Reading Time: 29 minutes

This open evening recording about the Professional Diploma in UX Design includes our CEO, our education advisors and two of our students from the south of the country. It covers and overview of the UX jobs market, why now is the best time to be a UX designer, interviews with two current students and a questions and answers session.

Our students include Craig, who is making the move from police officer to UX design, and Faye who was bored in her project management job and walked into a new role in UX on the back of mentioning that she was studying the Professional Diploma in UX Design.

The hosts and guests

Colman – Everybody welcome to the open evening for the South of England about the Professional Diploma in UX Design. I’ll just talk you through the agenda for the evening. We’re going to briefly give you an overview of the UX industry and going to talk about why there’s never been a better time to start a career in UX Design. Then we’re going to have a discussion with two of our current student who are going to talk to us, talk to all of us about their experience studying Professional Diploma in UX Design and what it’s like and what impact it’s had, if any on their careers. And then we’re going to have a question and answer session where it’s over to you guys to ask any questions you like of us and we’ll do our best to answer. Before we get stuck in, quick round of introductions.

My name is Colman Walsh the CEO of the UX Design Institute, the handsome looking fellow on the left there is Thomas Woods. He’s one of our education advisors. And there you go. And introducing two of our students who’ll be joining us tonight, we’ve got Faye Lewis based in Bristol and Craig Twynam who is based in Canterbury. And thanks in advance for both Fay and Craig for giving us their time this evening and to participate in this.

What is UX?

So without further ado, we’ll talk about the industry and when people talk to us or ask us you know, what is UX? There’s a variety of different answers we can give them but one answer I like to give them is that user experience design is to the technology industry what architecture is to the construction industry. And user experience is not just about making products easy to use. It’s much more important than that. And I like to think that user experience plays a leadership roll, just like an architect does in the construction of one of these skyscrapers. The architect’s role or the team of architects they play a leadership role and they have to answer the big questions like:

  • What are we building?
  • Why are we building it?
  • Who are we building it for?
  • What do we want this building to look like when it’s finished?

And it’s about adding value. The people responsible for building this building, who are paying for it, they want to make sure that when the building is complete that it’s worth more than the sum of the parts and the labor that has gone into it. And that value add comes from the design skills of the architect. And it’s similar in the software industry.

And for most of my career I’ve been working in UX for over twenty years, most of my career. UX was a niche, kind of like an underground profession. And people who knew about it and believed in it were passionate about it but not many people did know about it. And a lot of my career was spent trying to convince people or trying to explain to people what UX was, and try to convince people that they should invest in it.

Design to engineer ratios

But that changed quite radically in the last six or seven years. And that change is being driven by companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple, the big four. Who, as we all know, are four of the most successful companies, ever. And design is not a luxury for these organizations like it considered for many others. Design for these organizations is a necessity. And they take design very seriously, they invest massively in their UX Team because for them, design gives them a competitive advantage. Better quality products and happier customers and lower costs of developing their products. And they are continually investing in user experience design.

And this statistic here from 2016, in that year these companies increased their design head count by 65%. And where these very successful companies go all other companies in the technology space are following. So this slide is about Design-to-Engineer ratios and if you look at the IBM statistics circled what’s it telling us? What it’s telling us is that back in 2012 IBM for every 72 software engineers in the company they had only one designer. Which meant they were making a lot of software at the time but designing, hardly any of it. And in the intervening five years they brought that ratio down to 1 to 8.

And what they’re trying to do is become like these design lead startups such as Intercom and Uber. Who straight from the get go had a much lower ratio. And their philosophy should be that every software product that we release or that we ship to our customers has to be designed and that’s why we have so many designers in the company and a small ratio.

Surge in demand for UX

So what you see in the technology industry is a surge of interest and a surge in demand for UX Designers. And it’s not just with big global tech companies like IBM or DropBox or Linkedin. It’s basically any organization over a certain size that works in an industry where they make software. Which is basically every organization in every industry on the planet. So if you think of health care, if you think hospitals if you think of hotels, if you think of airlines news, entertainment, financial services, banking, you name it, every company in those industries is in their own business – I like to use the example of RyanAir. So RyanAir is in the airline industry but RyanAir is also in the software industry because software is critical to how it sells it’s product and how it runs its operations.

