My group’s sketches from one of my projects.

Everything is (not) perfect.

The pros and cons of General Assembly’s immersive UX course.

This is a post I wrote last year. I just stumbled upon it again and I still believe every word — two UX jobs and TA-ing two UX evening classes at General Assembly later.

It’s been three months since I was labeled officially as a UX Designer. Not just when I began calling myself that because I was taking a full-time course on it, but three months since a company began paying me a regular salary and asking for my suggestions.

Three months is a decent amount of time to have worked in this field and reflect on everything I learned at General Assembly through its UX immersive course to think about its pros and cons. Or, at least, so I think.

But let me start off by saying — prior to UXDI, I had done some UX work. I just didn’t know what it was called or any best practices. Or that it was even a job! I also had some graphic design knowledge and programming under my belt, so I was in a decent place when I started the course. And then there were my two amazing teachers for the class, Donna Lichaw and Celine Vernon, who were able to explain everything in a well-thought-out and easy-to-understand manner. Everyone is different and every course is different, so someone else who took this course at another time or city may feel differently. Heck, some of my classmates probably feel differently.

But, whatever. Let me start anyway. And if TV has ever taught you anything, it’s that you always start with the bad news first. So, my gripes with the course now that it’s over and I’ve had time to work out in the real world…

You design in a bubble. Everything is perfect. You don’t worry about clients, budgets, APIs, and crazy deadlines. You’re not waiting on someone who has a million other projects to work on. You’re not walking in on someone else’s process. You don’t have to worry about people who don’t believe in UX.

It’s not the real world. In the real world, you have clients who don’t know what they want or change their mind every few days. You have APIs that spit you back ugly data which screws up how things are displayed on your app. (Think everything is always spelled and labeled correctly? Guess again.) You are not waiting on your boss to finish his fifth meeting of the morning so you can get approval on one tiny thing on your wireframe in order to move onto the next screen or a developer who has his hands on three other projects to give you some feedback. You’re not editing someone else’s designs and worrying about bruising someone’s ego. You are not trying to explain to someone why more money and time needs to be spent on doing research and prototyping. And you’re not worried about time constraints set in place due to the client’s limited budget.

They tell you all this during the course, but it’s in passing. In the real world, you’ll have constraints to consider… Something for you to keep in the back of your mind, but you never really think about it because you just don’t have time. Why worry about all these things for future nonexistent projects when you’re already worrying about the presentation that’s due next week and creating a portfolio to help you land a job by the end of the course? Pft. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

But here’s what I love about the course:

You design in a bubble. Everything is perfect. You don’t worry about clients, budgets, APIs, and crazy deadlines. You’re not waiting on someone who has a million other projects to work on. You’re not walking in on someone else’s process. You don’t have to worry about people who don’t believe in UX.

You create in an ideal world. There are no boundaries; there are no limits. You aren’t thinking about budgets. The world is your oyster. You are pushed to think differently, beyond the status quo. If you want to reimagine the checkout flow, you can. If you want to redesign a photo library, you can. Everything is possible. And your instructors will push you until you realize that. When else will you get that kind of opportunity?

You design in the perfect scenario which makes it easier for you find your way in imperfect scenarios. You just won’t realize it until you’re forced.

Those eight to ten weeks really gives you the tools you need to make yourself an awesome UX designer. You just need to take them. Eat some humble pie. Work your ass off. And don’t be afraid to throw away an idea and start over.

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