User Experience Design Course: Old and New Friends Meet

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The Introduction to User Experience Design (UXD) is a weeklong interactive course that refreshingly presents the field of UXD to students and professionals alike. This course is jointly offered through the MBS program along with the Rutgers Center for Innovation Education. Ronnie Battista developed the course with the help of Dr. Marilyn Tremaine, an expert in human- computer interaction and research professor here at Rutgers. To celebrate the 7th year anniversary of the course, a reunion was held at the Rutgers University Inn and Conference Center on Wednesday October 19th. The night offered opportunities for professionals in the UX field to speak on the emergent future of UXD; more specifically the role of UX design in innovation.

This event brought together the facilitators of the course, past and present students along with a panel of esteemed UX professionals: Mark Silver, Executive Director, User Experience & Digital Strategy, ETS, Chika Obiora, UX Architect at Local Wisdom and MBS alum, and Phil Charron, Senior Vice President, Consulting and Talent, Think Brownstone. Michael Cabus, curriculum coordinator for the UXD program, moderated the panel segment and then the floor was open to the audience for questions. At the end of the night many audience members stuck around to network and chat with the many UX professionals in attendance.

To kickoff the panel discussion, Michael Cabus asked many questions to the panel like “How did you get into UX Design? ”. Marc Silver answered with a little of his background and let us know that he was a landscape architect who went into programming and then moved on to design different training systems to solve problems. He was drawn to usability and he added that this aids him in his work at ETS. Another question posed to the panel was, “How do you feel about formal UX education?” and Phil Charron explained that learning UX in a formal setting allows you to collaborate with others and helps students to follow the design process from beginning to end. He also stressed that portfolio pieces are very important to employers when hiring persons who may or may not have professional experience in the UX space. He told the audience that your resume is simply not enough, and that employers are even more interested in your portfolio so that they can view projects you have worked on. Marc Silver also emphasized that the portfolio needs to be usable and that some time needs to be put into the design as first impressions are lasting; especially in the UXD field, where the user is at the center of the experience, portfolios should be crafted with that in mind. Chika Obiora also mentioned that networking is a great asset to students, because by networking it gave her a shortcut into meeting the right people and this aided her job search process. She also suggested that students should not just stop with the class but attend meet-ups and explore different systems on their own. Another noteworthy question asked to the panel was, “How does UX tie into business strategy?” and to this question Phil Charron noted that as a UX designer you always need to be clear on what your business goal is. Really knowing and being able to talk through your goals will support you in your design process. Chika Obiora also added that getting to the root of your customers’ needs will ensure that you craft the right solutions, and Mark Silver so eloquently added that “ needs drive innovation”. He stated that having that mindset and always looking for ways to be innovative lead you right back successful business planning.

Overall the panelists thoroughly covered UXD’s role in innovation. It was very apparent that UXD and innovation are intermingled and that curiosity is a great asset to have in this field. To end the night, Ronnie Battista opened the floor for current and past students to speak on their experience in the course and how it has influenced their career path. One past student mentioned that after taking the course three years ago, he moved from analyst, to senior analyst and he has recently been promoted to Manager of UX at his company. A current student highlighted her growing interest in UXD and how she is actively thinking about a career in this field even though her concentration is Analytics, and to this Phil Charron pointed out that the combination of UXD and Analytics is becoming much more common in this “Big Data” world. The conversations that lead this event encouraged everyone, no matter what field or concentration to think about how to better serve the needs of the user; and it was clear that the Introduction to User Design course was a comprehensive and exciting class for all who have taken it.

Key Points

  • Needs drive Innovation.
  • The co-mingling of different fields are becoming very important as a more customer- centric view of business emerges and the combination of UXD and Analytics is becoming more evident.
  • Networking is key in this field.
  • Employers are very interested in UXD portfolios that showcase your thought process.
  • Curiosity really drives creating the best systems.