that video could add an extra level of personalization and engagement (and for a given time, novelty) to the email experience, but I question the lasting effectiveness of that. Written content and images are really easy to skim, but videos require a certain commitment of one's time (and total attention). In order to command that, you need to produce exceptional video content, which can't really be automated (sure, you can automate parts, but with a diminishing return on effectiveness over time). As a design and marketing medium, it's hard to build effective design / conversion elements into videos - you're much more reliant on the technology of the player (Wistia is killing it in this space).

      I think it's absolutely worth exploring and if the data says that it's working for you, then by all means, keep doing it. But part of me feels that the innovation is going to happen more in the ways that we communicate, than in email itself. Email is still one of the most effective mediums for communication, but I think that we're seeing that there is some major room for innovation in communication in general.

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    4 months ago #

    Hey Austin - so stoked to have you on!

    I have two questions for you - I'll ask them as separate threads.

    There's a lot of great UX resources out there. But for someone like me I'm not quite sure where to start.
    What reading/resources would you recommend for non-UX folks to make their interactions with the UX people on their team more effective and productive?

    • AK

      Austin Knight

      4 months ago #

      Hey Anuj, glad you asked. A little while back, I put together a page at http://UXDesignGuide.com with all of my recommended resources (tools, articles, books, events, videos, courses, portfolio examples, etc.). Definitely worth checking out.

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    4 months ago #

    What data would you look at to know that you might have a UX issue somewhere on your site?

    • AK

      Austin Knight

      4 months ago #

      I would always start with the KPI's that you're optimizing against, but you're probably already doing that. On the high level, I find a solid implementation of Google Analytics (events, goals, behavior flows, funnel visualizations), regular User Testing (in person or remote), and monitoring unsolicited feedback channels (product support tickets, sales calls, etc.) to be great discovery points.

  • TN

    Torben Niesel

    4 months ago #

    Hi Austin, thanks for doing this AMA.

    Imagine you have to build a new website with the goal to improve the life of your users. The problem is that the your userbase completly changes every second month.
    (Different attitudes, different goals, different mindsets - or just completly different persons)

    What would you do to improve the userexperience and how would you react to these changes.

  • AF

    A.J. Fraser

    4 months ago #

    Hey Austin,
    My partner and I are working on a mobile app, that has some similarities to some other popular apps and yet has what we feel to be significant differentiators. My fear is the parts of the app that are similar to our competitors are too similar in their UX and UI, which might cause our users to see us as rip offs. When do you know what is a convention that should be adhered to for the sake of the user, and to step out and do something dramatically different for the sake of your uniqueness.
    Thanks!
    A.J.

    • AK

      Austin Knight

      4 months ago #

      Hey AJ, this is an excellent question. I think it very much depends on the context of the product that you're creating. That said, here are a few thoughts:

      First, evaluate whether you've directly copied features / best practices or if you've arrived at them organically. If you're just copying what the other guy is doing because it seems to work for them or if you're reading listicles that say the best practice for your type of app is to do X, Y, and Z, then I would most definitely re-evaluate your design decisions. Go back and try to justify each one independently, within the unique context of your audience, business, and product. Sometimes, what may work for your direct competitor just won't work for you. I expand on this idea more in a recent essay, "The Road to Mediocrity Is Paved with Best Practices" (http://austinknight.com/writing/the-road-to-mediocrity-is-paved-with-best-practices/). I promise it's worth a read.

      If you haven't directly copied features or blindly implemented best practices, however, then I would begin by asking yourself WHY your app has similarities to other apps. Without these features, would it be unusable? Would users be utterly confused? Or would it just be less attractive? Core app interactions may be shared across popular and new apps, but it doesn't mean any copying occurred. Sometimes those interactions are just good and they become design patterns. At the same time, you wouldn't want to copy an innovation that really only applies to a specific app.

      For example, Tinder popularized the "swipe left / right" gesture on mobile, but when other apps use swipe gestures, we don't immediately call them "Tinder rip offs". That's because those gestures have become core mobile interactions. Tinder may have popularized them, but they're universally applicable. On the other hand, if an app introduced a "Super Like" feature, or used a "heart" and "X" UI (http://i.imgur.com/3O3YaUp.jpg), or built an "It's a match" screen featuring two profile photos...we might consider it a Tinder rip-off. That's because those aren't core interactions; they aren't universally applicable and they aren't essential to the functionality of most (or any) apps other than Tinder. They are innovations that are unique to Tinder and play into it's value prop / competitive edge. Here, even if on a subconscious level, we've separated out "what makes mobile apps", "what makes dating apps", and "what makes Tinder". The first two are ok to use and copy. The third isn't.

      Outside of testing this quantitatively and seeing which features / interactions matter to your users, you can qualitatively test this at an even earlier stage. Have participants use your competitor's app, then your app, then your other competitor's app - all in one user testing session. Get their feedback on all 3. Which features and interactions actually matter? Do they think one app may have copied the other? Which would they be most likely to use and why? Outside of their narration, play close attention to how they behave in each app. Observe the experience as it happens. This should give you a lot of insight into what matters and where friction points exist in each app.

