5 things I learned from interaction design specialization on Coursera
For the past year I’ve been studying Interaction Design Specialization on Coursera. This series of courses taught me mindset and techniques of a designer. Design is everywhere, and a design-oriented mindset allows us to see the world in different ways. At its core, designers are problem identifiers and problem solvers, and everyone can strive to be a designer. So what have I learned from this specialization?
1. Design has its workflow
The process of design originates from user needs, and ends with an outcome that address the identified need. On a high level, design has following states:
- Needfinding. We start out by observing what people do now, stay curious, and ask questions to clarify any problems.
- Ideation. Brainstorm problems out of the observation, and brainstorm solutions for the problems.
- Prototype. Start with paper prototype, and get feedback from the user, modify the paper prototype based on feedback.
- Heuristic Evaluation. Refine the prototype by thinking about usability heuristics, get critics from other designers based on heuristics, see ten design heuristics by Jakob Nielson.
- Plan & A skeleton. Sketch out development plan of designing the product (e.g. on a weekly cadence), and iterate on the plan (e.g. build high-fidelity prototype).
- Draft out testing plans. Think about what it is we want to test, and set up experiments.
- Test prototype. Conduct user testing sessions based on testing plan, iterate on refining the product.
2. Design is iterative
No one gets a design right at first shot. It requires rounds of brainstorming, prototyping and testing to generate a design that hit the bull’s eye. Design process is iterative by nature, and the focus should be on the marginal improvements during each iteration. After each round of design iteration, we should have a better grasp of problems we try to solve.
3. Stay curious, not judgemental
One big mindset challenge for being a designer is how we receive and process feedback. When we design prototypes and get it in front users, any critics or negative feedback might hurt our personal feelings. As designers, our goal is to identify a user problem, and apply design to solve it. Instead of thinking about “this is my design” and getting personally attached, we can stay curious and focus on more problem-solving questions, such as:
- what are the real problem(s) for the users?
- what are some solution(s) to address the problem(s)?
- how to measure whether the solution(s) addresses problem(s)?
Such mindset removes personal attachment from the solution, and we switch from being judgemental about the feedback to being curious about the feedback.
One of my misunderstanding on design is that design is about “making things pretty”. Product design is centered around information and user interaction with relevant information. The primary focus should be user-centric and information-centric. For example, in designing for interactions, we should keep in mind that search and navigation go together, and we should emphasize on discover-ability and feedback of a design, there are several principal questions we can ask:
- How do I know what action is possible?
- How do I know what are the steps for certain action?
- How do I know if an action worked?
5. Design problem is everywhere
Above all, this specialization taught me to see the world differently. We can keep a curious mindset and observe everything around us, from the design of a doorknob to the shape of a soda bottle. Design is everywhere, so are the efficiency and inefficiency that come with it.
Design requires research, it starts with an ask, an idea, or simply an observation. From a vague, big idea we start to explore and learn. The process itself provides a tremendous joy for any designer.
Marshall Shen © 2017
Originally published at himarsh.org on October 10, 2017.