Next step in my UX journey

So I’ve been following UX online for a while and gone to a few meetups in my area, and I’ve decided I want to take my skills to the next level. And I’m doing it with the help of Bloc.

Bloc offers partial scholarship opportunities for diversity applicants, and I qualified on two counts, being a woman and a veteran. One thing I was asked about in my application was how I intend to give back to the community after completing the course. I’m glad that’s important to them because it’s important to me. In fact, it was an easy question for me to answer because I’ve already done a fair amount of work with outreach and diversity. I might post more on this another time, but I wholeheartedly believe that diversity is a business issue as well as a moral issue.

Necessary skills for UXers

At the meetups I’ve been to, I’ve talked to people in charge of hiring UX professionals for their companies and asked them what skills they recommend aspiring UXers have. Everyone I’ve talked to has been really friendly and generous with their information, by the way. Their #1 answer to my question?

A strong portfolio.

Not mastery of wireframes or any particular software package. A strong portfolio. So I hope to build that with Bloc, and whether or not it translates to a UX job as such, that kind of knowledge will be useful in a lot of endeavors.

I’ll be learning a lot about design and a little bit about coding, but the thing that excites me the most is that Bloc is a project-based course, so that will be the focus. Lots of chances to build out that portfolio! I have a mentor that I’ll be meeting with once a week, so I’ll have plenty of opportunities for feedback.

Now I will be learning about a lot of the tools that UXers use, and I’m looking forward to that, but it’s not necessarily my focus. In the 2007 documentary Helvetica, Dutch designer Wim Crouwel says that computers won’t turn a bad designer into a good designer, but they can speed up your workflow. The knowledge of what to do has to be inside your head first, and that’s what I’m looking forward to developing.

By the way, if you have the slightest interest in design, particularly typography, watch Helvetica. It’s fascinating to see the variety of passionate opinions about that typeface. You can rent it through the usual online channels, but it’s only a little bit more to just buy it through the director’s website. That way you’re supporting independent art, and you can watch as many times as you want!

UX still isn’t just UI

My mentor says that my programming background will give me an advantage, which I don’t doubt, but I hope I don’t get pigeonholed into that. If I wanted to be programming full-time, I’d be doing that already. I like the way UX combines technology with a creative aspect and even a bit of psychology.

As I’ve mentioned previously, sometimes people equate UX with UI, and that isn’t the case. Kent Nguyen has some good thoughts on his site on some of the differences between UI and UX. Plenty of examples exist of sites with an attractive UI but a horrible UX.

In a way, these sites can be even more frustrating than ugly ones. If a site is just poorly designed all around, it’s easy to shrug your shoulders and say, “Well, these people obviously don’t know what they’re doing.” But if a site looks nice, there’s an unspoken assumption that competent people are behind it. I’m not saying it’s a logical assumption, but it’s there nonetheless. I’d rather deal with a site like Craiglist. Although its UI often takes a beating, the site knows exactly what it is and delivers on that. That’s good UX in my book. You don’t go into a Waffle House expecting Le Bernardin. Or if you do, I suggest that you’re very confused.

Got any UX horror stories to tell? Did a site or app blow your mind in a positive way with UX? Share your stories in the comments!

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