This article is a guest post by Tim Brown, a web designer from Minneapolis.
User Experience (UX) is such an interesting subject because it’s really just the study of humans, and our ways of interacting with things. It calls us to pay attention to the perspective of those around us – it helps us take into consideration the habits and tendencies of others to really make something that’s easy to use and pleasant.
A short story about how I got into UX
I was in community college for Web Design and Interactive media when I first heard about User Experience. It was really a bit mysterious to me for a couple months until I dug into it – toured a local agency that was hiring interns for UX, and read a couple amazing books on the subject: Steven Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think” and “Lean UX” by Jeff Gothelf.
I got excited and started chatting with other people in my class that wanted to get into the internship – so we started a project together, got a real client, and even got her to pay for coffee shop gift cards used to bribe people to do user experience testing with us on her chiropractic website.
How to simulate a class by creating your own group
The issue with depending on faculty to develop the classes you’ll need in order to get hired, is that markets get competitive and unless you’re in the top school in the nation – you’ll need some kind of competitive advantage. User Experience designers have that advantage when they are going up against simple graphic designers or even well-trained user interface designers with little UX understanding.
You can learn a ton from talking to professionals about what books helped them become what they are today. Matt Damon’s character in Good Will Hunting said “You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got for $1.50 in late fees at the public library.” Read the right books, then combine that with a small group of people committed to learning about user experience, and finally, ensure accountability through weekly meet ups.
This doesn’t discount the value of college classes, and definitely doesn’t discount the college experience. For example, you can meet the people committed to learn with you. But in my experience it takes some effort above and beyond just doing what’s required of you to get passing grades. In this situation, often due to inexperienced teachers, creating your own projects and experiments, to tackle with a couple of other committed people, can be commensurate to taking an advanced course, especially when guided by books other experts in that field have suggested.
Being respectful of school leadership – being part of a positive change
Now teachers will react one of two ways to your new “mastermind” group; they will either feel threatened and want to try to thwart it – or they will contribute, get excited and allow more opportunities for you to exercise your pursuit.
Be respectful of them, tell them about it and even invite them to participate as feels appropriate. In the case of our story earlier – our teachers started poking around, felt a little threatened, but ended up incorporating a UX class into the curriculum a year later. My experience is that you should create a group of your own, and don’t rely on the curriculum changing to keep up with the rapid pace of the market.
How UX starts to get more respect in colleges
If pursued by students, and demanded by the job market – UX will get the respect it deserves in college curriculums. Teachers are generally held accountable, to some degree, for what percentage of their graduating class gets hired – and this is bound to help more people get hired as UX Designer jobs this past year reached 150,000.
Colleges currently offering UX centric classes
To fill the demand, before many colleges catch up, more trade school type training programs have popped up. So check those out along with some out of more traditional colleges.
- Center Centre (formerly Unicorn Institute) provides a 24 month program with 75% of your time being spent on real projects.
- Huge UX School is located in Brooklyn New York and exists within Huge Agency.
- California College of the IxD is in the Bay Area and touts UX professors who design at IDEO and Facebook.
Encouragement for your UX Journey
User Experience is actually a very heart-warming experience because of the way it teaches empathy and calls us to pay close attention to how other people interact with the world. It can also be nerve-racking if you’ve created something you feel is excellent and have to watch someone pick it apart, or struggle with it – but all of this makes you better. It’s a worthwhile pursuit, and those who take it seriously are going to be more effective designers, and dare I say it – humans.
Tim Brown is a designer and marketer for Snap Agency – Minneapolis Web Design and creates websites that are built around business goals and that are built to attract traffic through SEO Services and increase conversions through Conversion Rate Optimization.
The views in this article are that of the author and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Loop11.