In the next 5 years, Brazen predicts that UX Design jobs are expected to grow at a rate of 30%, while CNN Money calls UX one of the “Best Jobs in America.” Originally founded to create a tech community at UW, RSO Dubstech is on its mission to empower the UX community through its quarterly Protothon (a portmanteau of Prototype + Hackathon).
Settled in the Design Lab in Sieg Hall, Protothon participants gathered in groups of 2 or 3 to scribble their plans on white-board tables. Despite being constrained by both time and space, students were quick to transform their ideas into digital mock-ups in a span of 3-hours.
“The competition is meant to be time-pressured.” Said Zoshua Colah, CEO of Dubstech. “In an industry scenario, you don’t have the luxury of spending months on a project. Rapid prototyping is a great skill for UX Designers because it helps them make faster decisions.”
Colah and the Dubstech team hope this competition will create a supportive UX community for students to learn, network and diversify their design experience.
“I joined Protothon to put my Human-Centered Design studies into practice, which is something that I don’t usually get in my classes.” Said Yomna, a graduate HCDE student from Egypt. “It forces me to think on my feet and makes me more confident in my decision-making.”
Although the end-result of the competition is to complete a final mock-up, students see this as an opportunity beyond the product.
“Many people think that UX students think alike because we study the same profession. However, we’re more diverse than you think and this competition lets me build good team dynamics with different people.” Said Tyler, an HCI graduate student.
Meanwhile, Olivia, HCDE sophomore, had a different take on the competition: “It feels more like a UI sprint than a UX challenge. UX requires more user research and we don’t have enough time to do multiple iterations in 3-hours.”
The 5th Protothon was hosted only 2 days after Valentine's. Dubbed as “beginner-friendly” on their Facebook page, the competition is open to students of all ages and abilities, from emerging freshmen to experienced graduates.
Sid, a Freshman who aspires to get into UW’s iSchool, says that attending events like Protothon could make his resume stronger. Meanwhile, graduate attendants want to gain a couple more “portfolio pieces” at the competition.
During the competition, participants had the choice of building either a “Google Recipe” or a “YouTube Learning” interface. Many groups went beyond barriers by proposing new technologies such as Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.
Undergraduates Daniel and Tori created a “Voice User interface” for their Google Recipe. What inspired the duo to pursue this prompt is their love for cooking.
“Cooking is a dirty job. For amateurs, they need to flip back and forth between cooking and their phone.” Daniel explains, “That’s why creating a Voice Interface allows users to keep their hands focused on the food.”
Nam and Erin also have a passion for food, but the two prioritized on emulating Google’s Design Principles in their app.
“Since this is a Google prompt, we have to ask ourselves “What is the Google way?” Nam said, “There are many recipe apps out there and we need to differentiate ourselves from the crowd.”
Also based on the idea to emulate Google design, Jiyun and her team became extra creative by creating their own icons from scratch.
“We didn’t feel like pre-made icons on sites like FlatIcon can convey the true image of Google. Therefore, we made our own!” Jiyun explained as she showed her breakfast eggs colored in Google’s hex code.
On a different note, YouTube Learning tackled the more educational side. Colah described it as a “Udemy but for YouTube.”
Olivia and Elsie created “BrainTube,” which focused on creating a personalized learning experience on video streams.
“One of the constraints in video-learning is forgetting what we just saw. Our solution is to create Knowledge Checks which keep users motivated while taking the course” Olivia explains.
Other participants integrated the social side of learning. Group duo Jazmynn and Shreya created a chatroom to help course-takers learn together. “I am inspired by the classes that I enjoy the most, and they all encourage active communication among students. I want to bring this experience to YouTube Learning’s UX Design to create a healthy environment.”
After the design session, students presented their mock-ups at their desks, while participants and judges walked around to find the Top 3 winners of each challenge.
“It is a tough job for the judge.” Said Zubair Amjad, President of Dubstech. “At one of the past Protothons, an HCDE Professor announced that everyone was a winner because they all did an incredible job!”
However, decisions did come to a closure. The Top 3 Google Recipe challenge finalists were “Google Chef” by Oliver, Yomna and Tyler, “Engineers” by Emma and Savannah, and “Chefie” by Yewon, Mina and Jiyun.
The Top 3 YouTube Learning finalists were “BrainTube” by Elise and Oliver, “YouTube Learning” by Cynthia, Joanne and Roxine, and “YouTube Learning” by Shreya and Jazmynn.
At the end, voters believed that the best groups for each category were “Google Chef” and “BrainTube.”
The winning trio of Google Chef each received a Google Home Mini, while BrainTube winners received $50 worth of Amazon Gift Cards.