So this surge in demand for UX designers is happening across all industries and in all countries.

And the problem is, and it’s not a problem, if you’re trying to get into UX design, but the problem for employers is that there is shortage of supply. There’s a skills shortage and I could’ve shown you dozens of slides similar to this, but this was from Hired.com in London. And they said, back in 2017 there was a 289% increase in requests for UX interviews over the previous year. And market appetite for these skills is far outstripping supply today. So there’s a real crunch going on, a real skills gap and what that means for people who are working in UX design are people who are trying to break into UX design is that there’s never been a better time to start a career in UX.

It’s not like when I started my career in UX and there wasn’t that many options. You had to live in San Francisco or New York or London to make it happen. There’s basically opportunities for UX designers everywhere. I guess a lot of people on the webinar this evening are hoping to break into UX. And you’re lucky that you’re trying to do it now, rather than 10 or 15 years ago.

Where the Professional Diploma in UX Design came from

Look, a little bit about the course, and we’re not going to talk about this too much tonight. We’re going to let Faye and Craig really tell us what the course is about. Well just a little bit of a background about us. We first started UX education back in 2013. Delivering classroom based courses, two day courses in user experience design. And very successful and very popular courses. But what we learned from our students in those two day courses is that they wanted more. You know the number one question we got well there were two questions we always got, one is, where can I learn more, what’s next? How do I go deeper? And then the other one was how do I get a job?

So what students were looking for and we felt we weren’t able to provide in the two day training course was deeper content to go much deeper because UX is deep and it’s broad and you can’t really cover it in any real meaningful sense in two days. The students wanted recognition and you know, some sort of certification to say, look I’ve studied this and I’ve learned this. Do you offer any kind of credit rated certification, which we didn’t. They were looking for a career path, how do I get into the industry? And they were also looking for a sense of community and a sense of belonging. We get a lot of people who could be the only UX designer in their company. And that can be a bit of a lonely place. And they were looking for a some sense of camaraderie.

What makes the UX Design Institute course different

And that’s why we spent a few years creating the professional diploma in UX design. And we think that what we’ve created over those few years is unique in the marketplace. These are the reasons why.

  1. Syllabus Focused
    It’s built upon an in depth syllabus. So it’s a university standard syllabus of a huge breadth and depth and we think that is unmatched in the marketplace. We’re not going to send you to a YouTube videos or tell you to read blogs or articles. We have curated and created all that content ourselves. Based on our own professional experience of not just ourselves but of our wider network. And we think we’ve created something unique there.
  2. University credit-rated
    Because we have a syllabus we were able to get the syllabus credit rated by a university and again that makes us unique in the market. And what working with the university did was is really raised our standards, raised the standards of the course work we created and raised our own educational standards. And we feel that there’s a great combination of our professional experience and the universities academic experience has created a knock out course that can’t be matched.
  3. Exam and certification
    To get your certification you have to complete some projects you have to sit in an exam, an online exam. And if you get over a certain score, get over 60% then you will get your certification professional diploma in UX design, credit rated by Glasgow Caledonian University. Which is proof to yourself, to your colleagues to your employers, to your future employers that you have attained a certain level of knowledge on this particular topic.
  4. Industry validated
    We also have an industry advisory council made up of representatives from, who we see are the tech leaders in this space, companies like HubSpot and Intercom and SAP and Dell and also some recruiters that specialize in user experience and consultancies that specialize in user experience. And their role is to oversee the development of our courses and to make sure that the content we’re creating is that we’re developing the skills and the knowledge that employers are looking for. Combining that with the universities academic skills, our own professional skills, again, I think we have all the bases covered there content wise.
  5. Accessible
    And then finally, we make the courses accessible. Not just because it’s you know delivered online and you can consume it anywhere at any time but also because we think it’s affordable, compared to some of our peers in the market. We think we’re offering a fantastic course at the best available price. Which is very winning combination.

