Congratulations to Nicholas on his recent graduation! Hear about his background and see some of his class projects below.
How did you get interested in user experience design and why did you choose this program?
It’s a funny story, because I always attribute my budding interest in User Experience Design to my time spent as a Preschool Teacher. As crazy as it sounds, I always felt like running a preschool classroom was sort of the ultimate UX experience – having to design your classroom to fit the varying needs of your students, empathizing with your “users” to create developmentally appropriate curriculum – it all fits in with the principles of UX.
I had to make a career pivot once COVID hit. Digital preschool just wasn’t achievable, and that’s when I really started looking into the UX field. I have a BA in psychology, so I wanted to find something that could utilize that skill set. I had heard great things about UCLA’s extension program being an LA native myself, so I thought I’d do a bit of investigating and I’m thrilled I did.
Can you tell us about a project you completed that you’re proud of, or that you found especially challenging?
One project had me on a team where we had to figure out a new solution for “the car buying experience.” What was tricky about that one was it was a process that was already etched in stone; so many people had their preconceived notions of what the process would look like. There was very little empathy between channels as well, as car buyers and dealers felt that their way of handling the situation was superior to the other. This made gathering our initial research rather difficult, because there was not much constructive feedback to collect when it came to improving the process. Fortunately I was a part of an amazing team and we were able to develop a holistic approach to reinventing this somewhat antiquated experience, which focused on improving the fractured relationship between the two parties.
What are your professional aspirations?
I’m geared more towards the user research side of UX, things like running interviews, creating usability tests, things of that nature. I would love to take these skills into the video game industry and help design systems that make games enjoyable. I can’t even begin to tell you how many games I’ve had to put down because of an awful user experience. Functionality testing, measuring user enjoyment, building out UIs – these are all things that I want to help test and develop through various research methods. Looking even further into the future I’d love to take these skills into the VR world too, as it seems there is a ton of untapped potential in that field.
What advice would you give someone interested in learning more about User Experience Design?
If you’re passionate about it, go for it. Don’t think it’s ever too late to explore a new avenue, especially if you already find yourself in a completely different line of work. And don’t think you need to be a “UX Unicorn” to get somewhere with it. Focus on what part of User Experience Design calls to you and dive in, continuing to better yourself in that field every opportunity you get. There are so many resources out there that will make you a fantastic UXer (including your peers), so don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone to utilize them.