Rediscovering Design Through UX

#morethancode Views from the Shift UX Cohort: Day 1

Photos/Images by #WOCinTech Chat

The first day of class is always a nerve-racking experience, no matter how many times you’ve gone through it, no matter how old you are. Recently, I, along with 9 other students, decided to commit six precious summer Saturdays to exploring User Experience Design through 2020Shift’s #morethancode program.

Although excited, I still ran into a few moments of doubt the night before class— not about the program, but about myself. I had been curious about User Experience for a while and was compelled to take the chance when I learned of the 2020Shift UX offering. At the least, I hoped this new knowledge could enrich my work in marketing, and in the extreme, possibly set my career in a new direction, but I still wondered if this step made sense for me.

Refreshingly, that morning we were all met with warm smiles, bagels, and some charming, yet practical swag courtesy of 2020Shift, Buffer, and Greenhouse.

Our enthusiastic instructors Lensay Abadula and Zalyia Grillet kicked things off by sharing their own unique journeys into the field of User Experience Design — highlighting that the path to UXD is not always a straight line. It’s varied and can be directed by a range of interests, skill sets, and experiences.

Then, the focus soon shifted to us, the students. We had to get to know one another, but there was a slight catch. We couldn’t simply stand and state our names and favorite colors, we first had to develop and decide on an icebreaker game as a team.

In the process of figuring out the activity, we inadvertently put on our design thinking caps:

What sort of information did we want to know about each other?

How long should this game take?

Should we vote on answers? How should we vote?

And so on.

The end result, our version of Two Truths and a Lie, not only brought out more memorable introductions than the standard age, name, and location pitch — it set the tone for collaborative and exploratory thinking. We designed our very first experience together, all before lunch time!

These hands-on exercises continued throughout the day as we worked in small groups on tasks that reinforced the concepts Lensay and Zalyia presented through their dynamic storytelling, videos, and slides.

And while we covered tons of info in just a few hours, the primary theme came through loud and clear: UX Design is ultimately about problem solving.

It’s probably fair to say that when asked “What is design?” — most people initially think it’s the placement of visual elements, colors, and the like, myself included. I found the real-world exercises we tackled in class — crafting a user survey from scratch, for example — really helped expand my view beyond the visual, and shed some light on how to think deeply about both the User and a problem from all angles.

Other key ideas that resonated with me on our first day:

  • A designer is a facilitator. Don’t let your biases hinder the process; be comfortable and open to how the research unfolds.
  • During the discovery stage of a project, a bit of chaos can be constructive and informative.
  • Continually ask why to drill down to the root of a problem (e.g., The 5 Whys).
  • Focus on user behavior, not intention.

As the weeks progress, I look forward to pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone in order to improve my problem solving approach, and of course, getting to know my mentors and fellow designers-to-be in the #morethancode Spring 2016 UX cohort.