What’s The Best Way To Train User Experience Professionals?

 

Woman standing in front of a blackboard with question marks

What’s the best way to get knowledge and skills to be a user experience professional? Can you learn it all on the job? Is there a role for education and classes? If there is, what kind of classes?

Should you try and get a college degree? (There are very few undergraduate schools, that actually have a degree in user experience. Some have some classes, and maybe a concentration, but few have a degree. Should you get an undergraduate degree in something else — anything related — and then get a master’s in HCI (Human-Computer Interaction).

What about short courses? Should you take a week or two of training from a vendor? Or take some online training classes?

I’ve been thinking about this question for many years. I’ve offered “industry training” (i.e., a week-long class), and I’ve offered mentoring programs. I recently taught a semester long class as an Adjunct Professor at University of Wisconsin. And the Weinschenk Institute has online video courses you can take to learn about user experience and user-centered-design topics.

So when my colleague Jim Jacoby (founder of Manifest Digital in Chicago) told me the other day that his new venture was The School for Digital Craftsmanship, I asked him to tell me more. And then after he told me about the user experience/user-centered design “school” he has started, I suggested we do a podcast interview about it.

Below you will find the 23 minute podcast interview.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on this link

Here are some of the topics we cover:

  • How a shortage of user experience/user-centered design professionals in his agency led him to start the School for Digital Craftsmanship
  • The idea of a “trade” school education for the field, that combines classroom study with practical experience
  • The first flagship courses that start this July (2013). They are 10 weeks long and meet a few nights a week, starting in Chicago and St. Louis.
  • What the application process is like, and what the experience will be like to attend.

As of this writing there are 12 spots still open for the classes starting in July, so if you are interested go to the School’s website: admci.org for more information.

What do you think? What’s the best way for people to get the education they need to do UX/UCD work?

 

 

5 Ways A Task Analysis Results In Great Design

 

Picture of a task analysis flowchart

A task analysis is the one document that really spells out what the users’ experience is going to be before you design anything at all.

I think the process of task analysis ,and the document that comes out of the process, are some of the most interesting and useful things one does as a UX Designer or a usability specialist.

I also think that task analyses are underappreciated. It does takes time, energy and creative thought to come up with a useful task analysis and people are usually “chomping at the bit” to start design. They often don’t want to create a task analysis first.

So I decided to create a course on “How To Develop & Document A Task Analysis”. And then I put together this short video on 5 Ways a Task Analysis Results In Great Design:

 

 

Here’s a summary of the video.

5 Ways A Task Analysis Results In Great Design 

  1. Quickly & efficiently document how the users are going to get their task done — Before you start storyboarding, designing screens, or creating user requirements documents, try creating a task analysis first. When you do a task analysis before design you are deciding on the most important and critical tasks and detailing in a simple diagram how the user is going to accomplish each one. All the work you do after this will be much more efficient because you will have hashed through lots of alternatives early on.
  2. Use the task analysis document to communicate critical design decisions BEFORE design — Not only will the task analysis help you in your design, it will help you communicate with others — stakeholders, programmers, visual designers.
  3. Get design agreement on the user experience early & upfront — By working on a task analysis you are making design decisions before design. So your whole team is coming to agreement on what the design will be like early and before design begins.
  4. Save time & re-work — Because you have worked through a lot of design decisions in order to create the task analysis you can save a lot of time and rework later. Instead of starting on design and then having to change all your storyboards or prototypes, you can work through the issues and decisions about the user experience before design and save yourself a lot of rework.
  5. Ensure that the design is accepted by the team AND matches the way your users want to do a task — When you work together with your team on the task analysis you are making a series of decisions that everyone buys into as the task analysis document gets created. Not only that, because a task analysis is describing how the users are going to complete a task, you are ensuring that the users’ point of view and desired process is incorporated into the task analysis. So when you design from the task analysis you will be designing a user experience the way the users want to do it.
Task analysis — the unsung hero of a user centered design process!
What do you think? Do you develop task analyses documents before you design?

 

If you are interested in the new course check it out at Udemy.com. And if you decide to try it, use the code 0812 during August for a special discount.

 

4 Ways Personas & Scenarios Result In Great Design

 

Drawing of stick people connected by dotted lines

I find myself these days working on two streams: on the one hand I’m working on my next new project (which is another book called “How To Get People To Do Stuff”) and on the other hand I’m recording a series of online training videos that cover the basics of doing usable design. Sometimes I think we get all caught up in new stuff and new ideas (Pinterest! apps!) and forget about the great stuff we’ve all worked hard to figure out… like personas and scenarios!

Developing and documenting personas and scenarios as part of a design process is not new. It’s been around for at least 30 years, and maybe more. But I was recently reminded of how powerful they both are in ensuring you do great design.

So in case you have forgotten WHY using personas and scenarios on your project results in great design, or in case you never knew, or in case you know but sometimes have a hard time explaining it to others, you can use this blog post, and the short video that goes with it, to remind yourself and/or explain to others.

I took excerpts from my latest online video course, “How to Develop & Document Personas & Scenarios”. to make a short video on the 4 Ways Personas & Scenarios Result In Great Design:

 

Here’s a summary of the video.

4 Ways Personas & Scenarios Result in Great Design

 1. Bring assumptions into the open — When you do design there is always a moment (actually dozens or hundreds of moments) when you are deciding something. For example, should I put the button here? What should I call this? Should I separate this into 2 pages? Whether you are aware of it or not, at that moment you are making that decision, you have many assumptions operating about your audience, who they are, what they are trying to accomplish, etc. Some of those assumptions are based on your knowledge and facts, other assumptions are probably biased, as in, “I think this would be best” (implying your audience will think so too, but that might not be the case, since you are likely not your audience). When you take some time to develop personas and scenarios before design then you are bringing all these assumptions out in the open. You can see if your assumptions are the same as your other team members. You can see if your assumptions can be validated.

2. Ensure you are designing what your audience needs & wants — How can you design what your audience needs and wants if you don’t know what they need and want?! When you go through the process of creating personas and scenarios you are collecting data on what people really need and want, not just what you think they need and want.

3. Design for what is critical & important, not the exception — The process of creating personas and scenarios is the process of deciding “if we can’t design for everyone doing everything then let’s concentrate on the most important users doing the most important things.” You have to identify what’s important, what’s frequent, what’s critical, and what’s an exception. Then when you design you can be sure you are designing for what 80% of the people need/want to do 80% of the time, instead of being distracted too much by exceptions — things that rarely occur or aren’t that important.

4. Communicate clearly — How many times have you left a meeting sure that everyone is all in agreement about the audience and the scenarios for the product you are designing. But if you don’t document those decisions they are easily forgotten, or they change over time. When you create personas and scenarios you have documents that you can use throughout the project to communicate clearly to other team members, as well as stakeholders, what the decisions and design parameters are.

 

What do you think? How do you think personas and scenarios help create great design? Are they used in your organization?

For more on personas & scenarios, you can watch the first couple of lessons of the new course for free.