Why Did I Take This Course?

I am a young professional who is changing careers from Fashion Design into tech. While working as a Product Manager I have been doing a Masters in Digital Management at Hyper Island. I was half way through the masters when I enrolled onto MUXL’s Intermediate UX short course. I wanted to deepen the structure of my process to compliment the cutting edge theory and team building I was learning on my masters.

The MUXL Intermediate option seemed like a good choice for me because I had a basic level of UX knowledge and experience though real life and through the masters. It was also only one evening a week for 6 weeks. There are a lot of course options available in London, a lot of them are two evenings a week which seemed like too much. This course seemed like a good fit for me.

Week 1

In the first week we arrived at our new classroom for the first time and met our new classmates and instructor. The class was very small, everyone was friendly and even the room itself was cosy with books lining the walls. We met our instructor Froso who is  Senior Product Designer at Pivotal Labs. She has 10 years of industry experience and I felt in safe hands. She split us into groups for the next 6 weeks.

The weeks were structured in the order that a UX project would be tackled so that the project could progress in real time in a hands on way. The project would be in a generative development style rather than evaluative, starting at the beginning with  a new problem rather than with an existing product. It’s actually unusual to have a project from the start like this, so my feedback to the team would be that perhaps projects iterating on an already existing thing could be more helpful.

The first week was an introduction to understanding users, collecting and synthesising research. The Double Diamond process was introduced and the concept of HCD. We discussed that users don’t always know what they need and how to conduct an interview in order to make a participant comfortable and avoid biasing their answers. It’s important to remember as a UX professional that we are not the user! We looked at doing competitor research and each team was given its problem to tackle for the course.

We were sent home at 8.30pm with homework to prepare for the next week and a reading list for any of those interested.

Week 2

This week was about looking at all the research that had been collected and synthesising it into a hypothesis and assumptions. The class also covered personas and jobs-to-be-done, a personal favourite of mine.

Each team recapped on what they had gathered and reflected critically on their research processes. First, we analysed the research to break down what we had into smaller bite-sized chunks or insights. Then using affinity mapping to look for patterns and similarities in the insights we synthesised this to find meaning in the data.

Following from this we built our personas starting with demographics and then using insights from our research to build behaviour patterns. This helped us build empathy with our users, align our team and create a direction for our solutionising later on.

Next up, we looked at the jobs-to-be-done (JTBD). JTBD create a big picture understanding of what the users basic needs are. For example, when buying a drill a user is actually after a hole – not the drill itself.  Using JTBD we can see the problem from a perspective closer to reality.

To finish up for the week we put our heads together to define out problem starting with 5 HMWs and developing this into a hypothesis statement following this structure “If we do *this*, then *this* will be the outcome”. Our team actually struggled to land on an agreed statement because it was a long day and we were tired. This caused problems later on – I would suggest people don’t do this! Make sure you agree on your hypothesis at this stage so you can move forward.

Week 3

In Week 3 we met our second instructor, Jiri. Jiri is the Principal Interaction Designer for Intuit. Like Froso, he clearly had a lot of experience and I was excited to hear what he had so say.

Having gathered the initial research and synthesised this into a hypothesis, this week was about how to produce a solution to test the hypothesis. Froso had been clear up to this point that we were to avoid producing solutions. Jiri lead us through 3 different solutionising exercises to break the ice, breakdown preconceptions and get our creative juices flowing. We selected our favourite ideas from these exercises. Because we were unclear about our hypothesis this was tricky for our group. The homework was to produce a storyboard building out an idea.

As at the end of each week Jiri sent us the slides which had a through and current reading list attached to the end. It was totally optional though! So not necessary to do at the time. However, I have found this very recently since to go back and read up on what we learnt.

Week 4

Week 4 was led by Jiri again. The focus of the week was to refine our solutions down to the best one.

We started with creating an ‘ideal state’. This was followed by producing assumptions. This was something I had previously not understood in work. Jiri instructed us to write as many as we could. This was anything that had to be true for the project to succeed or to fail. I still struggle with this so I will for sure be reading up on this. Then looking at the list you can remove the ones that you know have actually been proven, leaving only the ones you can’t prove. These remaining ones are the ‘Leap of Faith Assumptions’ (LOFA).

We then moved into concept testing. Experiments like this should be planned well. They can actually test more than one LOFA, but only one hypothesis. We looked at different ways of testing the idea. It’s good early to test to understand if your solution is on the right track.

Week 5

In Week 5 we prepared and then ran our experiments. We made paper prototypes and considered the questions and structure of the experiments so that we could extract the learnings we needed to prove our hypothesis and move forward. Jiri explained it is important when testing to be needle sharp about what you are testing so that you can design the experiment around this.

We covered the difference between the revolutionary and evolutionary design and the pros and cons of each. Revolutionary design is tested in a lab and evolutionary as an AB test. This was interesting because i had come up against some of the cons of using only evolutionary design at work and Jiri helped me understand how I could propose a different way of working to my stakeholders.

Most of this week was spent out and about around guerilla testing on the streets. Everyone loved this and Jiri walked around helping the groups.

Week 6

Finally, each group created a presentation 10 minutes long to pitch back to the class. Froso was our leader this week. Having not seen our work for a few weeks she was able to give us great feedback with her fresh eyes. She also gave us some helpful pointers on how we could improve our presentation skills, super important to get buy-in for our ideas back in the workplace.

We ended the course with a group drinks. Everyone was very friendly and we agreed to keep in touch.

Final Thoughts

I would definitely recommend this course to anyone considering pushing their knowledge and practical skills a bit further in this field. The workload is well designed for anyone in a full time job. You’ll have to invest some evenings or weekends for the homework and I would say they more time you spend the more you will get out. But it’s pretty much up to you how much you invest. I wish I had had more time.

It was great to meet like-minded people in a similar place in their careers. There was a good feeling of comradery which is part of the benefit of taking an in-person course rather than an online one.

The course followed a good process for revolutionary design. I will definitely be using this a lot in the future. It was a great compliment to my masters. I am now considering what I can do to develop my skills further. I feel that the course has given me a good foundation for some independent study going forward. As much as I like taking part in in-person courses, they are expensive so this was a good outcome for my future development.

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