How do you teach someone user experience?

I was recently involved with helping put together a half day trial training course for those new to UX. Needless to say the first approach that came to mind was to give an introduction to why we do it along with a description of the typical activities UX people might be expected to get involved with like wireframes or analytics.

We also threw in a couple of exercises – getting people to draw up some personas and user journeys in groups for some scenarios we had made up.

Overall the feedback was fairly positive but a couple of responses were notable. Attendees wanted to see more real world examples and understand how UX designers work with developers (A lot of attendees were from a development background).

This got me thinking as to what would be important to someone just starting out their UX journey. Simply knowing what a persona is and why you would use it vs. how you use it to actually build something.

You wouldn’t teach someone to be a carpenter by only teaching them about what a saw is – you want them to use that saw to create a table.

SawNow a user experience project doesn’t always involve an end product – i’ve written about how you can use UX for business strategy. But when talking to someone completely new to the discipline it can be hard to describe the value of what UX is unless you can show how it actually affects an end solution. You wouldn’t teach someone to be a carpenter by only teaching them about what a saw is – you want them to use that saw to create a table.

Whilst multi-intelligence learning teaches us that people learn in many different ways, I truly believe the best way to learn how to practice user experience is to use the techniques to create something. That way you can put the deliverables in their proper context and take user experience from something abstract into something tangible.

A different approach

In a training context a day long course may work better in the following format:

  • Give an overview of user experience and why it’s important
  • Put people into groups with the aim of creating a simple informational webpage for a chosen school or university
  • Teach them some quick group workshop techniques such as homepage sketching and mindmapping to gather data for ideas between themselves
  • Do some competitor benchmarking
  • Split into pairs and perform some user interviews (alternating between interviewer and interviewee)
  • Learn about and sketch some intial wireframes in the group
  • Create some paper prototypes and test on someone from outside the group
  • Iterate the wireframes based on the findings

Whilst this may not cover all the terminology in the UX world I see that as a hygiene factor to what user experience is really about.

Understanding the user and using their feedback to improve your designs would be the main takeaways from my revised structure. It helps to understand what the deliverables are, but it helps more to understand how to apply them to a problem.

Image courtesy Wayan Vota