Joe Natoli is a UX consultant, author, and speaker. Everything he does is born from nearly three decades of consulting with and training the product development teams of some of the world’s largest organizations. He has taught over 180,000 students through his online courses and is a regular keynote speaker and lecturer at events across the globe.
This Slogging thread by Abeer, Joe Natoli, Giovanni Martorella, Melissa Schwartz, Wendel Kraus, Sunil Pithwa, Jay, Adam Testerman, Sara Pinto, Julia Zhang, Pamela Liang, Mariya and Hope Williams occurred in slogging's official #amas channel, and has been edited for readability.
Hey @channel, please join me in welcoming our next AMA guest, Joe Natoli. Joe Natoli is a UX consultant, author and speaker. Everything he does is born from nearly three decades of consulting with and training the product development teams of some of the world’s largest organizations. He has taught over 180,000 students through his online courses and is a regular keynote speaker and lecturer at events across the globe.
Please feel free to ask Joe anything about:
Hi Joe Natoli! It’s great to have you here! Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself, your background and how you’ve come to help so many students via Give Good UX?
That's a very long story, but I'll do my best to condense 😉
I studied Graphic Design at Kent State University in Ohio in the late 80s, worked for design firms and ad agencies....and then this little thing called the "Internet" came along (yes, that's how old I am)
I couldn't convince the old rich guys that ran the agency (the largest in the UX at the time) that this Internet thing wasn't just a "passing trend" 🙄
So I was either brave enough or naive enough to say OK, I'll do it myself. Started my own company with one employee and decided we were gonna design for the web! At the time no one had any idea how to do any of this; it was all brand new. So I just dove headfirst into every opportunity and figured we'd learn along the way.
10 years and 6 employees and a lot of software and web-based projects later, we got there 😉 I sold the company to an IT firm, hung out for a few years then went back to independent consulting in 2007, workign for Fortune 500 + 100 orgs, governemnt. My wife convinced me to try this "Udemy" thing....and I launched UX Design Fundamentals. It grew faster than I or anyone expected...and now between Udemy and my own UX365 Academy, we have over 270,000 students. So I mainly focus on that, coaching UXers and Designers, speaking gigs, writing books and some consulting work here and there.
And that's the short version 😉 Along the way I also helped start a few magazines, launched a book publishing company and an independent record label for a few years as well. I'm what you'd call restless...!
Life is to be lived...so if you have an idea to do somethign, there's no reason not to put yourself out there and give it a shot. There are no wrong turns, only possibilities. That's what I believe.
UX 365 btw: https://learn.givegoodux.com
It's every book I've ever written, every course and training video I've ever done, downloadable cheat sheets and guidebooks...and I publish new content every month.
The VIP subscription includes a monthly LIVE group session with me, where I guide and advise folks individually, and the group pitches in to help as well.
I developed it as an alternative to bootcamps....which I think are ridiculously overpriced. And fail to deliver the real-world practicality you need to work in this field.
Not to mention those that are predatory and take gross advantage of students. I'll leave that topic alone or we'll be here all day 😉
SO... what's on your minds?
Joe Natoli WOW! Now that’s an impressive background. Your go-getter attitude and willingness to take risks are extremely inspiring. I hope everyone gets a chance to pick your brain today and tomorrow!
I do too. I've had the great fortune to have a great many "big names" in this industry spend time answering my questions when I was coming up...and it was the BEST education. so I hope folks will take advantage of this opportunity.
Master Joe 🙌 I've been following you once I started my career in UX back in 2019. It's been a long road but now I'm getting traction on landing a role. What would you say to a newbie like myself preparing to work officially as a UX designer? What to expect in the job typically and how to become a value designer for the team and company overall? Much appreciated that your here by the way, big love from New York!! 👍
Hey ! The best thing you can do for yourself is (1) be patient — it takes 6-12 months to really, truly find your feet in a new place, new job and (2) ask any and every question you have. There is no way you're gonna know it all and you have to repress the urge to try and figure it out in silence. The only way you'll get the hang of how things work, who does what, political lay of the land, etc. is by involving yourself and asking questions.
Oh that's what I'm going to do for sure. Going to be a sponge and absorb as much as I can and ask questions that I'm curious about. Joe Natoli your a legend! This is great, this is great peeps!
