Free UX Online Learning Resources

Mitchell Wakefield, UX Researcher & Designer @StatusDigi has spent a great deal of time and effort to compile a list of completely free learning resources from top companies and universities.

Free UX education providers

I’ve had a look at the courses and I am very impressed. The courses on the list span a wide range of skills and topics within the UX discipline, from your bob standard Interaction Design, to Social Computing, Design Sprints and even the more academic theories on Affordances and Signifiers.

My favourite quote from the article:

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” ― Henry Ford

If you’re new to UX, currently studying UX or just want to upskill in a certain area, I would highly recommend this list as a starting point.

Free UX Online Learning Resources

Strategy and Technology Analysis: Stratechery

Its early in the morning and I go on Panda. I skim through the headlines from Techcrunch, Techmeme, designernews and see that there are lots of negative views on the Apple September conference and especially the new iPhone.

early-morning-reading

I suspected that although the new iPhone 7 announcements didn’t shake the media, they are actually setting us up for a bigger release next year. That thought started my journey into researching the iPhone 7 in more detail.

I came across Ben Thompson’s “Beyond the iPhone” article and it confirmed my suspicions. I learnt a lot of new things in the process of reading of the article and thats how I ended up reading about the Apple Watch and how it sets us up for the future of computingApple’s founding myth and how this affects its culture and ability to make iCloud a success and Apple’s organisational crossroads.

I’m fascinated by Ben’s insights and would recommend anyone who is interested in the the technology, strategy and businesses of big Silicon Valley companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Uber etc to take a look at the site.

Strategy and Technology Analysis: Stratechery

The largest UX publications by traffic

I’ve always had a rough idea about which online (non-academic) publications were the most popular. Of course you have smashingmagazine and good ol Jakob Nielson’s nngroup.com but I never really thought to look up the statistics. This was until I saw some UX research that referenced the same few websites.

I blasted up similarweb so that I could see which publications are the most visited.

Here are my findings:

chart-traffic-ux-website
A table with the exact traffic numbers and links to similarweb are shown at the end of the article.

I was surprised when I first compared the data between the websites. It seems that only a handful of websites capture most of the traffic. Of course there are numerous smaller blogs that aren’t included in my list.

It’ll be interesting to compare the traffic data for these sites in 3 years time. I have a feeling their traffic will be dramatically lower as newer publishing platforms like Medium or Facebook’s Instant Articles spring up.

Sitename Monthly Traffic (‘000s) URL
Smashingmagazine 7400 https://www.similarweb.com/website/smashingmagazine.com
Fastcodesign 4800 https://www.similarweb.com/website/fastcodesign.com
Web designer depot 3000 https://www.similarweb.com/website/webdesignerdepot.com
core77 1300 https://www.similarweb.com/website/core77.com
UX Mag 1000 https://www.similarweb.com/website/uxmag.com
A list apart 951.3 https://www.similarweb.com/website/alistapart.com
UXDesign.cc 781.8 https://www.similarweb.com/website/uxdesign.cc
Interaction Design Foundation 672.5 https://www.similarweb.com/website/interaction-design.org
NNGroup 366.6 https://www.similarweb.com/website/nngroup.com
UX Booth 318.7 https://www.similarweb.com/website/uxbooth.com
Usability.gov 247.7 https://www.similarweb.com/website/usability.gov
UX Matters 247 https://www.similarweb.com/website/uxmatters.com
UX Mastery 213 https://www.similarweb.com/website/uxmastery.com
Usability Geek 208.3 https://www.similarweb.com/website/usabilitygeek.com
UX Movement 173.2 https://www.similarweb.com/website/uxmovement.com
Design Observer 136.3 https://www.similarweb.com/website/designobserver.com
Luke W 102 https://www.similarweb.com/website/lukew.com
User Interface Engineering 87.5 https://www.similarweb.com/website/uie.com#overview
Human Factors 52.8 https://www.similarweb.com/website/humanfactors.com
The largest UX publications by traffic

Anima … Too good to be true? But I’m optimistic

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The Anima guys claim in their video that you can go from a Sketch Design to prototyping with data and then to native iOS code in 3 minutes. This can all be achieved using the Anima prototyping app.

A picture showing screenshots of the Anima prototyping app and the corresponding view on a real iPhone

When I first found the anima video through DesignerNews, my reaction was “Do we really need another prototyping app?”. After watching the video, I felt “Wow, this is too good to be true”.