      I hope that helps. This is a really fascinating topic that I'm still expanding upon myself. There's an especially heated debate around this in the Web Design community, where designers feel that all websites look the same and a giant copycat culture has emerged. I attempt to share both sides of the argument and then ultimately dispel it in an episode of the UX and Growth Podcast, called "Design Machines & The Death of Creativity in Web Design" (http://www.uxandgrowth.com/design-machines-and-the-death-of-creativity-in-web-design). Had a good conversation on innovation in general. May be worth a listen.

  • LS

    Logan Stoneman

    4 months ago #

    Hey Austin - what do you think are the most valuable aspects of psychology that you apply to your work when crafting UX with a growth-mindset?

    • AK

      Austin Knight

      4 months ago #

      Hey Logan, this is an awesome question that I don't quite have time to answer now, but I will be covering in a future episode of the UX and Growth Podcast (http://UXandGrowth.com). I'd be happy to send it to you when it comes out :)

  • ES

    Edward Stephens

    4 months ago #

    Hi Austin,

    Super interesting to have you on! A couple of questions from me.

    - How important do you think the emergence of side-product marketing is and how do you see this being shaped in the years to come?
    - When designing UX how do you balance convenience and features with aesthetic design. I always strip back design where possible but find that sometimes rendering an icon based shortcut etc is simply to convenient to miss out.

    • AK

      Austin Knight

      4 months ago #

      Hey Edward, great questions.

      1.) I was actually just talking about this to my intern today. We've seen this work very well at HubSpot (Sidekick, CRM, and LeadIn started as self-disrupting side products) and I've even seen it work well on an individual level (Tobias van Schneider and William Channer have both harnessed side projects extremely well). If you have the resources, time, and know-how to build great things (like free tools and apps) outside of your core product or day-job, that can sometimes serve as the best marketing there is.

      2.) UX is a truly holistic practice in that UI (aesthetics / visual design) is a product of UX, just as usability and accessibility are. (Side note: This is why the title "UX/UI Designer" is absurd and screams "our company doesn't actually know what any of this is"). Depending on the phase of the project, the fidelity of the UI (quality of the aesthetics) will be very basic or very intricate. Start basic, focusing on the content and core functionalities. Test and verify them independently. Once you've established your core structure, then start to apply the high fidelity aesthetics. Functionality should inform your aesthetics, not the other way around. Both are important parts of the design, but they come at different times and serve different purposes.

      Check out my personal process (http://austinknight.com/process/) and one of my recent essays, "Design is not Art" (http://austinknight.com/writing/design-is-not-art/). Should provide more context on this.

  • BN

    Bethanie Nonami

    4 months ago #

    Thank you Austin for taking the time to talk with us. I am working on my own and doing my UX on my prototype to get initial feedback. What is the most important areas to focus on when designing?

    • AK

      Austin Knight

      4 months ago #

      Hey Bethanie, thanks for the question. Awesome to hear you're building your own prototype. For clarity's sake, are you asking about specific areas in the design (like UI elements, interactions), design practices (like UX vs. Visual Design), or research efforts (like usability testing)? I'd be happy to come back and answer in detail.

  • MM

    martín medina

    4 months ago #

    Austin it is great to have you. How do you make sure to test and get feedback on UX changes? Do you guys use Usertesting or some kind of analytics testing or rely on customer feedback?

    • AK

      Austin Knight

      4 months ago #

      Hey Martin, good question. We really take a comprehensive approach, focusing on both qualitative and quantitative data. Look for areas where both data sets are telling you the same thing, and those are undoubtedly your greatest pain points and areas of opportunity. Google Analytics (and web experiments), HubSpot (analytics, smart content, A/B testing), MixPanel, CrazyEgg, Hotjar, Optimizely, UserTesting.com, UsabilityHub, and good old fashioned in-person interviews have all proven effective for us.

  • BN

    Bethanie Nonami

    4 months ago #

    Austin, do you have a book that is your go-to UX bible? Or a go to resource that you feel taught you the most. Thanks!

  • HQ

    Hila Qu

    4 months ago #

    Hi Austin,

    Super excited to have a talented designer to be here!

    1) As a designer, do you do competitor research? How do you get inspirations from other website/software design?

    2) Curious what's your view on Minimal Viable Product? Do you hate the concept at all, as sometimes MVP means quicker implement and less design involved?

    • AK

      Austin Knight

      4 months ago #

      Hey Hila, I'm excited to be here as well. Thanks for the question.

      1.) Yes, competitive analyses can play an important role in the early research process. However, it's important to understand that we don't have any of the data or context behind competitor design decisions. So it's good to get a lay of the land, but I would never take direct inspiration from competitors. It's easy to fall in love with a pre-existing design solution, whether it be from a competitor or elsewhere. Don't Fall in love with a problem, extrapolate a solution from there, and test it within the unique context of your product, audience, and business. Make truly informed design decisions; don't blindly imitate.