Hello Joe Natoli. I was first introduced to you by that same User Experience Design Fundamentals course on Udemy! I'm actually a developer with a strong interest in both UI and UX design. My coworkers have told me there's no point in me learning design as a developer and I should keep my focus and stick to what I'm good at. Do you think there's any merit to learning design as a developer?
Melissa Schwartz that is the most short-sighted thing I have ever heard: your co-workers are WRONG. There is HUGE merit in your learning design, just as there is huge merit in designers/UXers understanding code. It widens your sense of what is possible and feasible; it makes you better at what you do because you're considering a more holistic view of how people use things. And it changes the way you make decisions with code; you work with a sense of how someone will interpret and react to what they see. If you understand visual communication and human cognition, it changes the choices you make in terms of interaction, data manipulation, storage, performance, etc.
You're developing for PEOPLE. The more you know about why they react to certain things visually, the more appropriate and relevant and effective your work will be.
Melissa Schwartz this is the place to start: https://learn.givegoodux.com/p/design-rules — the fundamental WHY behind visual decisions. Not what it looks like — WHY it looks that way, why people will find it useful, usable.
This AMA is on 🔥! Thank you Joe Natoli. That was a fantastic answer and exactly what I needed to hear. You're right. I'm developing for PEOPLE. Now I'm feeling confident in my decision to learn design 💪
Melissa Schwartz awesome. And apply this same principle everywhere in your life: never let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn't do. This is your life, not theirs.
If you have even the slightest interest, follow it down, despite what anyone has to say about it. See what's possible. Try, see how you react. You never know, you may find the thing that you were MEANT to be doing...I certainly did.
You are all welcome to connect with me on social media, btw...and please take the time to check out the Ukraine charities link here:
My UX365 Academy:
Charities supporting Ukraine, its doctors, emergency response personnel, and providing much needed medical supplies:
Good morning Joe Natoli. Thank you for doing this AMA 🙌 I've been trying to break into the UX industry for almost a year now with no luck. There are so many postings for UI Designer jobs but so little for UX. More than half the interviews I go on, I find out that the job isn't even for UX! They still want a UI designer but they call it UX :face_with_symbols_on_mouth: Is there a reason why UX Design doesn't get the same love UI Design and Graphic Design get?
Hi Wendel Kraus — it's not that UX design doesn't get love, it's that its fundamentally misunderstood. Even inside those organizations you all hear about who publicly claim to be "UX-centric." I've been inside their walls, and it isn't true 😉
UX is still a very young industry by comparison to many others, so businesses still have a lot of catching up to do in terms of understanding. Everything you read online makes it seem like most companies understand UX fully — they don't.
In terms of getting a job, it's a balancing act of (1) making sure your resume and portfolio tell the right stories about what you do and don't do (most I see don't do a good job of this) and (2) reading between the lines in job postings and asking good questions of the recruiter. Remembering that you are interviewing THEM as well. Ask upfront what your day-to-day activities will be. And when you read a job post, IGNORE the laundry list of required skills. Pay attention tot he descriptions about what you'll be doing every day. Apply based on that, it's usually closer to the truth. But overall, expect a lot of garbage in those job posts...they're very, very uninformed and in some cases are actually copied from other job listings, because someone THINKS that's what a UXer does.
Again, we like to think these things are informed and carefully considered by recruiters or hiring managers. In too many cases...they aren't.
Thank you Joe Natoli for the wisdom. That's a great mindset that I will use in my next interviews. I'm going to go in like I'm interviewing them too. I hope one day there will be less ignorance about UX Design! 🙏
PSA: the vast majority of advice you get on your portfolio and resume is very, very WRONG.
And whatever you do, do NOT follow what you see in one of those "10 AWESOME UX Portfolios" articles.
Hey Joe 👋 hope you're well.
I've been struggling to get a new role. Often I'll get through every round except the last. This is the same for senior, lead, and principle roles. The feedback I've gotten ranges from “not sure you’d be an agency fit” to “we’re looking for someone with more UI experience” or “we went with someone with more leadership experience.” I'm at that crossroads where I can't get much more experience where I'm at and market wants me to have that experience to move to.
Feeling more than a bit trapped. Any advice?