Without a moment of hesitation I visited their website to see what they’re about. Very quickly I began to read through their medium article “Should Designers Code? The Story Behind Anima.”.

The article is really short but makes some good points. First of all, I love this quote:

We can’t build tomorrow’s UX with yesterday’s tools.

Its so true. I see so many so-called UX Designers using tools designed for Photos or for illustration but what they really need is a tool designed for digital interfaces and then a tool designed to prototype digital products.

Here is what Anima is trying to do:

Let Designers Own. Instead of spending time explaining how things should work, build them, own the UI & UX you design. Be. Don’t show. – Stephen Hay

Their motivation comes from the gap between design and development and how resources are wasted through this process. In their own words:

… once the product has entered the development stage, the prototypes are used as instructions, they can’t go to production. The hard work of building the flows & interactions is done twice.

Or in diagrammatic form (because we all LOVE diagrams):

Diagram showing the current design process involves design then prototype then front end development followed by back end development. After Anima, front end development is replaced by the anima prototyping app

It seems to me like a very bold vision and a massive task but from what I’ve seen so far they are headed in the right direction and seem to know what they are doing. I’m hopeful and can’t wait to try it out. If you’re like me, apply to join their waitlist here: https://www.animaapp.com/apply

Anima … Too good to be true? But I’m optimistic

How to recruit (lots of) users for online user testing

Reading Time: 6 minutes

This article is about how to recruit users for online user testing.

Tube station with lots of people

A couple of people have asked me recently, how did you test so many users in your Human Centred Systems Master’s project?

Luckily, I’m in the process of writing up my paper for publication which means that I have the answers! I hope that by writing this post, I can help anyone who needs to find users for their online tests.

FAIL TO PLAN, PLAN TO …

It all starts with planning, followed by design, experimentation and then iteration – sort of like the User Centred Design process.

The first step to getting users is defining who your target audience is and then designing what you want to say to them. Ideally, the end result that is that: you’ve targeted the right people, they are interested in your message and they decide to part in your study.

For my project, I wanted users from a “first world country”, my message communicated that it was quick (only 5 minutes), it was easy (you have a video tutorial),  you get entered into a prize draw (£30 Amazon voucher) in return for taking part in my online study.

DESIGN YOUR MESSAGE

Next up is designing the message. This means structuring your message in a clear way, using familiar language and being persuasive.

After I drafted my first message, I figured that the easiest way to recruit people to do my test was to ask my friends via Facebook. I quickly found out that unless they were currently studying at University, the phrases “experimental study” or “research project” didn’t mean much to them.

I probed them about the wording and they told me that the word “study” reminded them of books and research project sounds like it’s something tedious or boring. I had to make my message more user-friendly so I experimented with different words to replace “study”. It was a bit like doing keyword research for SEO.

Eventually, I realised that people love “experiments” because they sound exciting, fun and there is a sense of mystery to it.

After asking my friends and then acquaintances on Facebook, I looked to reddit.

EXPERIMENT AND ITERATE

I modified the message I used on Facebook to include an introduction and the monetary incentive (£30 Amazon Voucher prize draw). I headed over to the /r/london and /r/london_forhire sub-reddits and read a couple of the top posts. This let me understand what people generally discuss and what sort of language they use.

For these two sub-reddits, I decided to start with a “text post”:

Title: [Help-a-student] Short, fun 5 minute dissertation experiment and a prize draw for £30 Amazon Voucher


Hi,

I’m a Human Computer Interaction (HCI) Masters student and I go by the name Will. I’ve just finished creating the experiment for my Masters research project: www.uxstudent.co.uk/research/ and I’m really excited to share it with you.

My research is about online testing methods for websites. I hope that my research will contribute to improving digital products so that they are easier to use. It would be so helpful if you could take part in the study – I promise it will not take more than 5 minutes as there are only 3 questions.

A short instructional video that will explain how the test works and at the end of the test, you can opt in to a £30 prize draw for an Amazon voucher! Thanks so much for all your help guys/gals, I really appreciate it. Hope you have a lovely week, Will.

As you can see, I tried to make my message as short and concise as possible. I began by introducing myself and my project before moving on to explain what my project was about and how long it would take. Hopefully, for anyone scanning the text they can least see that it’s “5 minutes” and “only 3 questions”. I close by explaining that they will be guided via a video because everybody likes videos. And then of course there is a prize draw to seal the deal.

