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UX Instructor Interview: Julia Morton

JuliaMorton_HeadshotUCLAExtension4.26.2015We’re excited to share with you an interview with one of our incredible instructors, Julia Morton! Julia is a UX Designer at Fandango and teaches our UX: Mobile course here at UCLA Extension. She will be teaching UX: Mobile in fall 2016.

  1.       What brought you to this field?

I was getting my Masters in Library and Information Studies at UCLA when I fell in love with the way UX design marries art and science to make life better for people. Taking design thinking classes, it hit me — what does it matter if you have a fabulous library collection if no one can find what’s in it? The idea of designing for better access inspired me. What motivates me now is the hope that my work can help folks enjoy or accomplish their end goals rather than have to think about how an interface functions.

 

Before I studied it, I used to think ‘design’ was about making toys for rich people, like $15,000 watches, or about luxury utility, like how maybe you can afford to have one well-designed task chair in your apartment, and it becomes a sacred object. That never struck me as much fun.

 

One of the things I love about UX design is that it’s for everyone who is using your product or service, and people expect websites and apps to be designed well enough that they don’t have to think about how to use them. That’s the great thing – these days, folks are upset when a site or app doesn’t meet their needs; we assume that sites and apps should just work.

 

  1.       Tell us about an especially rewarding project you’ve worked on and why you enjoyed it so much.

I work at Fandango. One of the more impactful projects I’ve gotten to work on was developing a digital movie ticket that people can use to show a ticket taker and get right into the movie they’re going to go see, with no scanning technology needed. I loved this project because it’s something that genuinely makes people’s lives easier, from the person who is walking into the theater to the ticket taker, who doesn’t have to use special equipment to check the ticket.

 

The work itself for this project was so much fun because it required a huge amount of collaboration with developers, business folks, and visual design. The idea sounds so simple as to be trivial, right? But we needed to take into consideration all sorts of edge cases, ways to avoid fraud, and ways to make sure people who aren’t used to using it would understand it. I’m tremendously lucky to get to work with fabulous teams — all of my most fun projects have involved lots of collaboration with tech, and have ended up somewhere I couldn’t have imagined when we started out.

 

  1.       Why is your course, UX Mobile, important for my UX education?

 

Mobile web and apps are huge channels for people to engage with digital products and services, and many companies these days work by designing mobile first. There are a couple of reasons it’s a good idea to learn how to focus specifically on mobile design:

 

1) Mobile is often the most important platform and the hardest to make prioritization decisions about, because there is less space available. Also, your user likely has less time on mobile. When you learn how to design for mobile first, it becomes much easier to take care of the other platforms afterward.

 

2) There are a number of mobile device-specific functions that offer huge advantages, such as location services, accelerometer, and camera/mic/photo/contacts integrations, and learning to think with them in mind expands what you can do.

 

3) In class, we look at Android and iOS, the two dominant operating systems used in mobile these days. Each system has a specific set of conventions, and it’s worth taking time to understand them and learn how to stay up to date with their rapid changes.

 

4) Because UX is a field where you learn by doing, the class is project based. You’ll do lots of work both in and out of class, get lots of feedback, and end up with a prototype that abides by the conventions and practices of mobile design.

 

  1.       Do you have a sample assignment?

 

Create a persona for your product, not just for your users! This is a great idea I recently learned from an Alastair Somerville conference talk (his Twitter handle is @Acuity_design, if you want to check him out).

 

By now, creating personas to represent the people who will be using your product is a well known step in the UX design process. Sometimes we make personas for stakeholders, too.

 

What we think of less often is that the product or service we are designing will be imbued with personality, perspective, and values, all shaped by what we put into it. That’s why it’s a great idea to create a persona for your product or service: it helps you define and understand what you’re building, which in turn helps you make the connection between it and your users.

 

  1.       Any advice for UX designers just starting out?

 

Keep thinking critically about how to do things. Interface patterns are useful because people recognize them and know how to use them, but we all have a responsibility to keep moving interface conventions forward when we come up with something better.

 

Keep building your ability to empathize with your users. Your ‘beginner’s eye’ is a precious resource – yes, your thinking will become more sophisticated as you develop, but pay attention to your first thoughts and reactions. Contemplate your ideas rather than discarding them as the dross of ignorance. You might learn something unexpected, or you might start thinking about something that will bear fruit in years to come.
When it comes to mobile design, keep your tap targets large, my friends. Keep those tap targets large.