I’ll answer that with a question:
do YOU believe you have enough experience for these roles?
Here’s the thing: IF you feel you are 100% qualified for those roles, that you actually DO have the experience they want, then either (1) something is happening during the interview or challenge that’s causing doubt or (2) you’re not telling your story in a way that communicates you have what it takes, or in the way they need to hear it. It’s really hard for me to say without knowing your experience, seeing your portfolio, resume, etc…let me know what your answer is to the first question, though.
Joe Natoli yes I absolutely believe I have enough experience for those roles.
The story element is something I hadn't thought of adjusting but makes complete sense. Adding more tangible metrics to case studies to show the magnitude of projects as well as examples of leadership both in company and in the community would probably help too.
it's often small things. Every bullet point in your resume, for example, should be telling a story of something you enabled or drove or achieved or helped the employer achieve — instead of the typical "responsible for A, B, C..." Talk results or at least evidence of chasing opportunities and solving problems in every possible sentence. Show your strategic thinking, your CARE that goes into the work you do. The WHY instead of just the what. That's all leadership.
We have to get comfortable SELLING OURSELVES, tooting our own horns. LOUDLY. No one else is gonna do it, and there is a LOT of noise out there.
Morning Joe Natoli awesome to be able to ask you the questions Ive had hard time finding an answer for! I recently started a new position as a ux consultant with many coworkers who cares and consult about ux, ui, and cx. Nonetheless, the value of ux is only accepted to move forward with the clinet, only when there is a business value to our suggestions. Yet I find it difficult to upsell ux perspective unless its a suggestions that seemed distinctive from their default status. How can I bring business focused folks attention to gain that trust and respect for ux without having to do endless competitive analysis of their competitor sites? - which eventually make clients want to copy what their competitors are doing bc they are getting behind 🙃
Hey — here's my rule: no one outside you and your team gives a shit about better UX or better product design. They give a shit about what that those things are going to help them ACHIEVE. How it’s going to help them hit their numbers. How it’s going to solve their problem or capitalize on an opportunity.
So you lead with that. Every single time. You pitch valuable BUSINESS OUTCOMES, not better UX. You set a business metric that they care about to hit, and then you do the work to hit it — a small win, not something huge. Something achievable. Something ideally that makes or saves money. The only way they start to trust you is when they start to see that the work you do and the things you suggest get them what they already want.
AND: you can absolutely, positively make users’ lives significantly better while simultaneously driving business value, while making or saving money. I’ve been doing it for 30 years.
I have productive relationships with clients, teams, stakeholders and executives, even in cases when I’m telling them something they don’t want to hear. Why? Because I speak in a way that makes it damn clear that I get how and why this stuff affects their jobs, their professional lives. In a way that tells them I care about what happens to them.
That I care about them. As fellow humans.
I cannot possibly overemphasize how important or crucial that last sentence is to a collaborative, trusting relationship with everyone you will ever work with (or for).
Treat those business stakeholders with the same empathy and attention you do users. What do they need and why? What pressure is driving those needs? What are they on the hook for achieving — mandated by THEIR bosses?
Hi Joe Natoli! Thanks so much for your time.
Could you give advice for how to sell/position role specialization in a portfolio? I've put my portfolio together on a Notion site but I think it looks pretty basic and its not surprising that I've not had a lot of bites.
I've spent my professional career as a debate coach + professor in higher ed. A huge appeal of UX for me has been the chance to think strategically about different kinds of problems. I come to UI + visual design as a novice (it takes me forever and always looks... sub-good). Is it fine to position myself more in the direction of strategy + research or should I stop being a baby and sink more hours into the parts of the work that are unintuitive for me right now? I've been shadowing a senior UX person at a local agency and I'm confident that I can do the work well but not sure the best way to explain my skillset or if strategy research specific roles really exist outside of FAANG organizations.
first: I don't know much about Notion — but my gut reaction is why place it on a platform that isn't typically used (to my knowledge) for this purpose? Correct me if I'm wrong; like I said it's new to me. But recruiters will want a resume available in 3 ways: plain text, PDF (downloadable/ingestible) and onscreen for viewing.
They DO expect some kind of website with your credentials on full display however, with that resume available on it.