I couldn’t reveal too much information about the experiment itself so I used this to my advantage. I tried to create a sense of mystery and excitement. I wanted readers to think “What kind of experiment is this?”, “It’s only 5 minutes”, “This should be easy”.

After a day and a half, I managed to read all of the comments left by redditors, respond to them and improve my message even more.

Next up was the /r/beermoney (a sub where people do online tasks for money) and /r/usability sub-reddit.

Title: Spend 5 minutes doing my experiment with 3 questions and enter a prize draw for £30 ($47) Amazon gift vouchers /r/beermoney

Title: [Help-a-student] Short, fun 5 minute dissertation experiment and a prize draw for £30 Amazon Voucher for /r/usability


Hi,

I’m a Human Computer Interaction (HCI) Masters student and I go by the name Will.

I’ve just finished creating the experiment for my Masters research project: www.uxstudent.co.uk/research/ and I’m really excited to share it with you.

My research is about online testing methods for websites. I hope that my research will contribute to improving digital products so that they are easier to use.

It would be so helpful if you could take part in the study – I promise it will not take more than 5 minutes as there are only 3 questions.

A short instructional video that will explain how the test works and at the end of the test, you can opt in to a £30 prize draw for an Amazon voucher!

Thanks so much for all your help guys/gals, I really appreciate it.

Hope you have a lovely week, Will.

The second message has been refined from my first message so that its even easier to scan. I took out the paragraphs, made the sentences shorter and used more line breaks. Note how I catered the titles of my post so that I complied with the rules of the sub-reddit and made the message more enticing.

After doing these “text posts”, I experimented with doing just “link posts”. For these posts, reddit users (redditors) only see the title of my post and then decide whether or not they wanted to click through.

I tried various titles and tried to optimise for the types of users in each subreddit:

HCI/UX Dissertation Experiment: Prize draw for £30 Amazon Voucher, short & fun 5 minute study (Please help and take part) /r/webdesign

UX Dissertation Experiment: £30 Amazon Voucher, short, fun 5 minute dissertation experiment. Please help out. /r/glasgow

MSC Dissertation Experiment: £30 Amazon Voucher, short, fun 5 minute dissertation experiment. /r/manchester

[Help-a-student] Short, fun 5 minute UX/Marketing dissertation experiment and a prize draw for £30 Amazon Voucher /r/web_marketing /r/UCL /r/psychology/

HCI/UX Dissertation Experiment: Prize draw for £30 Amazon Voucher, short & fun 5 minute study (Please help and take part) /r/userexperience /r/SEO

Web Design MSC Dissertation Experiment: £30 Amazon Vouchers, short & fun 5 minute experiment. (Please help take part!) /r/brum /r/design_critiques /r/webdesign

Fun Dissertation Experiment for you to try. It only takes 5 mins and has 3 questions + prize draw for £30/$47 Amazon Voucher. /r/australia /r/newzealand /r/wales /r/ireland

[TASK] Spend 5 minutes doing my experiment with 3 questions and enter a prize draw for £30 ($47) Amazon gift vouchers /r/slavelabour

[Academic]5 minute test about investigating online testing of websites (Westerners) /r/samplesize

Your success have depends on how much experimentation and iteration you do. Every day I would read the comments the redditors left and see their reactions. Not only did this help me optimise the titles/copy for my next post but it helped inform me about people’s reactions to my study. Sometimes, redditors would even suggest useful information which then ended up in the “Other findings” section of my report.

I tried to advertise on other social channels as well but this was not as successful. I began with writing a short article on Medium to explain what I’m experimenting with and why in an attempt to persuade readers to help me out.

I pinned the imagery on the article to Pinterest and then tweeted the articled to #ux, #design and #dissertations. Looking back at it, if I had persisted with these channels I might have had more success but I was too busy reading and responding to people in forums and on reddit!

RESULTS

Results in a pie chart/

 

My online test was open for roughly ten days and over this period a total of 880 people took part in the tests. Of these, 54 participants reported that they had either taken the test before or were under the age of 18 and were therefore omitted. From the remaining 826 participants, 366 were from the “US, Canada or a Third World Country” so their responses had to be omitted.

Finally, it was found that 114 participants did not fully complete the tests so I was left with the data from 346 users to use for analysis. The lesson here was clear. For online testing, you need to aim for a high quantity of data because quality is going to be low and you are going to have to remove some of the data collected.

