The first week of the User Experience Design (UXD) course was – in itself – a lesson in User Experience… But I’ll get to that in a second.
The class started as most would, students sheepishly walking in and finding their spot to sit. All the while timidly scanning the room to try and get a sense of who their classmates would be for the next 12 weeks. Luckily for me I happened to meet a coworkers’ next-door neighbor and a graphic designer from a my company’s marketing agency. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised given that Waterloo is one of the more tight-knit tech communities in the world.
Once everyone was settled in, the instructor Karin, with the help of BrainStation’s ambassador Nicola, and the course T.A. Ashna got everyone loosened up with some fun icebreakers. I quickly felt at ease learning the broad range of backgrounds and professional experience of everyone in the room. Everything from a couple of students to a User Interaction Designer to a Marketing Director of a local startup. It felt good to know no one there was an expert and that everyone is eager to learn.
As for the classroom experience for day one… There were a few hiccups that ended up being great teaching points. First – AV seemed to be finicky. There was no obvious way to connect-up the instructor’s’ computer to the projector and the wall switches were poorly designed. The projectors’ three LED lights blinked on and off giving everyone in the room a false sense of hope. All of that being said – we managed to get things rolling only to hear about the second hiccup. The delivery of the opening night meal didn’t make it – as the delivery man was in a car accident on his way! (Don’t worry, he was okay!) Nicola however took it all in stride. She told us the situation and quickly scrambled to get a good range of appetizers and salads delivered from the nearest restaurant. All was well!
The awesome part about the course is that we will actually be using a real-life problem that we personally want to tackle – applying the knowledge and tools we gain every week. Karin made it very clear that we have to start thinking about what problem we’d like to tackle – not jump to a product (ie. a mobile app isn’t always the right solution!).
If there was one thing that stuck in my mind from week 1, it was empathy. Having empathy is the single-most important quality a UX Designer can have. Without empathy, “we tend to project our own rationalisations and beliefs onto the actions and beliefs of others.” (Don Norman). This rang true with the concepts of Design Thinking and User Research – of which we’ll be putting into practise next week.
I’m excited to be a part of this course and I look forward to sharing my experience for the 12 weeks. So far, I’d say this is a course anyone involved in building, managing, marketing, or supporting a product should take.