 

See one of Julia’s sample assignments here: CharacterAppSiteTemplate2016

 

Interview with UX Student: Shane Silver

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Shaina, or just Shane, is a UX designer here in Los Angeles. Below, she talks about her experience taking classes in UCLA Extension’s UX program.

  1. Tell us about how you got interested in UX, and why you chose UCLA Extension.

I guess in order to tell you how I got interested in UX I’ll have to start from the beginning. I graduated university with a degree in Journalism/Media Studies thinking I would become the next Barbara Walters. I was able to land a job as an obituary writer in San Diego and soon realized I was starving, literally. Sharing half a room with four other people in a two-bedroom apartment, barely able to afford rent and/or food was.. eye-opening. I taught myself how to code (thanks MySpace) and landed a gig as a back-end engineer (coding in PERL and Regular Expression). After about a year and a half I knew I wanted to transfer into Front-End Development. Being able to create websites and not stuck in Terminal’s Homebrew all day sounded like a dream come true. With a lot of late night studying and really pushing myself I was able to land my dream job at NBCUniversal/Fandango as a front-end developer. I worked there for around two-and-half years, and while I was there I was able to interact with our UX/UI Team. Immersing myself and asking millions of questions I knew UX/UI was really the career I wanted to shift into. I was fortunate enough to take UX 1: Introduction to UX Design with Thomas at UCLA Extension. While taking his course I knew this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Easier said than done, no one wants to hire a front-end developer for a UX/UI position. I bit the bullet, took a pretty heft pay-cut, moved to the Bay Area and became a Product Designer. The year I spent up there gaining my UX knowledge and soaking up every single interaction, layout, design, feature, cat .gif was probably the hardest year I’ve endured in my life. I left the Bay Area and relocated back down to sunny So Cal and now work as a full-time UX/UI designer for a tech start-up company called Laurel & Wolf. Recently, my company sent me back to UCLA Extension to start training in native mobile app design which I took with the ever-talented, Julia. I have never been happier in my life and I really have UCLA Extension, Thomas, and Julia to thank.

  1. For someone who is new to UX, what should they know about getting started?

Think lazy. I read somewhere that the best designers are the laziest people (metaphorically, of course). And I couldn’t agree more. The best designs come from those who want to make a service/platform more intuitive, easy, and accessible for others to understand and use.

Also, do not take anything personal. When I first became a product designer I remember being told this nugget of information, not yet understanding, and my first client meeting I was ripped to shreds. I cried quite a bit when I first started out. But I picked myself up and immersed myself in the UX/UI world: signing up for daily newsletters, reading, going to meet-ups, collaborating with other designers from different industries, participating in UX challenges, and working with multiple client projects… you grow a thick skin. Clients/stakeholders aren’t here to coddle you with how “ok” your designs are. They’ve come to YOU because YOU ARE THE EXPERT. If your user flows don’t make sense or your layout doesn’t work responsively it’s not a ding to your ego it’s a challenge to your skills. And that’s the beauty of skills.. they’re ever evolving!

  1. What was your favorite UCLA Extension class and why?

All of them! The professors (I’ve had Thomas and Julia) are the most passionate individuals you’ll ever meet. They truly love what they do and further love sharing their knowledge. This is what makes the UX/UI Community amazing. Between their amazing personalities, Thomas’ vast knowledge and Julia’s understanding of the industry and users’ psychological process, this power-house team is an unstoppable force at the UCLA Extension! Both are so humble and genuine one can not help but to become just as excited as they are about learning User Experiences and User Interfaces!

  1. What would be your dream job?

No need to dream it when I’m living it! Is it really a “job” when you love what you do?

  1. What are you working on right now?

I had the honor of redesigning our homepage which we just launched with our new company rebrand a few weeks ago. I can not be more proud of our Product and Dev Team for being able to launch such a wonderful product together!

Check out her final project for her UX: Mobile class below!

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Instructor Spotlight: Richard Barkinskiy

hamstervalhallaWe’re thrilled to welcome HTML5 instructor Richard Barkinskiy! An outstanding graduate of our very own Advanced Web & Interaction Design program, Richard is a digital application specialist for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He specializes in WordPress website development with HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, jQuery, PHP, and MySQL.