What I have described here might be stuff that only worked for me but I hope that someone might be able to get some ideas from some of the things that worked for me, and perhaps adapt them to their own circumstances.

If you have any questions at all, please do ask. I would be delighted to do whatever I can to help someone else succeed in their UX related studies.

PS: If you know of any other places to recruit users for online user testing, please email me – I am will@uxstudent.co.uk.

OTHER SITES I USED

http://www.postgraduateforum.com/
https://www.findaphd.com/
http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/
http://www.mumsnet.com/

Thank you to Nisha Kotecha for helping to proofread my work.

How to recruit (lots of) users for online user testing

Prioritizing User Test Research Questions

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Featured on uxmag.com and uxdesign.cc


This article is about using the prioritisation grid as a framework to prioritise so that you and your team can save time by prioritising effectively.

Picture of four clocks on a table showing different times

We want to test countless areas in our designs because we just can’t wait to verify our assumptions. We look forward to testing with users so that we can improve the designs. We can’t wait to make those corrections that we so desperately want to make. And we can’t wait to settle the bet we had with the Visual Designer or with the Product manager!

You can’t test everything

We’ve all been there. In our minds, user testing will be the judge of all so it’s tempting to stuff as many research questions as we can into a test plan and put in as many tasks/scenarios as possible for the user. This creates problems:

  • Time is money – users are paid for their time (normally hourly) and going over budget is not good. Users will get tired when they have to spend unnaturally long periods of time thinking out loud. Whilst there’s no consensus on how long user test sessions should be, in the world of teaching, teachers normally plan classes for between 30-50 minutes.
  • Quality is always more important than quality quantity? in “formative evaluations” – users time is better spent giving detailed qualitative information that can be used to improve designs. General and vague statements are not enough.
  • Large complex prototypes are more time consuming to build so it may be better to get feedback early and quickly so that you can iterate and test again. As you can see from how Netflix designed their website, faster failing leads to more experimentations so that you learn quickly.

So if this happens to you frequently, what is the best way to prioritise? How do you make the test focused on what’s important to yourself, your users and your company?

It goes without saying that there is no definitive answer. You can always ask your boss but it’s not going to be easy to build consensus because everyone is likely to have their own interests in mind.

I’m going to share with you a little tool that I use in work and when I freelance which makes it much easier to prioritise competing research questions/test objectives. It’s called a prioritisation grid and I originally found it in Richard N Bolles’s “What Color is your parachute?”.

The prioritisation grid works like this

First you use a prioritisation grid template like the one below. I know it might look scary and complicated but don’t worry because it’s actually very easy to use and I will guide you step by step on how to use it. Note that you can use this method with your team or just on your own.

In this example, I’ve only included 6 competing research questions to make things easier. However, in real situations, you can have as many questions as you want, you just have to increase the number of rows and columns.

An Empty Prioritisation Grid to help with prioritizing user test research questions

After each number, you write down your research question. For example in my grid, research question 1 is “Are the landing page modules easy to understand?”.

Prioritisation Grid With Research Questions

Once you’ve done that, you’re a third of the way there. The next thing we are going to do is compare each research question with another one starting with 1 and 2. When we have decided, we are going to circle the number.

A diagram showing Choosing between two research questions

What I’ve done here is ask myself or my team:

“If I/we could only test either research question 1 or research question 2, which would I/we pick?”

You will then go down each row and compare research question 1 with each and every other question. In the end you will get something like this:`

A Completed Prioritisation Grid

Okay, now we’re 85% there. All we have to do is total up how many circles we have for each research question. We will go through each cell where we have compared questions and count. We can record the results by filling out this mini-table:

Prioritisation Grid Summary

This might seemed tricky to me at first because I just counted downwards but it doesn’t work like that. For example, there are a total of five circles for research question 4 because there are 3 circles in row four and 2 circles in column 4.

To check that you have counted correctly, the totals should go from 0 to n where n-1 is the number of research questions you have i.e. 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 in my example.

Thankfully the last step is the easiest. Whichever research question has the most circles is assigned the highest rank and the question with no circles is assigned the lowest rank. This way an ordering system naturally appears.

A diagram showing Final prioritised research questions

In my experience, this little grid has worked well not only for User testing but in any area of life where prioritisation is difficult. Once you get the jist of it, it is a simple and easy to use tool.

To make things even more exciting, I’ve created a digital version for you!

Check it out here and please enjoy!