Our objectives for students

Mindset

I just want to let you know what we hope you get out of this course and what we hope all our students get out of the course is that first of all, that you acquire the mindset of the user experience professional and you learn to think like a UX designer, UX researcher whatever it may be because it is a different mindset. It is a different way of thinking about product design and software design. And I think a lot of people have ideas they think they kind of sort of know what UX is about, a lot of times they have some misconceptions and people who take our course afterwards come out the other side and say,

I get it now. I understand what it’s about, I know what it is, I know what it isn’t and I understand the benefits it can bring to me, to my team, to my organization to my product and to my users.

Process

Second thing we want you to get out of it is process. UX is nothing if not a process and to get the best results you have to follow the process. And to follow the process you have to know what the process is so we’re very process driven and the entire course is built, designed to follow the user experience process and you work on a case study from start to finish following the UX design process. And we want you to be confident that you know what the process is. To understand the process, to understand all the steps, to understand the benefit of each step and to understand how you can’t short circuit and you know, skip any steps if you want to be successful.

UX Skills

And then finally it’s about skills. So we want you to develop the core user experience design skills for each step of the process. So you’re going to be practicing research skills and analysis skills and high level design and detail design skills and also you’re going to learn how to create and test a prototype. And ultimately we want you to come out being confident and capable user experience professionals. Now of course, what you’ll need to bolt on on top of that is some experience but we think the experience you’ll get from the course will be the first step for you to get professional experience afterwards. I guess now this is our time for our question an answer session with Faye and Craig.

Student Interviews

Tom – we’ll start off with just kind of the basic stuff maybe and kind of talk a little but about you know, what were your objectives, like what did you want before you decided to take the course. And Craig maybe I’ll start with you and just kind of tell us a little a bit about why you decided to take the course in the first place.

Craig – Well I’m actually a police officer by trade. I went to art college back in the 1990’s did a bit of artwork, did some freelance stuff then became a police officer. And then did a lot of freelance illustration work for friends and stuff like that. And then I decided that I wanted a proper qualification and I was really browsing the industry and I came across UX purely by accident, I’d never heard of it at all and was very, very curious and decided I would, it was time for a career change. I’m getting a bit old in the tooth to be chasing after criminals. And wanted to use my design skills. Basically I decided that this was something apply myself to and I’m thoroughly enjoying it, I’m glad I did it.

Colman – That’s brilliant. That’s our first police officer that’s ah- we get a lot of people making career switches and our first police officer, that’s great.

Tom – we’ll dig in a little bit more in a moment but we’ll have a chat with Faye as well just to kind of get a sense of the same. Faye maybe you could tell us a little bit about what sparked your interest in either the career change or doing the course with us?

Faye – Okay well I was working in project controls and project management and was really finding it very dry and was sort of scouting around for a bit of a career side step really. Without loosing everything that I already knew about project management that you know, being able to bring in something a little bit more creative. So I came across UX through design thinking. Was reading about that and then it sort of lead me into the differences between design thinking and UX. And actually it was the mix of sort of analysis and creativity in UX that really sort of drew me to it. Creativity without having to be arty because I haven’t been to art college. But I had, I was trying to notice the bits of my job that I was really enjoying and realized that actually quite often it was making things look beautiful on the page and trying to you know, process maps that were absolutely exquisite. And just really enjoying that kind of you know, mapping something out but also making it look really lovely. So, I sort of thought hang on a minute there’s, this seems like that it would give me that side of things without having to be a master you know at all the Adobe suite.

Being creative require you to be an artist

Colman – Yeah, sure. That’s a great answer that your creativity without being artsy because I think those words can get confused little bit and people think oh creative, oh God am I creative? But there’s lots of different ways of being creative and you know problem solving and sorting things out and you know doing the process flow and of course, wanting them to look nice as well. I think that’s, I remember myself twenty years ago having the same sort of compulsions. So I’m with you Faye. Sounds similar to yourself Craig. Sounds like there was an artist background there that was just not being utilized maybe?

Craig – I went freelance for a little while and just wasn’t making enough for a living so I went into the custom service industry and ended up as a police officer of all things. But as I said earlier, I’m getting to be a bit long in the tooth to chasing people now. And looking to go back to something that I really have a passion for and obviously this really sort of fits as Faye said, it’s not necessarily about being you know, beautiful and doing works of art but it’s also, it re-engineered my ideas of how things are designed in the world, I’d never thought like that. You know, about some of the most simplest things right down to the very thing I’m holding in my hand right now. I just find it fascinating and I’m quite excited by the whole prospect.