Richard fields our “big four” questions here:

What brought you to this field?

Web development is in constant flux, always keeping me challenged. It requires patience, planning and determination to execute every web site. Although at times it can be frustrating, it’s never boring.

Today websites are more than just online brochures. They contain videos, interactive images, games and everything in-between. If there was ever a profession for a curious mind, I can’t think of a better one than website development.

www.discoveriesmagazine.orgTell us about an especially rewarding project you’ve worked on and why you enjoyed it so much.

Working for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center has given me many opportunities to further strengthen my web development skills. One such opportunity was creating the Discoveries Magazine website in 2012.

The Discoveries Magazine publication chronicles the latest research conducted at Cedars-Sinai with moving photography, stylistic typography and engaging stories that help bring to life the work undertaken at the medical center. I was tasked to bring the same level of professional and innovation to the web.

I sought to build a website that not only took advantage of HTML5 semantics, but employed responsive website design techniques. At the time, responsive website design was just a concept being discussed by the web community, not as the de facto approach to website development it is today.

Taking a calculated risk, I presented the responsive website design idea to various stakeholders and was entrusted to create a website unlike anything they had ever seen before.

Having no prior experience building a responsive website, I did my best to soak in as much information regarding the technique. With the deadline looming, I tackled the project and launched the website about two months after its conception. The website was one of the first built with responsive website design for Cedars-Sinai and most recently earned a 2013 Eddie award for an online publication.

Why is your course, HTML5, important for my design education?www.zugotruck.com

Understanding key fundamentals of modern website design is paramount in constructing the next generation of websites. The web today is accessible on multitude of devices—from laptops and tablets to smartphones and gaming consoles. It’s now, more than ever, imperative in understanding how to code with accuracy and employ modern best practice techniques effectively in order to engage online visitors on any device that connects to the web.

Do you have sample work?

www.runforher.com

Utilizing HTML5 and CSS3, I constructed responsive landing page for the Run for Her event. The Run for Her event supports ovarian cancer research and awareness and this year has grown to include events in the Bay Area and New York in addition to Los Angeles. The homepage needed to consist of links to the various events, a feed to the event’s photo gallery and video—all while remaining responsive.

www.discoveriesmagazine.org

Incorporating “Art Directed” techniques in bringing the printed publication to the web, I have helped transform stories from print to an engaging online presence utilizing HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery.

www.pink-party.orgwww.zugotruck.com

Building the Zugo Liquitarian website was a fun project where I got to tap into my creative side and build a website for the best juice truck in Los Angeles. I utilized jQuery to help deliver Instagram’s API onto the homepage.

Additional websites: www.pink-party.org, www.hamstervalhalla.com, www.nvenv.com

Welcome, Richard!

User Experience Research: Class Outline

Many students have asked what User Experience Research will cover, and how it differs from User Experience I. So, we’ve posted the class outline below. Led by Thomas Dillmann, it’s an important tool in your UX toolbelt.

User Experience Research

Thursdays, 7-10pm

6/26 – 9/4

Class Purpose:  This class will prepare you to conduct, analyze and moderate various usability testing techniques and social research methods so that you can assess the user experience of a product and understand the needs of your target audience. This class will teach a practical skill set with hands on training. The class is intended for user experience students who need to apply testing techniques in order to improve the product they are designing. The class will focus on those testing techniques that aid user experience.

Class Goal:  Testing provides actionable data. Testing is the bases for data driven decisions and removes the bias of an expert opinion or stakeholder opinions and refocus the product on the needs and feedback of the end user. Testing is at the corner of user experience, through testing we get close to the user needs and are able to hear from them directly so that we can improve the experience to meet their needs.

Class Approach:  Usability testing and marketing research is best learned through application. The class will provide short instruction and focus on the direct practice and application texting techniques. In particular it is important to know how to to use various testing techniques in conjunction to achieve a data supported conclusion. We will be using real world applications and website as testing candidates. We will be hearing from a series of guest speakers that are experts in each of the testing techniques.