Prioritizing User Test Research Questions

Had enough of agile sprints? Time for design sprints

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Featured on on UXmastery.com, and Medium.com


This article is about using design sprints to solve big and difficult problems.

tired-uxdesigners

By now, everyone in the technology industry has either heard of, or worked in agile sprints. But what about design sprints? Popularised by GV, Google’s venture capital arm, design sprints are an effective way to rapidly test and prototype ideas in the space of a week. In this article, I’ll look at how design sprints fit in with existing Agile and Lean methodologies, and how you can decide if a design sprint is the best approach for your latest project.

Traditional, Agile and Lean processes

Processes and methodologies provide a framework teams with diverse skills to work together effectively. Modern tech teams are highly sophisticated and made up of people with a diverse range of skills – product managers, visual designers, developers, and user experience designers, who all bring their individual perspectives to a team.

UX has traditionally followed a waterfall-like process where research is strictly followed by design, which is then followed by testing. Each stage is finished before another starts, and there are no strict guidelines as to how long each stage should take.

Agile UX exploded in popularity as UX designers desperately tried to fit into a methodology optimised for developers. Agile has led to quicker development times because it provides developers with a clear framework for managing work. However, when UX designers try to fit into a developer’s methodology, the best UX ideas don’t always get built, tested and validated.

Next came Lean methodology, and the concept of the minimum viable product, made famous by Eric Ries. The accepted wisdom was to launch as quickly as possible, with a heavy emphasis on building quickly, launching quickly and then iterating. Each cycle is made as short as possible, which means that testing the idea or the user experience only happens after the product is built and launched.

What is a design sprint?

While these methodologies all have speed in common, design sprints work a little differently. Before we dig deeper, here is Google’s definition of a design sprint from their GV arm:

The sprint is a five-day process for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers.

There are many more explanations and guides on design sprints so I won’t go into too much detail. If you want to know more, I highly recommend Google’s free 46-page guide.

How are design sprints different?

Design sprints dramatically speed up the process of solving and testing design problems.
Design sprints dramatically speed up the process of solving and testing design problems.

From this diagram, you can see the key difference in methodologies in the focus, resources and speed of each approach:

  • Focus: Agile on build; Lean on launch; design sprint on idea(s).
  • Resources: Agile requires heavy development resources; Lean requires resources from the whole company; design sprint requires only a design team.
  • Speed: Agile has short cycles – two weeks; Lean has longer (undefined) cycles depending on the company; design sprint has the shortest cycles – 5 days.

So when should you use each process?

Process The UX designer’s point of view
Agile sprints UX designers try to fit into a development process. The process is optimised for quick build times. Developers learn from testing the code. Designers learn when several sprints have passed and a new release is launched.
Lean methodology UX designers try to fit into a business product development process. The process is optimised for quick launch times. Product and business teams learn from market interactions e.g. number of sign ups, traffic, revenue. Designers learn from analytics and post launch testing.
Design sprints The design team prototypes, tests and validates ideas before they are built or launched. The team learns from user testing feedback and then iterate in a weeks time.

Design sprints are effective when you want innovation: when you’re solving NEW and BIG problems. It doesn’t have to be for a completely new product, it could be for a new feature you want to explore.

When you want to find innovative solutions to unique problems, both Agile and Lean methods have the potential to lead to wasted development time and resources.

In order to innovate, UX and design teams need to be given the time, resources and framework to rapidly test ideas, which is why I believe design sprints are so useful for innovation. Design sprints allow teams to iterate quickly, and help organisations decide whether to invest in a new idea.

In summary

Design sprints are the quickest way to validate ideas, because all the other distractions are eliminated. The Lean process validates many more aspects of a product, including product/market fit, market factors and of course aspects related to the build. Agile focuses on quickly building a product and iterating from there. Next time you’re looking to innovate a product or feature, see if a design sprint can help you launch a more effective product faster.

Useful and relevant reads 

Lean UX: Getting Out Of The Deliverables Business by Jeff Gothelf
The UX Professionals’ Guide to Working with Agile and Scrum Teams by Aviva Rosenstein

Special thanks to Natassja Hoogstad Hay and Dylan Price for his help proofreading and providing valuable feedback.

Had enough of agile sprints? Time for design sprints

Do a Masters in HCI or attend a UX course?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Featured on on UXswitch.com and LinkedIn.


This article is about how I chose to study UX formally.