The importance of certification

Tom – From the practical side of going back into education I suppose, how important was things like certification to you?

Craig – Oh immensely important. You’re not going to get anywhere without some sort of proof that you can do the job. It’s the same in policing as it is in any industry. You have to be able to constantly prove that you can actually attain that qualification and requirement. I don’t see how if I’d applied with just my standard qualifications now in a modern market, having been out of it for such a long time, I would have been paper sifted out. But having this qualification I feel, will give me a new and open a new door for me and obviously a new career.

Tom – So the kind of old traditional formal education still is as strong in your mind as it would be twenty years ago maybe?

Craig – Yeah pretty much. But I think you have to move with the times. As Colman pointed out, this is an under skilled industry and I have you know, design background and I have design skills and I wanted to utilize those while I still can, while I’m still you know, a useful cog in society as it were, before I’m too old to do anything, you know.

Course projects and UX portfolio

Tom – And Faye, I’ll ask you maybe about the portfolio side of things? Was the portfolio something that was strong in your mind that you felt you needed to have going into UX?

Faye – Yes it was and actually doing the projects was brilliant and it was the part I enjoyed most. Having both sort of, having a certificate attached at the end and actually working through the projects and producing the components myself, gave me a lot of confidence. And I’d actually even put this on my CV before I finished. And you know I said it was an ongoing course but I then explained what I was learning and what I was doing and that allowed me to actually walk into a job doing BA-UX (business analyst – user experience) stuff which seems to be quite a common sort of mixture. So yeah, and actually producing everything was fantastic and I’ve since, I still recruiters contacting me. I had one this morning actually asking me if I was interested in a UX job and they wanted to see if I could provide some of my work for them, so yeah.

I explained what I was learning in the Professional Diploma and that allowed me to walk into a job

Tom – That’s incredible, well done!

Colman – Yeah well done Faye, that’s brilliant news! And I’m just going to ask, I’m going to repeat your words. You just walked into the job. I bet it was a bit more, you went through a bit more work than that. Did you do an interview and did they talk through, talk about your portfolio for example or?

Faye – Well actually it was quite informal and they were also interested in my PM (project management) stuff so I’ve ended up doing sort of a mixture of PM, BA and UX work. But they’re a consultancy an IT specialist consultancy. So what they were looking for was actually someone to write up and start putting in place sort of UX best practice? Because they were using aspects of it, they were producing mock ups and prototypes but they weren’t doing all that bit before so that whole research thing you know, trying to actually bring that side of things in and write up a proper process for us to use, that’s what they wanted me to do so it’s been great actually. Because I’ve just been able to go in and do that.

Using the UX course material in the real world

Faye – What I have noticed is that a lot of the IT projects, and I noticed this when I worked for the MOD before this. So it was an IT but it’s still, it’s insane. You’re still delivering projects to time custom performance. And I’ve found that quite often, it’s a hollow victory because you produce something to time-cost-performance to the requirements specified and actually it turns out, it’s not what the customer wants. It’s not quite right, and you get into lots of change requests.

So that whole research bit and actually really understanding what your problem is before your solutionize that was very much a part of the beginning of the course really came into it’s own and really smacked me in the face actually in the workplace when I was like, oh my God you know we could really save ourselves a lot of time and effort and money from the client’s side if we actually figure out what on earth we’re trying to deliver first and what the problem is.

Colman – It seems so logical and were they receptive to your point of view, Faye?

Faye – Yes but because we’re a consultant rather than a UX company quite often we’ve found that they are reluctant, they think they know what they want. What I’m trying to work through at the moment is how you get them to hold their horses for a minute so that you can actually do a bit of research and that they give you access to their users because quite often you’re getting you know some big wigs in the company going, yup, this is what we need, this is what we need. Get on with it, this is your budget, this is your time. And then you’re having to go, hang on, hang on, right, you know, let’s do that research piece. Which would just save them so much money!

Colman – And often times they think it’s going to cost them more money because you know, oh research, that sounds expensive, yeah, yeah. Faye that’s a fantastic story and look, one of the things a lot of potential students ask about, Faye and Craig, I don’t know how far down the line you are yet, but it might be something that you’re thinking of too, is that, you know, I’ve been working in a career for 10 or 15 years, I want to transition into UX, am I going to have to take a significant pay increase to do that?