Class Topics:  Techniques that will be discussed, practiced and applied include:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heuristic_evaluation

10 Usability Heuristics – Nielsen  How to Design Test Questions

How to gather a case accurate participant samples

How to recruit participants

How to reward participants

How to extract the answers you need without leading the participant

What is a statistically relevant sample

How to design a testable prototype – what do you real need for a valid test

How to write a testing report

How to draw conclusions from test results

How to make sure you do not pollute your test results

How to make sure you do not make incorrect inferences from your test results

How to assure your internal stakeholders support the test results  Testing Techniques: Focus Group Testing

How to set up Focus Group Testing  Focus Group Formats

Focus Group Moderation Techniques Card Sorting Test

Usability Testing of Prototypes (In Person and Remote)

How to design Quantitive Surveys (When & How to Use them)

Ethnographic Research (Day in the Life) Social Media Mining  A/B Testing – Types, How To, When to use, When not to Use MVP – Testing your way to a finish product – Iterate  Individual

Class Structure:

Each class will review two –  three topics and then apply those topics to a case study in class. The students will then apply the same techniques to a personal project for their weekly assignment.  Requirement: Students should have completed UX I.  Each student will need to have a personal user experience project pre-built that can be tested and modified in class. A exit portfolio project from UX I would be sufficient or they can ask a UX II student if they can use their project for testing purposes.  Readings: Each class will have a set of internet articles to read. Companion books will be suggested but not required for reading.  For example: Why You Only Need to Test with 5 Users by JAKOB NIELSEN on March 19, 2000 Class Capstone Project:  The class will conclude with a formal in person prototype testing scenario of at least three participants conducted by the students. The student will be responsible for recruiting, conducting, recording, and writing the testing report from the test. The student will present their findings and excerpt of the recording

AIGA UCLAx event photos: UX for Dummies

Check out a few photos from your  AIGA UCLAx student group’s most recent event: UX for Dummies: An Interactive Panel for Total N00bs

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Panelists (from l-r) Jose Caballer, Chris Chandler, and Lynn Boyden

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(l-r) Lara Fedoroff, Paul Mendoza, Lynn Boyden, Chris Chandler, Jose Caballer, Adam Weidenbaum

 

For more images, please visit your student group’s facebook album and be sure to “like” it in facebook to keep up to date with future events.

Scenes from a UX Design class

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Wonder what a typical night in User Experience Design class is like? Check out these shots taken by AIGA student group co-president Paul Mendoza in one class meeting toward the end of the winter quarter.

Paul says, “Let’s see, what were we doing that day… we were going over last week’s usability testing results and paper prototypes, and preparing our in-class presentations of our personal projects. Fun surprise: one of the personal projects is for Weiss Cream, an ice cream vending website, and the owner of the ice cream business stopped by to serve some treats to class. It was the perfect day to take photographs. A very fun class.”

 Click here to view the photo gallery.

Click here to learn more about User Experience Design courses at UCLA Extension.

Introducing UX instructor Thomas Dillmann

Our UX team of instructors just keeps getting bigger, better, and more dynamic: We’re thrilled to welcome Thomas Dillmann, a user experience architect with fifteen years practical application in user experience and information architecture. Thomas will be teaching the introductory level User Experience Design course this winter. Here’s more about him:

What makes you passionate about user experience design?
It allows you to communicate that potential of new solutions and enables design and development teams to deliver a product that delights, helps and enables the end user.

What brought you to this field?
I entered the information architecture field by working at an early video search engine during the dot com days. I was very lucky to work with an amazing information scientist who taught me how to create an ontology for classifying video and inter-video search.  Still some the greatest video interface technology I have every encountered.  It was  a great time. The field of user experience barely existed, we were making it up as we went along. It is very validating to see how integral and deeply important thinking about and caring about the user has become to product development.

Tell us about an especially rewarding project you’ve worked on and why you enjoyed it so much.
I was able to work on an early generation Android Mobile interface that provided a management interface for a wireless hospital bed. The proof of concept work allowed the wireless hospital bed to be brought to market benefiting patient wellness while in the hospital.

Why is your User Experience Design course important for my design education?
The course will equip you with the skills and tools to engage in the full life cycle for defining a software product. It will provide you with a learning matrix by which you can understand the User Experience discipline and provide you the structure off of which to hang skills as you develop your craft.

Enroll in User Experience Design today.

Introducing UX Online Instructor Alard Weisscher

We’re thrilled to welcome lauded user experience researcher and designer Alard Weisscher to the DCA team! Alard will be teaching User Experience Design (online) this fall. Get to know him and his course better:

What makes you passionate about design? What brought you to this field?