Next: position yourself for the kind of work (1) you want and (2) you are most equipped in terms of skills and experience to do. Always play to your strengths. Those roles are out there, but they ARE harder to come by in the haystack of generalist/tactical listings. And as I said to Sunil above, you have to do everything in your power to tell a compelling story. Answer WHY YOU?
I talk a lot about this in my https://learn.givegoodux.com/p/uxportfoliohttps://learn.givegoodux.com/p/uxportfolio. There's also a step-by-step case study guide that comes with it. I realize that sounds like a pitch, but there is a lot to unpack when it comes to understanding what recruiters want and how they want it.
Hey Joe Natoli, glad to have you with us. You're out here helping so many people with your advice! I'm a newbie in the UX subject, so which tips would you give to someone who wishes to enter this world?
Hi Sara Pinto — HUGE question with lots of answers. Bottom line is what you need most at the start of your career is (1) education and (2) experience. Be like a sponge; take every course you can, in as many different areas as you can (and of naturally, that includes mine at http://learn.givegoodux.com 🙂 ) And when you're absolutely new, you need to actually do work to try applying what you've learned. You start with finding and focusing on specific UI or UX issues in an app or website you use every day, something you're familiar with.
Website for your corner coffee shop, for example, that doesn't do a very good job showing off what they have on the menu. This does not (and shouldn't) be a "big name." Don't redesign Spotify for the 35 thousandth time! Then redesign to solve those issues that you find. Write up a case study explaining what you changed and why you changed it, what the potential outcome of those changes will be. Aside from the fact that this is good for a portfolio, it also helps you think through the WHY behind your work — which is the most important part, the part that demands the most effort and repetition.
Above all else, be patient with yourself and remember that UX or Design work isn't about having all the answers, being an "expert." It's not about knowing the answers — it's about knowing how to find the answers.
Some blog posts you may find helpful:
OK folks, I have a couple short meetings this afternoon, but keep those questions coming — I promise you I will answer them all!
I suppose now's as good a time as any to mention I offer coaching + career guidance for new and experienced UXers + Designers 😉
Whatever it is, I can help you with it. Learn more and check out testimonials here:
People often ask me what I do, and my response is this:
In all that I do, I help designers and UXers reclaim their power, rebuild their self-confidence and resilience and do better work.
In that order.
Hi Joe Natoli. So I've been working as a designer at fairly large company. I've been learning a lot about UX design and I think my company would really benefit from incorporating more UX processes. I really don't know the higher ups. I also don't know how I would bring it up to them or convince them it's a good idea. How should I go about this?
Hi Julia Zhang! Take it upon yourself to organize an event of some kind inside the company, and invite department heads and execs specifically. Book a conference room and invite people from all over the company; do it over lunch and see if HR or whoever will have it catered; never hurts to ask.
Title is "How UX can improve our bottom line via improved customer satisfaction" or something like this...understand that the only way you'll get them to the event is if it's clear from the title of the event what's in it for them. That it addresses something they care about. The more specific you can get, the better; if the company has some quarterly goals understood company wide, that's what you speak to. If there's a mandate to cut support, that's what you speak to. Get the idea? This has to be (1) specific and (2) recognized as a stated need that they are on the hook for achieving.
The event itself is casual; it's you talking, maybe a short slideshow explaining what you feel could be improved and — most importantly — what the benefit of that improvement is for all in the room. You are not pitching UX ideas or processes; you are pitching business outcomes!
You are not educating them — no one wants to be educated. You need to put yourself in the place of that executive, or product VP or manager — who I promise you is thinking to themselves: I didn’t come to this meeting to be educated; I came to this meeting to hear HOW what these folks wanna do is going to get us the outcome we need.
Julia Zhang want to make sure I'm clear: you are, of course, talking about UX improvement — but only in the context of how making things better for users/customers benefits the business, how it gets these folks what they're already after.
Joe Natoli Yes. That's exactly what I meant! Thank you for outlining that plan. When you put it like that, it doesn't seem impossible anymore. I'm going to try to organize this event for April. I hope I can be convincing enough. Thank you for all the help!
Julia Zhang you're very welcome — and kudos to you for taking the initiative. This is something that I talk about a lot and believe needs to happen inside EVERY organization. To share a team's successes as well, on a regular basis; the rest of the org needs to know what good UX + Design work is achieving for them ;-)
Hi Joe Natoli, What are some common resume mistakes that are promoted on the internet?