Switching to a UX career and leveraging your existing skills

Colman – But I’m guessing Faye, that you were able to use your previous experience in the project management world and it wasn’t as if you were starting from scratch. It wasn’t as if you know, you were to throw that out the window. That came in handy, is that correct?

Faye – Yes absolutely, yeah, absolutely. You know there’s understanding the pressures of the sponsor and the client and the project manager who’s just really fixed on trying to get whatever the requirements are, delivered. And understanding all about scheduling, you know budgets. It just gives you such a wrap around understanding of the project so, it was really, it just felt like I was adding onto my understanding really of how to deliver a decent project.

Colman – So it felt like a natural career progression rather than a complete and utter transformation, is that fair to say?

Faye – Yeah, yes, absolutely but just with lots much nicer bits included. You know, where you’re actually kind of getting to analyze stuff and then figure out what the best route through basically is, you know what’s going to be the nicest most intuitive route through a website or a system. And then sort of show it in pictures which is just been yeah, I’ve really enjoyed that.

Colman – Craig, are you still working as a police officer? Have you thought about making the transition or sourced it out in any way, what that might involve?

Craig – Well I’ve been sort of actively looking on things like Linkedin, looking at the adverts for UX design. Obviously at the moment and lot of them are looking for experienced UX designers. But obviously with the fact that you can build your portfolio around as you go through this course. I’m hoping that will sort of help me, at least get my foot in the door as it were. I am actually still a police officer and will be until I find myself another position. But I’ll just keep banging on the doors until I get in, as it were.

Colman – Look we’ve did another webinar on that very topic Craig, about how do you break through that barrier of employers looking for two to three years worth of experience and lot of times that’s kind of a psychological barrier more than an actual barrier. It’s not as difficult as you might think.

Yeah it’s largely driven by the fact that, you know, that the market is so tight, that I’ll just digress for a second that employers they kind of have to say that you know, they aren’t going to put a job spec out there and say, look no experience required and, or everybody anybody would require. But because it’s so tight, they are open minded and they are prepared to talk to people who have professional experience in whatever capacity that might be. Plus a qualification, plus a portfolio, so.

Tom – And we’ve seen that, we’ve seen that with our own students similar to your own case they, where just purely by putting it up that they are attending the course, that the recruiters are you know, reaching out to them, see if they can kind of help them move into the industry. Would they be open to positions and that’s why you know, it’s important to have that portfolio piece to kind of help overcome the experience barrier. Craig on the practical side of things, I suppose, how is the course fitted in with work life and you know managing your time around it?

Craig – Well I’ve been very fortunate, actually, cause I work in a situation where I work six shifts on and four off, so, two of those were early’s, two of those are late’s and two of those were night shifts. So what I’ve been doing is I’ve been dedicating my rest days, as we call them in the police, to getting all my projects done and doing my usability tests and all of that back some months ago and it went really well for me I’ve been able to fit the course around my work time and I’ve also managed to drag some of my colleagues into things like the survey monthly stage and things like that. Had to buy them donuts unfortunately, that’s a police thing. But you know it’s paid off, it has, and people are, my wife especially, have been very supportive. Obviously I’m doing this off my own back, I don’t have a sponsor for this. I’m just doing it because I want to do something that was positive to change my situation.

The Diploma course schedule and structure

Tom – So you’ve kind of found this schedule inside had been helpful and the structure?

Craig – Yeah, very much so I mean, initially when I first inquired about the course I was probably going to go down the road of taking my time and not following the structured six month pattern. But I found that by following the structured six month pattern I found it easier, if that makes sense? Because it’s almost like having someone behind you giving you a good clip ’round the ear when you start to fall behind? And I’m very much someone who doesn’t like to have stuff sitting around, waiting to be done. I’m very much sort of like, well let’s get that done and let’s move on to the next bit and you know, bring it on sort of thing. I don’t like sitting there leaving things sort of festering as it were.

