Our First UI/UX Class

Last week nine students completed our first UI/UX class. NSS programs up until this class have been primarily focused on front-end and back-end development. As we start to expand our training beyond software development, we decided it was a priority to add a program especially for user interface and user experience design.

“User Experience and User Interface design are critical components of the software development life cycle,” says Susan Culkin, our instructor for the class. “The user’s experience is the deciding factor on whether a user is a fan of your product or a disappointed consumer. Disappointed consumers can be very expensive if they take their complaints to social media and peer sites.”

The class includes lessons on user and customer experience, storytelling, rapid prototyping, usability testing, Design Thinking, HTML, CSS, frameworks, and interaction product design. This curriculum engages students in practical, hands-on exercises with a realistic problem and solution to prepare them for a Digital or Interaction Product Design or UX job. All the exercises focus on an individual, student-designed case study culminating in a portfolio for use in interviews and as on-the-job samples.

The UI/UX class requires no previous design experience. Students in the first class represented an array of skills and backgrounds, including software development, graphic design, competitive dance, photo-retouching, pottery, finance and journalism. There were even a few graduates of our developer bootcamps as well.

Rolando Bernal, an NSS graduate from our first part-time evening bootcamp completed the UI/UX class. He says he felt like the class brought him full-circle with his design and development skills. “I discovered that I love design and that I’m good at it (better than I thought). I learned to think about the user first while designing/developing a product. After all, the users are the ones that will end up using it, so keeping them in mind is really important. For the same reason, I learned that if you follow the UI/UX principles you will have better chances to have a successful product. And finally, I learned that I’m not ‘the user, someone else is! Design for the user, not for yourself.”

Charisse Lambert, another UI/UX student who graduated from a development bootcamp at NSS, now plans to pursue a career in UI/UX design. “My decision to want to be a part of the UX & UI class was largely based on my need and desire to receive a more-formal understanding of the user experience process,” she says. “I wanted to explore what UX really meant. I had done some learning on my own, but was wanting a deeper and more formal training in the actual process of it all. I wanted a clear understanding of what UX actually was, and how I could best apply that to the training that I had already received in the full-stack developer program at NSS. It felt like a natural progression for me, especially with my particular background in journalism, doing research and interviewing people regularly. It felt like a fit, but something I needed to explore more.”

Eric Denton, who started the full-time web development bootcamp after completing the UI/UX class, adds that the UI/UX class was helpful whether or not you have previous design or development experience. He shared some key takeaways from his perspective: “Assuming you know what’s best is asking for trouble. ‘You’ aren’t the user. Don’t influence, don’t assume, and do listen and watch.” he says.

The experience of learning how to tell the difference between good and bad design can save time and money and can be very useful across any industry with an online presence. Susan Culkin emphasizes that businesses often think they can’t afford “design”, but the costs of bad design add up when factoring in rework and redesign. “Good design is good business,” she said. “A large part of being a good UX designer is to translate the goals of the business and the technical features of a system into a desirable interactive design for the customers and users. The role includes liaising with the team members to be sure that everyone is in sync, working on the same page.”

Applications will open soon for our next UI/UX Class. The course begins August 23rd 2016 and runs for 14 weeks. The class requires a time commitment of about 10 hours a week: three hours of in the classroom and roughly 6-7 hours of homework. You can find more information here.

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