I am currently mentoring two fantastic individuals at very different stages in their careers. The subject of learning and training in UX Design comes up often, not just with them, with many people I speak to. That’s why I wanted learning UX Design skills to be an integral part of the service from We Are AFK.
The original question was, could anyone recommend conferences or courses to do?
Option A: The Pantomime
There was a time that I thought conferences were the best resource for learning; after all, these are the greatest minds in our industry. Aren’t they?
If you want to learn how to do something, a conference may not be for you. Many people go to conferences today to be able to walk away feeling confident that what they feel, think or are already doing is right. this can come from not having anyone around them they can validate those feelings with. There’s nothing wrong with this, we all need some reassurance from time to time, but for someone starting out it can be overwhelming, with so many talks on ideas, theories and observations leaving the individual with a head full of stuff and no way of actioning any of it. That, can lead to work-life frustration.
A lot of the time, speakers have written lengthy articles on the subject they’re talking about, or in some cases entire books, which you can retain in your head for longer so look out for those when you’re reviewing that speaker list.
Option B: Get Your Hands Dirty
In terms of actually learning something that you can do tomorrow, look for anything that is workshop based training. In 2015 I ran a workshop at UXBristol. It’s a fantastic day which I hope to return to this year. The group is relatively small with 3 workshops running simultaneously, but there’s never any over subscription. You can easily have a conversation with your fellow classmates and have access to the tutor to ask more. Most important, is that I believe every workshop gave me something practical that I could use the following day if I wanted to.
I’m happy to see this year that there are more of these hands-on workshop based events happening. It is still worth keeping an eye out on Lanyrd for new User Experience Design Workshops. You should check your local meet-up groups too, many of them now run workshops as one-off events and you’ll also have an opportunity to meet people who are working at companies in your area that you can talk to and share with and see if others are feeling the same.
Option C: Alternative Education
If you want to learn how to code, or using specific applications like Photoshop. For the past decade many online courses have emerged giving you practical hands-on lessons. Sites like Lynda, Treehouse, Khan Academy, Code School, and more recently Udemy and Udacity.
I’d always wondered whether it was possible to teach User Experience Design skills in the same way, as it doesn’t have such a defined ruleset, there’s no language to speak of or an application you do it in. Then in 2014 an email went out from IDEO, to gauge interest in an online University focussing on Experience Design and its many facets. IDEO-U was launched in 2015 with their debut course Insights For Innovation.
I took part in this first course and highly recommend it. It was a perfect blend of theory and the practical application of it. There are a number of courses now being run throughout the year with real course leaders (members of the IDEO team) who are on-call as your tutor, and they regularly run webinars and hangouts during the course to see how everyone is getting on and have opening discussions.
If you’d like to learn more about UX Design, or talk to someone about the sort of areas you want to gain more experience and knowledge in, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thoughts from Andy Parker published 25th March 2016