Tom – That’s good, that’s really good to hear. The course managers will be delighted to hear that too. I suppose, back to you Faye for a moment, just on some of the parts of the course I guess, that you found the most enjoyable? You know, maybe it’s the content or maybe the community side or talk us through the stuff that kind of stuck out for you.

I found the videos very easy to watch. They’ve been really interesting. They’ve totally held my attention. Been really easy to sort of take notes from as I’ve been watching them along. And they lead very nicely from one to the other. So that’s not felt like a chore at all.

Faye – As I said, I’ve really enjoyed doing the projects and I didn’t use the Slack Channel at all. That’s probably because I’m very anti-social maybe, I don’t know. But I was quite happy sort of puttering along on my own listening to the webinars every month and just putting my projects in.

So I’ve been quite happy. I was following the six month structure and then work got very busy so I am lagging at the moment. I’m not quite finished, I’m right at the very end. But you know, what’s been really good is that it hasn’t mattered that you know, I’ve got the extra six months to just get that done. So I will get off my bum and do it very soon.

Colman – You can do it Faye, we believe in you. But what’s even more impressive is that you’ve managed to make the career switch even before you finished the course and got the qualifications so hats off to you!

Tips for your CV and LinkedIn profile

Faye – Thank you. Yeah well you know, my CV just you know sort of saying about how you sort of present yourself. My CV sort of said, UX designer with project management background and then, you know the first iteration of it sort of said, not just a fledgling UX designer. But, you know, blah blah blah. So I was up front about the fact that this was something I was learning. But also sort of saying, you know, this is what I am, this is what I want to be and these are the things I’m learning and I can demonstrate that I have but I’ve also got all this other experience so, you know I think you can present yourself in sort of an enticing way even without lots of industry experience.

Colman – Yeah, no absolutely. And I think you know, in our webinar about cracking into the jobs market is something I say, I would challenge anybody to you know to find some skills that they have developed in their professional career that aren’t relevant to a career in UX design. So obviously the project management experience that you have you know is perfect, you know? I’d love to have a UX designer who has that structure and methodical thinking and process driven behind them. And even thinking about you, Craig, you know, I’m thinking of you know, the people skills you must have developed, your psychology skills, your understanding of human nature. You know, I’d say you’d have no hassle dealing with difficult clients, you know? You’d be able to manage them and have the authority to put them in their place, you know?

Craig – Well, that’s one thing but it’s also the fact obviously that when things the re-usability test and the in depth interview, obviously, being a police officer you have to interview people. And in my case, quite regularly to get the information you need. So it was almost second nature in some respects. I felt very much at home, I didn’t feel like I was out of my depth at any point. Everything that you’ve explained in the videos it just makes sense and it all slips in like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

That’s really enthused me you know, it’s already sort of excited me. Cause before this I was a bit of a computer novice as well and I invested in a Mac and so forced to do, not just to do this course but for other things as well.

I am now much more proficient in my presentations and it has expanded my skills just by doing the course.

Questions and Answers about UX

Are there any remote UX jobs out there?

Colman – that’s a tough one to answer so I’m guessing they are and I know from experience that, you know I’ve colleagues in the business that do that. I think if you’re trying to get a start, there are quite a lot of collaborative aspects to UX. I would say when you get your foot in the door, you’re probably better off working in an organization where you can work with other people and build up your professional experience. And you know, with a few years under your belt, then you might be in a position to confidently do remote UX work.

On the whole, it does involve collaboration and working with people and of course that is you know, possible online but it’s even better if you do it face to face. There are a lot more tools now emerging that allow online research and all that kind of thing so. I wouldn’t say it’s a no-go, but I would just make a suggestion that to cut your teeth, do it in person.

How technical does UX get?

Colman – Well you know what, I’m going to pass that on to Faye and Craig. So rather than me talk about it I’d be interested to hear what you think guys. How technical does UX get in your experience?

Faye – So I would say that actually I don’t think the UX side of things is that technical. I think if you’re you know, vaguely computer literate and then you can learn Adobe XD to do your prototypes. I don’t think you have to be that technical. What I’ve found is that working in IT projects there’s quite a lot to learn about the software. And the way in which the coding is done and what’s possible. Because you know, that was really new to me. And I had quite a steep learning curve trying to understand what was within the art of the possible because you kind of need to understand a bit of that so that when you’re actually trying to draw out from people what it is that they’re struggling with and what they want and need you need to understand what can be provided. Because obviously you don’t want to be coming up with marvelous wonderful requirements if it can’t actually technically be done or it’s way out of scope. So it wasn’t the UX itself that I found overly technical.

Do you need a background in programming or coding?

Colman – So this is quite common for us to get this question. Do you need development skills, coding, anything like that to get into UX?

I’ll just echo what Faye said, you don’t need it but I think, I never, you know, 22 years ago I spent about six months learning how to do HTML and CSS and you know, that was just a small little bit of knowledge but that really stood me in my career because even though I never had to do any programming or development when I worked in UX, and was never expected to, it really did help that I kind of understood just a little bit about it so I could have relatively sensible conversations with software developers and you’ll be working with software developers all your time.

So you don’t need to have the technical background to get into UX but once you are in there I think to build up your confidence and your credibility and your ability to talk, to have intelligent conversations with your colleagues on the development side, yeah. You know, doing a short course on the basics of web development will be very good. And coincidentally, that is one of the next courses that we are developing is – The working title is Coding Basics for UX Professionals. Which is a bit of a mouthful, but I think it says what it does in the tin. It’s just, just enough knowledge about coding that we think UX Professionals needs to be, to become better at their job.

How age affects moving into the UX industry

Colman – In one sense, I don’t think it does. I don’t think it’s any different than the type of age-ism that might affect all of us at a certain point in our career. But we have students in their 20’s, 30’s 40’s and possibly even beyond who have made the transition into UX. And I think it goes back to what we were talking about with Faye and Craig. I think age isn’t a barrier here.

I think what you’ve got to think about is what professional experience do I have? What can I be bringing to the party that a prospective employer would say, oh look, this person knows a lot about UX and they also have a background in X, Y and Z, that’s a really interesting package. And again, given the tight labor market you know, all employers would love to have a UX designer that’s got 10 years experience or five years experience. But they’re just not out there. So it’s a great time to be breaking into it no matter what you background is. I think Faye is testament to that, that there’s opportunities out there. Don’t worry about age, unless you’re in your 70’s and 80’s and that might be a little bit challenging but I’m guessing that you’re not as I see you have eight years of freelance web design background. Sounds like you are a spring chicken to me, so I wouldn’t worry about it, you know? 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and beyond, we’ve seen it.

Faye – I was just going to say actually for me, it’s not been so much of an age issue or an age difference that I’ve noticed. It’s more of sort of a slight different culture change actually. Going from the MOD it’s less, it’s more, jeans and trainers than a suit and brogues or whatever. So at first it can feel a bit like everyone’s all young and groovy but actually when you look they’re not. It’s just that it’s a slightly different working culture.

Colman – They’re not young and groovy they’re just maybe old and a bit scruffy.

How deep is the course and how is it different that other courses?

Colman – Justina you’re mentioning some other providers there that are also in the online space and is our course much shorter than them? What makes ours unique is that there is, we do have a serious depth of content there, what’s known as courseware, that we’ve created ourselves. And I don’t think there are many other providers out there that would have that level of depth. Combined with the project work and the portfolio that we’re building and the certification. I don’t think that there’s anybody else out there that has what we have and you’re asking is it sufficient for a career move, just talk to Faye and absolutely it is sufficient so.

Craig – Yeah, as far as I’m concerned. It’s as I said earlier, it’s re-engineered the way I think about design. And having to read some of the obviously recommended reading material as well, which I’ve got in front of me at the moment actually which is things like it makes running the asylum and the elements of user experience. They just make you, the whole course is, I don’t think it’s overwhelming. I think it’s really well paced. And I think that there’s no reason why even in the twelve month period you could quite comfortably complete the course and come away with a really decent qualification. That’s my feeling anyway.

What softwares are used during the course?

Colman – One of the things we try and emphasize a lot is that there’s loads of tools available to user experience professionals now. But we try not to focus too much on the tools, our belief is that it’s not about the tool you use, but the person using the tool, and what you do with the tool that really matters. We’ve a lot of different mentors that work with different groups of students and I think all of them would have different personal preferences as to what tools you would use. But we do make recommendations about what some of the most popular tools are right now like Sketch and Figma and Invision and Axure. But again, we try not to get dogmatic about that, because tools are always changing, a new tool, they’re be a new tool around the block any minute now. And who’s to say which is the best? But what you do with them generally, stays the same.