Studying UX

UXswitch asked me to run through my decision process in choosing how to take my User Experience skills to the next level through education.

Taking the decision to pursue User Experience (UX) further is a huge step and should be taken carefully. It’s not a simple decision to make either.

On the one hand, you have short courses that can last up to a day and on the other you have University Masters’ courses that last up to a year. The cost also varies drastically as well. A User Experience short course from Lynda starts at $50 whereas a University Degree would set you back at least a couple thousand pounds (GBP) in the UK.

I spent over three weeks to sift through the internet and ask various people about how they made their decision on what course to take. So, let’s begin by taking a look at what’s out there.

What’s there to choose from?

I started looking into where I could study User Experience in London because that’s where I lived (Incase you live outside of London a larger list of Academic courses and short courses are available on the UXPA-UK website).

To help me visualise my choices, I made two tables to analyse the details of each option. The first table looks at long courses (lasting longer than or equal to a year) and the second at short courses.

For each course I looked at the cost, time required, the course modules and anything about the course that stood out to me:

University Courses Cost and time required Course Modules Notable features of the course (my opinion)
Human Centred Systems MSc at City University LondonFull-time: £9,000 for 1 year

Part-time: £4,500 per year for 2 years
Requirements Engineering

Inclusive Design

Cognition and Technologies

Evaluating Interactive Systems Practices and

Interaction Design

Research Methods and Professional Issues

Information Architecture

Data Visualization

Individual Project
This Masters course has a range of optional modules to choose from including Creativity in design, Web applications development, Data visualization, Telemedicine.

The course covers the whole User Centred design process from requirements gathering to evaluation. The cognition and technologies module covers new technologies and how to design for them.

Also covers practical elements as well as theories.
Human-Computer Interaction with Ergonomics at University College LondonUK/EU Full-time: £9,835 for 1 year

Flexible course is up to 3 years
Interactive Design: The Design and Evaluation of Interactive Systems

Interaction Sciences: Theory, Concepts and Research MEthods in HCI

Four of the following:

Affective Interaction
Future Interfaces
Human Factors of Healthcare
Physical Computing and Prototyping
Special Topics in Human-Computer Interaction

Research project
It requires previous experience in Computer Science or Psychology.

They teach ergonomics which is unique to this course. It may be useful for IoT design. Looks at design from a different perspective (not just digital)

It has more focus on theories that are applicable to future technologies and less practical elements.
User Experience Design MSc at Kingston UniversityFull time £6,300 for 1 year

Part time £3,465 per year for 2-3 years
User Experience Design (Systems)

Digital Studio Practice

User Experience
Design (Content)

Media Specialist Practice (June to September)

Digital Media Final Project
Martin Colbert has over 25 years experience in Human Computer Interaction.
Digital Service Design MSc at BrunelFull time £9,000 for 1 yearDigital Design Methodologies

Digital Innovation Systems

Project Management

Digital Service Design Applications

Research Methods

Data Visualisation

Final project
This course is highly focused on practical elements which may help in finding a job where practical skills are valued.

Now for the hack schools and other short courses.

Other CoursesCost and time requiredCourse ModulesNotable features of the course (my opinion)
 
User Experience Design Immersive at General Assembly10 weeks, £7500
Part-time: £4,500 per year for 2 years
User Research

Interaction & Interface Design

Prototyping & Testing

Working with Teams & Clients
The course is taught by working professionals. The taught content is closely related to industry standards and is highly practical.

GA are known to get a lot of speakers to speak to students and recruit students.
User Experience Certification Program by Nielson Norman Group5 days on different NNG courses, £2129


Flexible course is up to 3 years
Varies You have complete freedom to choose what to study. There are only exams, no coursework.

Its probably more suited to working professionals than new starters.
Short courses on Udemy, Lynda, Coursera etc.Varies. Varies. It mainly focuses on practical tools and best practices rather than newer technologies and theories.

This table is by no means a comprehensive list but it does give you an idea of what’s out there.

I think that the most interesting difference besides how much each course varies, is how some courses focus on the theoretical aspects of UX whereas the others have a more practical focus. Ultimately though, I based my decision on 3 factors: the cost, the time required and what they are teaching in the course.

What is the difference in cost of the courses? (Cost)

The online courses are definitely cheaper but they are highly specialised and focused on building practical skills. At the same time, I think that when compared to university courses or hack schools, they are not as comprehensive. This means that you would have to research and then pick out a combination of courses in order to develop to become well rounded designer.