Computer technology is sheer magic to me. I believe that future people will look back at our present time as one with the most exciting technological advancements, a digital renaissance if you like. I feel privileged being part of and in a position to help shape that magic. I find the process of creating a relevant and pleasant digital experience by balancing user requirements with business goals and technical constraints extremely satisfying.

Tell us about an especially rewarding project you’ve worked on and why you enjoyed it so much.

While I was working at Vodafone, one of the largest mobile operators on our planet, I was part of a small but dedicated team that was dreaming of an open alternative for social networks. We were intrigued that social networks were walled gardens, and wondered why we could not use an approach similar to email that allows you to ‘share’ with anyone with a unique email address. In this project called OneSocialWeb, we created a working implementation to illustrate that it can be done technically whilst respecting performance, privacy and the browser and mobile experiences people are familiar with in the big social networks like Facebook and Google+. The point was not to develop a new social network but to trigger discussions on how social networks could eventually be opened up. It was simply amazing to work with state of the art technology and contribute, if only just a little bit, to the thinking of a social experience that touches the lives of millions of people worldwide.

Why is your course, User Experience Design (online), important for my design education?

Design today is a team sport that is becoming more and more popular. You will be playing alongside marketeers, strategists, customer care representatives, developers, other specialist designers and of course your users. It is essential to understand how the game is played and what tactics you have at your disposal to create winning experiences.

Do you have a sample assignment?

I treat my course as my own design assignment, using several techniques along the way to try and make sure the course fits my users (students) needs. I for instance use a Cultural Probe assignent in the first week, and ask my students to fill out a little booklet to explain about there expectations of the course. Eating your own dogfood is what they call this at startups, and no worries: it tastes great.

You are from the Netherlands. Will we earn extra credit if we support the Dutch football team?

We sure could use a little extra support. In the European Championships we did not even make it to the second round – quite a drop from being second in the World Cup of 2010. With a new coach lined up we are preparing for a comeback!

Interview on UX with Jeroen Hermkens

This interview between Karen Lauritsen and Jeroen Hermkens originally appeared on thewhiteboards.

Jeroen Hermkens is an award-winning Dutch interaction designer with 15 years of experience making technology transparent and easy to use for a wide variety of consumer, government, and business projects. He is the founder of Het is Simpel (It is Simple), which specifically focuses on interaction, communication, and concept design.

Jeroen has taught User Experience (UX) design online from Rotterdam for the Design Communication Arts Program since 2009. Wonder what kind of experience you’d have in the class? Recently, Jeroen put together a great page of student experiences and sample projects here from the spring 2011 quarter. Check it out!

I also asked him a few questions about the field via email:

When people ask you what you do, how do you explain it?
It can get confusing [very fast] for people if I try to explain them that, depending on the assignment, I do Interaction Design, UX Design, Information Architecture, Communication Design or Conceptual Design. I usually say, ‘I make technology easy to use’. This always sparks a conversation.

When you’re teaching UX Design, what do you consider the most critical principles that students come away with?
To trust their intuition and create an open mindset to WHY users are doing what they are doing. In the end the WHY is always something very basic.

What are companies looking for when they hire a UX Designer, both in terms of skills and portfolio?
Companies who do not understand UX are looking for nice graphics and flashy Flash presentations. Companies understanding UX look for thoughtful concepts and excellent execution.

What have students said they enjoy most about the course? What is the most difficult for them?
The main thing I am teaching is letting go of the judgements of how it should be or students think it should be. When students get this a complete new world opens up in which good UX design becomes much more easy. Students who are not able to make this step struggle a lot inside rather ‘normal’ projects.

What have you learned from teaching UX Design?
I have been involved in Interaction Design since ’94 so a lot of the theory I have discovered myself. It was very interesting to see a lot of formal documentation on topics I had figured out in my own way. Ever since, I enjoy following all kind of expert views.

Any student success stories that you know of, like someone being hired?
In my last course one of my students got his first UX Design job. He applied at a major healthcare company, had interviews, they liked the mindset he created in the course, [along with] his wireframes and the iPad2 app he designed within the course project. Over the last [few] years I have had emails from several students who got into the UX field as a result of the course.

Check out Het is Simple, Jeroen’s company.

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