Hi the one I see most is in the bullet points or statements that follow each job listing, the descriptive text that follows the employer name and title. People tend to list WHAT they did: "responsible for..." "designed..." "researched..." This is what folks are typically told to do.
But in reality each of those statements should start with the reason you did those things — the opportunity you hoped to capitalize on, the sales metric you were trying to hit, the money you were trying to save, the enrollments you were trying to increase, etc. The sentence should start with WHY you did the work, followed by what you did. Or with what was achieved, e.g. "cut call center costs by 85% by redesigning self-help information architecture and developing dynamic contextual search capability."
You have to SELL yourself, not just list stuff you did while on the job ;-)
This is all very helpful, Joe Natoli! Thank you for sharing your knowledge! It's much appreciated!
you are very welcome; I am honored to be of service. 🙏
Hello Joe Natoli. I've been trying to learn UX for the last 3 months but I'm starting to wonder if I'm even qualified enough to keep going. My friend just got her masters in Design and she swears that's the only reason she landed her UX Researcher role. I dropped out of college. I don't even have an Associate's degree. How am I even supposed to compare? Should I go back and get my degree first?
Hope Williams there are a LOT of folks working in this field with no degree — and even fewer who have a Master's degree. And your friend's situation isn't necessarily the same as yours: when you're looking for a full-blown research role, yes — a Master's degree often goes a long way because of the formality with which a lot of orgs approach the research discipline. It often shows up in job requirements in job postings.
So again, if your goal is to do formal research for a larger organization, then an equally formal education is probably in order.
However, with regard to UX or Design work in general, of all the things employers consider when hiring someone for a UX role, a Master's degree isn't generally something of concern. Do these things help? In many cases yes — but in just as many....no.
What matters much, much more is experience — stories you can tell on your resume and in your portfolio that prove you can do the work.
And finally, I have to say this: I have worked with a great many people over my 30 years who had little to no formal education or training; I know just as many working in UX and Product Design right now. There is no one, single path to this profession.
Start where you are, leverage what you've got. And get out there and take at least a hundred shots at applying before you convince yourself that you have no chance to succeed. Giving up too soon is a surefire way to never get what you want. Have faith and go forward; feel the fear and do it anyway.
The only way to know for sure is to do it.
Joe Natoli Thank you for all the super helpful answers! It was absolutely amazing having you here. Before we wrap up this AMA, do you have any final thoughts, closing remarks, or anything you’d like to promote to our readers?
I'll wrap up with the advice I seem to give most often: in. just about every area of your career and your life, you will encounter situations and obstacles that scare you. You will have no shortage of moments where you'll wonder if you have what it takes, wonder if you're strong enough or brave enough to go forward, etc.
What I want you to know: that's OK. That's normal. That's life.
At the end of the day, you almost always have what you need. Your skill set, your talents, your abilities are almost never the real obstacle. Instead, what will hold you back is that fear.
Self-doubt. Imposter syndrome. Call it what you will, but we all have it. Even if we don’t all admit it. And instead of trying to overcome it, or wait for the moment when we’re fearless, you have to make peace with it. Accept it as part of who you are, realize it’s not some flaw that only you have, recognize that it doesn’t have to stop you.
It didn’t stop me, and it didn’t stop countless celebrities whose paths I’ve crossed who all had stories to tell about this silent friend we all have.
Which is why the rule I give folks — and the one I remind myself just about every week of my life — is this:
Feel the fear. Do it anyway.
No one is fearless. NO ONE. Whether they admit it or not, anyone who's ever taken a shot at something they really care about is feeling more fear than they know what to do with. The only difference between those who succeed and those who fail is the willingness to accept that fear and uncertainly and step forward anyway.
As my friend Melanie Spring related to me years back, fear can sit in the passenger seat — but it’s not allowed to drive the car.
Where you go — and how far — is entirely up to you.
Thank you all so very much for hanging with me these last couple days. I wish you all much success and I ask you all to believe in yourselves — because I certainly do.
AND — connect with me on social media, please check out the UX 365 Academy and grab my latest free e-book, THE WAY IT IS: 10 UX career tips from the school of hard knocks!
My UX365 Academy: