I’ve loved teaching during my time as a UX practitioner, I really see the value in imparting knowledge to others in this industry, and training is one way to do this. Along this path I recently finished teaching the User Experience Design course at General Assembly (GA). Apart from allowing me to indulge my passion for spreading the word about UX, the last 3 months have actually provided me with some great insight into the state of the industry. Here is what I have learned:
1. There are lots of clever and talented people who want to work in UX.
When I catch up with industry colleagues I often hear discussions regarding the influx of people to the industry who “aren’t real UXers”, but I have been pleasantly surprised. The people I have come across in my time during UX training have a genuine desire to understand the discipline and often come to the industry with a wealth of professional and life experience (all be it not UX experience). In fact, I think most experienced UX professionals have come to the UX industry from some other area so it is odd that people feel defensive about new comers to the industry. The practice of UX is not rocket science and with a desire learn about UX and consider new ways of working, a transition from graphic design or another discipline is very realistic.
2. Whilst UX isn’t rocket science, developing skills to practice UX takes time and practice.
Skills such as interviewing, sketching, card sorting and usability testing can be relatively easy to learn however can take years to master. As such, I think UX training by itself is not enough. Becoming highly proficient in UX techniques requires experience; experience which comes from working on many projects in different contexts over time. It also helps to have mentors and colleagues who can provide skilled feedback, support and additional UX training. As an industry I think we are a pretty generous bunch – so getting access to a mentor and people to assist with developing your skills is very realistic.
3. Even with an appreciation of the customer, practicing UX can still be challenging for some people.
I have come across people who see design as an art form. They tend to then struggle with the notion that design, especially in the digital context, does not exist for the sake of design itself. For example, an app like Uber is there to support mobility. An online service like Airbnb is there to support accommodation and make the process of finding and booking accommodation easy. Their respective app and website are there to support much bigger eco-systems, not for the design itself. Moving beyond design as a form of art is a crucial step in developing as a UXer; this is not to say that design shouldn’t be beautiful but this is not the end goal.
4. There is one critical skill in UX that you can’t teach.
The most undervalued but most critical skills to be an effective UX practitioner are hard to teach and typically not in line with what people are expecting to learning from UX training. These skills are soft skills. By soft skills I mean the interpersonal and communication skills which allow someone to interact effectively with others. In industry, soft skills are often the single most important factor contributing to the success of a project. If you can’t engage with stakeholders and work collaboratively, if you can’t effectively communicate UX results and persuade teams of the value of the research, then you can’t deliver UX.
5. UX training is in demand!
Sure, it’s a growth industry, but I think there is another reason UX training is in such demand at the moment. The role of empathy in design seems to really resonate with lots of students. For most, empathy seems logical and beautifully simple. Designing to support user needs and championing users during the process, along with design having a specific purpose, really seems to float people’s boat. Not only does it resonate with students, but it is being demanded as a focus by industry. This is good news for UX, as there is a genuine drive at the moment from senior executives to focus on the customer. As David Thodey from Telstra stated: “Delivering good customer service — not lip service and not just cheap prices, but really differentiated service — is really important”.