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5 Reasons Continuing Education is Important for Mobile App Designers

February 16, 2017

Most people assume that school is over when we finish our undergraduate degrees. If you graduated at age 22, it’s likely that you went to school for 17 straight years. By the time you hand in your last assignment to your most difficult professor, you’re just aching for a break — and you’ve certainly earned it, but don’t sit on your laurels for too long.

Achieving our goals (graduating from college, landing a job as a mobile app designer, etc) does not mean that we stop learning. Our brains do not stop seeking new information at commencement. They want to be challenged. We owe it to ourselves to continue our education — constantly. There are many ways of going about this, but the main objective here is to continuously expand your knowledge base throughout the course of your career.

Continuing Education on the Rise

If you used the most recent recession to head back to (or stay in) the classroom, you are not alone. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), enrollment in “degree-granting institutions” increased by seven percent from 2008 to 2013.

A photo of a professor giving a lecture in front of a projector screen.
School may seem unappealing at first, but mobile app designers are bound to learn a lot from taking classes.

Apparently, recessions are a popular time to return to school. Stanford economist Caroline Hoxby says that “college-going has increased in every recession since the 1960s.” It’s a fascinating phenomenon: people are more likely to spend money on education at a time when they are less likely to have disposable income. Hoxby elaborates, “what happens is that the opportunity cost of going to college — the job opportunities a person forgoes while in college — drops very dramatically during recessions.”

It makes sense if you think about it. If you are an undergraduate nearing commencement with fewer job prospects, you are more likely to stick around for graduate school instead of taking a gap year. Those who have already entered the workforce and are struggling to get promotions (or were laid off) are more likely to enroll in continuing education courses than if circumstances were reversed.

We understand that time and money are finite resources. But here at Proto.io, we feel pretty strongly about this lifelong learning thing, so we’ve compiled five reasons that continuing education is important for mobile app designers.

1. Trends Can Date Your Mobile App Design

Every industry is subject to shifts in trends. For mobile app designers, trends can affect many aspects of their work, including visual design, functionality, and color preference. We’ve come a long way since the Palm Pilot’s rudimentary apps and Snake on the Nokia 6110, which means that your mobile app designs should have as well.  

Think about your first impressions when you walk into a kitchen with wallpaper. Some people might flashback to the early 90’s when their moms were pasting the stuff onto every square inch of the house. The owners may have put it up in 2005 and maybe it’s not ghastly, but despite what HGTV says, no one wants paper glued to the walls of their house.

For mobile app designers, this means keeping up with design trends as they ebb and flow, including the intricacies behind skeuomorphism and what still works versus what doesn’t. In a rare interview with USA TODAY, Apple’s Chief Design Officer, Jony Ive discussed this change as it related to the development of iOS 7 in 2013.

The Little Details Make a Big Difference

When Apple was developing the very first iOS, they relied heavily on skeuomorphism to help users adapt to their new-fangled devices. For the Game Center, a green felt background was placed on the icon to give it a pool table vibe. The Weather app icon featured typical Cupertino weather: a sunny 73 degrees. 

But after seven years, people had grown accustomed to using a glass touch screen, which meant that Ive and his team no longer felt it necessary to stick with this design philosophy. The Weather app icon now features a cloud with a partial sun and the Game Center icon is filled with colorful bubbles. If you were to look at the old iOS now, you might think it looks a bit antiquated.

The point is: if your design work isn’t up to snuff, it will feel rudimentary, which may lead potential users to believe that you aren’t updating it — just like that kitchen with the grape leaf wallpaper. And if you’re not updating it, maybe you’re not even supporting it, which means all your hard work could get deleted from someone’s phone before they even use it.

A photo of two people giving a lecture at a conference for mobile app designers.
Conferences are a great place for mobile app designers to learn more about the industry and meet new people.

2. If You’re Not Moving Forward, You’re Basically Moving Backward

You came into the industry with a wealth of knowledge, thanks to professors, classmates, co-ops, and internships. You were a hungry mobile app designer. You didn’t mind working long hours or doing the grunt work. You were happy to learn new skills and it was easy for you to do so because you were soaking it all in. 

Flash forward a few years and maybe you’re feeling a bit beaten down. You’ve seen good designs get thrown out for reasons you didn’t understand. Maybe you haven’t been allowed to move forward with projects you felt passionately about. Perhaps a manager has been unfairly hard on you or people don’t take you seriously because you’re the newest member of the team.

Keeping Your Chin Up

Many people have experiences like this, but you can’t let it weigh you down for too long. It’s alright to feel frustrated. It’s normal to be irritated. Just remember to pull yourself out of it before it affects your drive. Letting yourself become complacent or listful could the beginning of the end of your career — especially if you’re a mobile app designer. This market is as tough as it is competitive and it won’t be changing anytime soon.

If you stop learning your trade, you are essentially moving backward. Your colleagues who have participated in continuing education and kept up with industry news are going to be leaps and bounds ahead of you. They’re probably going to get that promotion you applied for — and likely at a higher pay rate.

In many ways, professional conferences are a good place to start. Conferences frequently feature talks by leading mobile app designers who are happy to share their experiences and insights with the industry. This is a good opportunity to network and ask questions of those who’ve been where you are. Remember that sometimes, career advancement simply means not falling behind.

3. Renewing Certifications is Cheaper than Starting from Scratch

If a college degree or professional program was part of your journey in becoming a mobile app designer, you may have taken certification classes. While part of the appeal of maintaining a professional certificate is obviously to put it on your resume and LinkedIn, a major reason to put forth the effort here is the continuing education experience.

Renewing a professional certificate usually involves taking courses. Some require a certain number of training hours, while others might allow you to choose which courses you will take (many of which are available online). You get to learn about current trends in your industry, as well as any pressing concerns and how to deal with them. For mobile app designers, courses might go over easy mistakes that make you vulnerable to hacking — an increasingly common occurrence in the digital age.

If you currently hold a professional certificate, renewing before the expiry date will almost always be cheaper than having to start from scratch — which is an added bonus on top of the educational opportunity presented to you.

A photo of people using study cubicles at a library.
Local libraries are a fantastic resource for mobile app designers to continue their education.

Save Yourself (or Your Business) Some Cash

As an employer, paying for re-certification might be considered a tax-write off (check with your accountant, obviously), but even if it isn’t, you’ll still reap plenty of rewards. First of all, your employees will be grateful that you’ve invested in them. And second, their continued education will keep them (and you) up to date on industry knowledge and trends, allowing your business to be more competitive.

If your employer is unable to pay for classes or if you are freelancing, do your best to stock some cash away. In the meantime, look for free resources online, read everything you can get your hands on, and don’t forget to network, network, network.

4. Networking Opportunities for Mobile App Designers

Networking may seem like a silly reason to spend money on classes, conferences, or certifications, but hear us out. Recently, the job search website Glassdoor studied 440,000 job interview reviews posted to their website dating back to 2009. They found that applicants who had been referred by a current employee were up to 6.6 percent more likely to receive a job offer.

This number points to something many people have known for years: “it’s about who you know.” “Knowing someone” can get your portfolio to the top of the pile instead of somewhere buried in the middle with the 200 other mobile app designers applying for the same job. Think about it: why do most job applications ask if anyone referred you to the company?

The answer is rather simple: referred hires have a higher retention rate — a whopping 45 percent after two years (down from the 80 percent turnover rate of typical job-board hires.) From an employer perspective, referred hires are “known” entities. They’ve already passed the pre-screening stage because someone that HR directors know and trust is recommending them for the job. As for your upside: employee-referred candidates are 350 percent less likely to be fired. It’s a win-win for both of you — especially among fiercely competitive mobile app designers, which means you probably shouldn’t skip the next networking event you’re invited to.

5. Education Creates Career Growth for Mobile App Designers

Hands down — continuing education is one of the most effective paths to furthering your career and mobile app designers are not exempt. Keeping up with current information is critical, especially because the industry changes so rapidly.

Between staying up to date with shifts in your industry and networking, you are bound to gain valuable assets that will prove helpful in the future. Not to mention the personal sense of achievement you’ll feel by expanding your knowledge base and skillset. Frankly, there is no way that continuing education will hurt your career as a mobile app designer.

Continuing Education Can Mean Many Things for Mobile App Designers

Remember that continuing education doesn’t have to mean taking formal classes. Mobile app designers can learn quite a bit from reading books, industry magazines, or blogs by established peers. Reading stimulates your mind and keeps it hungry for more. In fact, one theory suggests that reading is what caused the human brain to evolve. Many successful business people read every day and suggest those who want to be successful should do the same.

A photo of a woman lying in the grass and reading a book on a beautiful summer day.
Reading is an essential part of continuing education for mobile app designers.

Warren Buffett famously reads at least 500 pages per day and when he was just beginning his investment career, it was sometimes double that. Joining Buffet are the likes of Mark Cuban, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates. Oprah Winfrey and Emma Watson are also avid readers and even started book clubs to encourage others to broaden their educational horizons.

It’s never too late and you’re never too old to learn something new. Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald recently finished his undergraduate degree in communications at the University of Phoenix. Steven Spielberg dropped out of the University of California Long Beach when his film career took off, but returned 35 years later to finish his degree in film production and electronic arts.

Benjamin Franklin once said “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest” — and he knew a thing or two about continuing education. Franklin was 78 years old when he invented “double spectacles,” or as we know them: bifocals.

As a matter of fact — you’re already starting. Right now, you’re reading an article written for mobile app designers just like yourself, so let this be the first step in your unique plan to continue your education.

Proto.io lets anyone build mobile app prototypes that feel real. No coding or design skills required. Bring your ideas to life quickly! Sign up for a free 15-day trial of Proto.io today and get started on your next mobile app design.

How do you encourage professional development for your mobile app designers? Let us know by tweeting us @Protoio!

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