New UX Designers Obsession with Tools & My EGO

Picture of Eric Abrom
Eric Abrom

UX Design Leader and Mentor

As a jiu-jitsu lover, I like going to tournaments and watching people play jiu-jitsu! You get to see all the different belt levels competing, and it was so interesting to see some of the characters there. I went to a tournament once, and the most badass guy I saw there was a doctor - pretty sure he's the most jacked doctor ever - who was also competing as a black belt. This guy was terrific. If you think about it, he could kill someone and save someone's life on the same day! That is wild, fam!

Why I Love Jujitsu

I’m a huge jiu-jitsu fan because this martial art has changed my life in many ways. It’s taught me to focus, helped me mellow out my temper, keeps me disciplined, and increased my self-confidence. It really helps me put life challenges and stresses in perspective. So I highly recommend it, especially if you’re struggling with insecurity.


I promise: once you’ve gotten tapped out on a mat on a Friday night, you’ll worry a little less about what some random person on Facebook thinks of you.


Story Time

A high-level competitor was at this tournament, Tex Johnson. To be honest, we were scratching our heads a bit, wondering why he came to this tournament. It’s like seeing Brad Pitt at Red Lobster; it makes you wonder why on earth he’s there!


Tex won every match until he grappled with another amazingly-jacked guy I will call “Fabio.” Fabio would not let up; he was giving Tex all the work. Then Tex did something dirty at some point while going for a takedown. As Tex was on this takedown, he kept going even though he knew he was out of bounds. These two Grizzly Bears hit the wall HARD. Fabio’s back slammed flat against the wall; it sounded like a car crash.


I honestly don’t know why Tex would do that at a small competition with a small cash prize, especially when he was already out of bounds. But the smirk on his face gave me some clues. So here’s my guess: this was all about ego.

Tex going that hard was unnecessary; you can injure people doing that carp. Speaking from personal experience, training in jiu-jitsu should be anti-ego. And if you’re training with an ego-driven partner, it’s very counterproductive. They might be a competition beast, but working with them is hard.


Check Your Ego at the Door

The same goes for people in the workplace or any area of life. People who are driven by ego are so stressful to be around! They always need to have the last word, do the best work, and anything that threatens that ego becomes their enemy.


When I started at my new job, I struggled with ego. Usually, this meant that I was a little too close to the project, to the point where I forgot to present as a friendly person who was open to feedback. Not good, especially on a team!


Thankfully, my manager gave me some tips on how to handle this. Combine that with the work I had to do internally on my ego, and things are much better now. Being honest with myself was key: sometimes I am the problem, and sometimes it’s just how I’m presenting myself that affects how I am perceived! And these are soft skills that matter no what field you’re in, so it’s always good to work on these things.


Going back to the Tex Johnson situation, it seems like his ego was in the way so badly that he was willing to hurt the other competitor. Not hurt them on the mat, as part of a fair fight using the proper techniques. More like spear the guy through a wall like freakin’ Juggernaut! Not a good look.


Designers’ Obsession with Tools 

Let’s make a hard turn into the other topic I wanted to discuss today: new UX designers obsessed with tools.

Everyone has favorite tools for their trade, and UX designers are no different. But people new to UX seem to place a big emphasis on tools. Maybe that’s because they need a bit of extra validation. After all, they’re not confident in their work yet?


From my perspective, functionality is the name of the game. Tools are there to help you create fantastic experiences for your users. It doesn’t matter if it’s Figma, Adobe XD, or Sketch?


At the end of the day, pick the tools you can work with that give you your desired result without extra hassle.


Comparing Tools

Out of curiosity, I found a list of tools that are supposedly the most useful UX/UI tools (don’t even get me started on combining UX and UI in the title!):

  1. Sketch (helpful, but IMO pretty frustrating)
  2. InVision Studio
  3. Axure
  4. Craft
  6. Adobe XD
  7. Marvel
  8. Figma (my personal favorite)
  9. Framer X
  10. Origami Studio
  11. WebFlow
  12. FlowMapp
  13. Balsamiq
  14. VisualSitemaps
  15. Treejack
  17. Optimal Workshop

I’ve heard of many of these, but some were entirely new for me. Here’s the question. Does. It. Matter?

It just doesn’t matter because, as Jay-Z puts it, “Outcome is income.” If the damn tool works, use it! You have my blessing.


Making the Switch

When I took the Springboard Bootcamp, I dabbled with some tools and tried to figure out the best software. I already was an Adobe user (I practically lived full-time in Adobeland), so I really liked what I saw in Adobe XD. Plus, I could use it on both Windows and Mac, unlike Sketch.


But then I was told to try Sketch and that this was a more popular program at the time. I opened it up, and I hated it instantly. Sorry Sketch fans, just trying to be honest! Long story short, I had to learn Sketch in a week because my manager at the time didn’t want the team using Adobe XD.


How’d it go? Pretty well! That’s because even though I didn’t want to use Sketch, at its core, it’s not that different from the other comparable programs.


So I genuinely don’t believe it matters much which program you use. The knowledge you have in one will mostly transfer over to the other, with some minor adjustments as needed. They’re basically interchangeable.


Don’t get bogged down in program choices; just find one you like. Learn it, and be open to trying a different one in the future if you have to. Job descriptions usually tell you what programs you need to know, so you’ll have a head start if you need to play catch up.


Tools vs. Skills

Here’s something I can’t stress enough: even if you use the same tools as me, that doesn’t mean you can create the same things as me.


Does that make me sound like a jerk? That’s not my intention. I just want to make sure you understand that there is no substitute for practice and skill. And that doesn’t even take individual creativity into account!


The Importance of Visuals

At my old job, my team and I had to pick between two designers: one who was better at UX, one who had the better visual design. Guess who we picked?


Even though I’m a UX designer, the fact is that we can teach UX, but it’s a lot harder to teach someone to have a good eye for visuals. So we picked a designer who has incredible visuals. They might need a little extra training, but at least we know they won’t lose sight of the final visual outcome.


So keep that in mind when you’re submitting applications! Your visuals should be on point. In your portfolio, make sure you post your best case studies in order from one to three. One being the best case study. 


Where to Focus

Your best move is to develop your abilities, no matter which tools you use. No need to hunt for the best or most perfect program. You’d be better off spending your time on things like:

  • Brushing up on your design skills
  • Mastering one of the top programs (again, it doesn’t really matter which one)
  • Finding ways to make an immediate, positive impact on your team
  • Working on your soft skills
  • Finding a mentor
  • Taming your ego

Sometimes, any of those factors will make or break your chances for a job or a project. Being the best UX designer is excellent, but being a person that people can work with, and who’s willing to learn? Even better!

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.