When I got done with grad school, I swore to myself that I’d never sign up for classes again. But that was a lie because this past summer, I enrolled in a 10-week Applied Interaction Design pilot class offered by The ADMCi School for Digital Craftmanship…
Over the past few years, user centered design has taken center stage, as it should, when it comes to product design. And by “product” I am including digital products such as websites. While I have no formal education in User Experience design, I have worked on the web long enough to grasp straightforward concepts. My UX education has come mostly from blogs such as Smashing Magazine and UX Booth, and books like Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think. The ADMCi class was then the perfect opportunity to brush up on the knowledge I already had as well as an opportunity to learn new things that I had only heard of in passing.
My background lies in the technical/software engineering realm (no I will not fix your computer) but I’ve always had, and still maintain an interest in design and UX.
In between my Associate and Bachelors program, I took a year off to work and gain a little experience in the technology field (and to make a few bucks to pay for tuition). While looking for a job, I spent plenty of hours designing homepages for imaginary companies using a bootlegged copy of Photoshop. While I wouldn’t consider myself the best designer, I think the hours spent designing made me a decent designer. But more importantly, I learnt design principles that have become very useful to me in the work I do today as a front-end developer.
I’m not going to go into details about the class except to say it covered a substantial amount of information, from mental models to heuristics to usability testing. A majority of what was covered was new material to me, and the bits I was already aware of I was able to put a label around. I think as developers we are lucky in that some of the terminology and methods used are similar. Think sketching, prototyping, and user testing. Additionally, we tend to do things that seem like common sense to us, for example, adding form validation messages, but are actually good UX practices.
Part of the class also involved undertaking on an actual client project and this is where most of the learning happened as we were able to take what we’d learned and actually apply it to a real-life project. Starting with the client’s initial idea, my team worked on creating a concept, brainstormed features, doodled sketches, built a prototype in Axure, conducted user testing in a lab environment, and presented findings and recommendations. And it goes without saying that the usage of Post-Its was phenomenal.
I will conclude by saying that I’m a firm believer in the idea that being multi-skilled is something that will never hurt you because it has allowed me to get actively involved in, and contribute to various facets of a project. It has also allowed me to make good decisions when confronted with a situation where I have to proceed without the benefit of collaboration with teammates. Taking this class not only opened my eyes to new methodologies and ideas, but also allowed the expansion of my capabilities (call me a tactical UX implementer). Sure, you can sign up for a 4-year program majoring in UX, but if you’re like me and are looking for breadth of knowledge, a class like ADMCi’s offerings are the perfect way to go. I promise it won’t hurt.