      2.) MVP's have proven truly effective for me when executed properly. The key is that you can't leave out the V ("viable"), which is a very common mistake and can lead to a lot of frustration. Quicker implementation and less design is almost always a good thing as long as you maintain viability. Research -> design -> launch -> learn -> iterate. And repeat until you have something valuable.

      • HQ

        Hila Qu

        4 months ago #

        Love your perspective on design & competitor: Make truly informed design decisions; never blindly imitate

  • FE

    Fatnassi El Mehdi

    4 months ago #

    Hey i'm new on this topic and i'm a little bit frustrated by UI/UX design ! because here in Morocco we are trying to do sometimes like french people or americans ... and i really suffer to find a best UX strategy for our location. So i decide to analyse and study how the moroccan people think when they face internet in general for exemple nowadays young moroccans use to write arabic with a Latin character and numbers (SEO complication ) so my question is :

    There's an international standard for UI / UX ? can we apply the same reasoning and work with the same process or every location has her own UI/UX strategy ?

  • TN

    Torben Niesel

    4 months ago #

    I'm pretty new to the UX world and I really appreciate it that you take your time to give us a personal learning experience :)

    My second question would be:
    Which activities/skills should I try to understand and practice first and which are the more "advanced" skills?

    • AK

      Austin Knight

      4 months ago #

      Hey Torben, great question. I've always been a hands-on, self-taught type, so I tend to learn best by diving in and building something (making mistakes and discovering how things work along the way). This may or may not work for you; it depends on your learning style.

      I would start by taking an inventory of the tools (http://UXDesignGuide.com) and processes (http://austinknight.com/process/) that are used in UX. Come up with an app or website that you want to create and try building it with the UX process, using the tools and methodologies that come with that. It will force you to study up on these things and learn how to practically apply them (read articles, listen to podcasts, ask questions in communities like this - immerse yourself in design with a motivation to build your product). Do this a few times and you'll start to see how they fit together; why they matter. You'll begin to build your own process, like I did. That's where you start to actually become a UX Designer (the more advanced stuff). Many designers can use the tools and follow the processes, but the best understand the unique role that each deliverable plays and how it's related to the deliverables that come before and after it. They can articulate why they're doing what they're doing. They understand the outcomes that they're creating - and that's what UX really focuses on: outcomes, not deliverables.

      So start with the tools and methodologies (deliverables). Build something. And know that over time, you'll need to understand why you're doing what you're doing and how it fits together (outcomes). But the best way to do that is through getting real experience.

      If this isn't your cup of tea, I would check out bootcamps like General Assembly or Designlab. They'll take you through a more structured learning curve. But no matter what, you'll need to get some real-world experience to really understand this stuff.

      Learning UX and Design can be really intimidating at first, but it shouldn't be. I've had nothing but fun learning this stuff - and if you're passionate about it, I promise that it will be fun and very easy to learn :) Best of all, design as a practice is growing and maturing at a rapidly accelerating rate. It's gaining more respect and value then ever before. The opportunity to really influence the future of design has never been greater. This has to be the best time in history to become a designer.

  • WH

    William Hamilton

    4 months ago #

    Hey Austin,

    What do you think is the best way to find a really skilled part-time UX designer for a project? I know most of the really skilled guys/gals are busy and don't have trouble finding work, but where is a good place to look? Services like Upwork (formerly Elance) have a ton of listings but it's hard to really determine who has the exact skill set you're looking for.

    Thanks for the time!

    • BN

      Bethanie Nonami

      4 months ago #

      This is a great question William. I have the same issue finding good people that want some side work. I can't afford anyone full time but I know I need help with the UX side of the house. I hope there is a good solution. I was going to check out our local Iron Yard (Coding school) to see if I can find some folks looking for portfolio projects to help me with the UX and help them display their project work. Maybe you can check that out too.

      • WH

        William Hamilton

        4 months ago #

        Thanks Bethanie! I will definitely check that out as well - hoping Austin might have the inside scoop! :)

    • AK

      Austin Knight

      4 months ago #

      Hey William, great question. You're correct in that Upwork and places like that won't be the best place to find talent. UX is very difficult to screen for because it is so process and results driven (unlike many fields, where certifications or education can serve as a nice gauge). You have to have a deep understanding of the field and be able to parse through past work as evidence of competency. Many people wrongfully claim the title and it usually takes an intimate knowledge of the practice to separate out the "graphic designers claiming UX" from the actual UX Designers.

      For this reason, I recommend that you network very closely with certifiable "not bullshitting" UX Designers. People that work for companies or have been part of projects that objectively verify their expertise. Top tech companies (like HubSpot, Netflix, Dropbox, etc.) and innovation labs (like IDEO, Nielsen Norman Group, and Digital Telepathy) know how to screen talent and only hire the best. Make friends with those people. If they won't do contract work with you (you'll be surprised, some of them probably will), then they will undoubtedly be able to set you up with people that they know and respect. And they'll probably teach you a thing or two along the way.

      Meetups are awesome for meeting local people and learning from them. LinkedIn is a great place to find and connect with people that have legitimate backgrounds and expertise (join a few UX groups). Start by researching some of the more respected companies in UX / Design and pursue people that are tied to them.

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