Why it’s important to understand current technologies
The Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma” has impressively shown the manipulative influence of social media on our everyday life.
Thereby one thing became clear:
Not being informed can be dangerous.
If you don’t understand how certain systems, apps, and websites work, you are more prone to manipulation.
It used to be different, wasn’t it?
Technologies have become an indispensable part of our everyday life.
I used to have a different device for each form of entertainment.
Walkman for music.
Console to play.
TV to watch movies.
Today, the smartphone can basically do everything.
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
— Arthur C. Clarke
In order to better understand current technological trends and developments, I started to find out more by reading books and doing various online learning courses.
I was very interested in the topic of UX Design.
The relevance of UX Design
User Experience Design (UX Design) deals with the way a person interacts with a (mostly digital) product.
It’s about the complete experience of the person, i.e. needs, thoughts, emotions, etc.
The aim is to conduct structured analysis to understand people’s needs and problems in order to then translate them into the digital product.
The product can be anything from a website, app, VR world or something non-digital like a book.
It is important that the person is able to do what she/he wants to achieve with ease.
Whether the solution looks nice is rather unimportant at the first stage.
Rather, the overall experience should be positive.
Using the example of a navigation service such as Google Maps it can be illustrated what is meant:
A UX Designer checks whether a person can enter their routes quickly and easily and whether the result is presented in such a way that the person arrives at their destination easily.
This includes, for example, that the input mask for start and finish is designed differently on a mobile device than on a large screen such as a laptop.
Whether the buttons are green or blue does not matter at first.
What is the Interaction Design Foundation
The Interaction Design Foundation is an online design school and community.
There is a focus on the topic of user experience design and a large number of courses and modules are offered.
The courses are e.g. UX-Designer, UI-Designer, Product Manager or Front-End Developer.
Here I have to say that I sometimes find the course names not quite appropriate.
For example, the “Front-End Developer” course.
One thinks that everything relevant to the topic of “Front End Development” is taught (otherwise the course wouldn’t be called that, would it?).
But this is not the case.
Rather, it is a UX Design course relevant to the front-end developer.
In other words, the modules help to build a bridge between UX Design and front-end development.
So, there are different courses and modules that you can take individually.
If you then put these together, they result in a thematic group.
For example there are courses about
- Design Thinking
- Human-Computer-Interaction (HCI)
- Mobile UX-Design
What convinced me at the beginning is that one of the well-known design expert Don Norman is involved, a community is offered, and the price doesn’t drive me into financial ruin right away.
At €180 per year, the IDF has a good value for money to start off with.
But more on that in the section “my honest opinion”.
What alternatives are there?
Since 2020 the interest in learning online and, above all, design related topics has grown rapidly.
Worldwide search queries for the largest online learning websites udemy, coursera, edX with a clear peak in April 2020.
The alternatives that I looked at were
- UX Design Institute - UX Design Course
- Career Foundry - UX Design Program
- Udacity - UX Designer Nanodegree
The prices are around €300 - €1,000 (Udacity), €2,750 (UX Design Institute), to €6,000 (Career Foundry).
Each provider has their own unique selling point such as:
- UX Design Institute is university accredited
- In addition to a job guarantee, Career Foundry also offers the option of financing through the education grant (if you are entitled to it)
- Udacity offers Github and Linkedin reviews from mentors
My honest opinion
My goal in learning about UX Design was to understand the main methods and techniques that are used. I wasn’t planning a career change, but rather wanted to understand current software systems better and to know how certain design decisions are made.
In addition, I am always interested in the business part of a product, which does not play a key role in UX Design (although it is often mentioned that the business part is increasing in relevance, even for UX Designers).
What I liked
The courses are very well-structured, and the navigation of the course always gives you an overview of where you are in the lesson.
There are not only multiple choice questions, but also open questions, so you can think a little more about the solutions.
The Interaction Design Foundation has some very solid and good courses. The Design Thinking course is very practical and in-depth.
The content is mixed as text or rather video-heavy.
There is a lot of additional material in the form of instruction PDFs and related links.
What I did not like
Fixed course start
The courses always have a fixed time for enrollment, which means that a course may only be available in a few days or weeks, and you can not start right away.
The IDF justifies it by stating that it increases the likelihood of completing a course.
Even if this may be true, I personally do not like the fact that I cannot choose for myself whether I can enroll directly or in fixed time slots.
If you register directly for all available courses, you can “bypass” this time block.
A “disadvantage” could be that your certificate shows a longer duration for the course attendance.
I don’t think anyone pays attention to how long it took you for a course.
The online community is not very active.
There is a Slack group and a forum, but when I looked in there wasn’t that much going on. Feedback on questions was often received, but it sometimes took a little longer (days to a week). That was rather unfortunate for me when I was working specifically on a subject or when I didn’t understand certain things.
If I hadn’t been active myself and had found alternative Slack groups, I would’ve probably not met many people online from the IDF.
However, this can also be a general problem of learning online and not a specific problem of the IDF.
There is simply no direct interaction with other people and / or the course instructor.
Regarding the real meetups, it can be said that some of them took place in the summer of 2020, and we therefore not highly visited.
Unfortunately, due to the restrictions and rules, larger real meetings were not possible.
Would I register again?
But, that doesn’t mean that I don’t recommend the IDF.
I think the IDF was very good for me personally to learn about certain UX-related content in a very structured way.
Although there is a lot of information on YouTube and on blogs on the subject of UX Design, I have a higher motivation to do something when I have paid for it.
But after 3-4 months I lost interest in the IDF courses because the advanced courses were often very text-heavy.
I noticed that I actually learn best with practical examples in design tools, or with videos.
In addition, from my point of view, some exercises were designed for working in larger organizations, which lead to a lot of paperwork and less design work.
I wanted to learn more about the current tools and their practical application, which was unfortunately not offered.
I was thinking about a bootcamp, but here too, the goal is to find a job as a UX Designer, which wasn’t my motivation, which is why I decided not to enroll in it.
In my opinion a monthly or quarterly offer is missing.
This allows you to divide the learning time a little more flexibly, and you don’t have to pay a whole year if you only want to learn a few months.
Technologies and algorithms play an increasingly important role in our everyday life.
Whether ordering food, navigating via smartphone, or watching a series everything is now based on software systems.
It is enormously helpful to deal with current technologies, because the more you know, the better you can decide whether and how to use a new app or technology.
Learning online is a good way to get started on various topics such as UX Design quick and easy.
But, the interaction and communication in real life or via specific small groups and chats with people has to be organized by yourself.
The Interaction Design Foundation offers some solid courses, which in my opinion not a scam, but the offer should be detailed with a view to the own goals and wishes are checked.
At the end of my courses at IDF, I was very interested in web development and therefore took the free 300 hour web development course from Free Code Camp.For more real-life updates feel free to join me on twitter.