Like I always try and say, you know, if you are getting the carpenter to I don’t know, build a new staircase you wouldn’t be asking him or her you know what sort of chisel do you use or what brand hammer have you got, you know? It’s just not that important. It’s what they do with the chisel and the hammer that really matters.

What design projects are involved in the course?

Faye – So, we were doing Fly-UX which was a really good example to take you through because it’s something that I’ve suffered at the hands RyanAir and the like.

So actually trying to design it the way I would want it and correct all the things like paying for feats was actually really really great. So we went through all the research side of things, doing the interviews and writing the interview scripts. And then analyzing all the research we had got and pulling out our insights and what I’ve found really useful and what I’ve used at work quite a few times in doing analysis on existing websites and systems is the journey map.

And actually being able to put in all the pain points, the context, the behaviours, that’s been so useful and such a brilliant way of showing, expressing what the user’s going through. And actually being able to draw out so many points about it. So I’ve used that more than anything actually apart from the mock-ups and the prototypes.

But really enjoyed doing the flow diagrams as well. And you know where you’re actually sort of looking at the choices you have when you’re looking at the screen. How do you actually decide where you should go from there, what makes most sense and mapping all of those decision points out. That was really good and then actually making them designing the look of the page and putting the buttons in the right place and trying to bring in all of that sort of understanding of how people’s brains work really. And where they look first and if it’s on a mobile where their thumb can reach, yeah. So all those sorts of digital affordances and trying to get all those in. You know all that came out through the project work, so. Yeah, did I answer the question?

Colman – Yeah you did and it sounds like you really enjoyed it as well which is great. You’re making me want do the course again myself! To give a bit of context on top of what Faye said, is that it’s kind of immersive. And you immerse yourself in this case study which is to design a website or a mobile app for a fictitious airline we created called Fly-UX and you follow the full life cycle of UX project from research through to design through to creating a prototype. As you do so and look there’s no doubt about it. It’s a lot of work involved but I think it is satisfying and enjoyable as well. According to the guys I know.

Faye – It is and it never felt overwhelming so you know, going back to that point about the content and was it enough you know, or is it too much. Actually it felt very do-able. And each piece was in sort of a manageable chunk. The only thing I would say, and it’s really good to hear that you were talking about doing sort of software, coding for UX designers.

The bit that I’ve, the sort of massive amount of very quick up scaling I’ve had to do is not really around the UX stuff because you get such good grounding in it. It’s about how you interface with the other functions along that process journey? So at what point are you talking to the software developers at what point and how are you interacting with the project manager and their requirements manager and is there a product, oh no and that sort of thing. Because you don’t do it in isolation.

Colman – Yeah, yeah. Hopefully we’ll fill that gap as well Faye and Craig because you know, we didn’t think we could cover everything in one course but we will get to that.

Faye – How exciting, yeah, absolutely.

I’ve seen some jobs asking for UX/UI designers. As a UX designer, are you expected to do UI too?

Colman – I think the answer is no, you shouldn’t be expected to do both. But often times in some organizations who haven’t reached full UX maturity, you might be asked to do that so, what do I mean by that? So what’s happened in my career is that I worked for 20 year as a UX designer and I was never asked, and never even taught about doing the UI design. But over my career I would see some jobs out there, and kind of go that’s crazy, they’re looking for one person to do two persons jobs. Cause they are you know, dramatically different skill sets. So I think what is going on there when you see some of those job spec is that the organization might know know enough about the UX profession to be able to distinguish between UX and UI. Or what they might be looking for is a graphic designer who’s got UX skills so they’re calling it UX/UI, but really what they’re looking for is a UI designer who knows the UX process and the UX lifestyle and could fit into a UX team and UX culture. So it’s probably one of those two things going on.

Tom – So we’ll wrap it up at that. We’d like to thank both Craig and Faye. It were really interesting. And I hope that joining us tonight helped give you the right kind of information you need, and you learned a little bit about the industry or what it takes to get into it.