On the more expensive end of the spectrum there is the General Assembly course or the Masters courses at the different Universities. If you have a Bachelor’s degree, both options look similar except that the time required is very different, this brings me onto the next point.

How much time do you have on your hands? (Time)

The Masters courses will always take at least a year. If can commit to the full time course, it would take you a whole calendar year to complete, otherwise (if you are working) the part time course will take a minimum of 2 years. Note that although the Masters lasts for a year, the actual classes and lectures normally take place on a couple of days per week. The workload will obviously vary depending on the time of the year. For instance, during the dissertation period, you will be extremely busy in comparison to the first 3-4 weeks of term where the workload is low.

The General Assembly course is much shorter but it is full time only. To complete the course you would need to dedicate two and a half months of your time, Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. I’ve heard that each day is pretty intensive and you will have homework on top of attending lectures and workshops during your day. Although, at first sight, 10 weeks does not seem like a lot of time, I’ve been told that a large majority of your weekends will be spent working on your projects.

What are they teaching in the course? (Course modules)

User experience is a relatively new discipline that comprises of both theoretical and practical elements. As you can see from the the table, each course has a different focus. The ones that teach about User Research, Cognitive aspects, Evaluating and User testing tend to emphasise more on the theoretical elements of User Experience. The more practical modules are those involving Interaction Design, Prototyping and other “Design” related titles.

It’s important to add that different courses will expose you to different perspectives on User Experience. By “perspective”, I am referring to device types as well as current and future technologies. For example, in general, University courses that teach cognition and novel technologies will equip you better for designing for new technologies. At the same time, a lot of Universities focus on designing interfaces for complex systems like hospital equipment which mean that they lack focus on current trends/technologies like responsive or mobile design that are vital for the workplace.


What I eventually chose

These 3 factors are interdependent and you should definitely choose what suits you the most. For me, as I have had practical experience designing websites and I was changing careers (from Finance) which is why I prioritised my decisions by course contents, then time and then price.

I wanted a course that had more emphasis on the theories behind human cognition as well as how humans may interact with future technologies. I thought that the theory would be more useful for me because I had never studied Human Computer Interaction before and I had only studied Design up until A-Level.

I was especially interested in learning about the psychological and cognitive aspects of a user’s’ experience and how we can test and optimise the product to suit the user’s’ psychological needs. The practical elements would act as an update to bring me up to speed with current methodologies and tools.

It was difficult to choose a course based on time. I thought that if I completed a short course then after 10 weeks I could start applying for jobs so even if it took longer to find a job, I would probably get one sooner or later. In contrast to this, the University courses would take a full year to complete which meant that I would only be able to apply for a job or internship until 6 months into the course.

At first I wanted to study for less time so that I could quickly get a job but then I thought about it in another way. What could I do with the rest of the time that I had whilst studying at University?  The answers to this (freelancing, reading books that I’ve always wanted to read, learning different things at the University’s clubs and societies) swayed me to study the full time Masters.

What about price/cost? Well, I had saved up enough money to pay for a full time cost but the living expense cost meant that in reality, the Masters course is much more expensive than the GA course.


Summary

I hope that this short article showed you the various ways in which you can study User Experience more formally. With this information, I hope that it helped you in deciding which User Experience education route to go down.

Please leave me comments or email me if you have any questions or comments.

Special thanks to Niyati Agrawal and Dylan Price for their help proofreading and providing valuable feedback.

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Most of the UX recruiters in one place

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Searching for UX recruiters in London

I find it surprising how a Google search for “User experience recruiters London” doesn’t return a listing or a directory of Recruitment Agencies that recruit for UX roles. Wouldn’t this be useful for someone looking to browse for jobs? It only makes sense if you’re looking to find the best job, then you must search for all the Recruitment Agencies and then search for jobs within those.

But when if I thought about it more, I realise that its in no one’s best interests to make such a directory. Do we not have recruiters on LinkedIn? Do we not already have too many websites for job listings? Do we not already know who the recruiters are?

No! Not if you’re relatively new to User Experience (UX) or if its the first time that you are looking/changing jobs.

For this reason, I’ve managed to compile a list of the User Experience (UX) recruitment agencies in and around London while I was looking around myself.

Check them out here.

PS if I’ve left a recruiter out, please email me – I am will@uxstudent.co.uk.

Most of the UX recruiters in one place