Three Things I Learned at General Assembly’s Intro to UX Design Workshop

Walking away from HackATL 2018 with an interest in pursuing design as a potential career, I was hungry for more design education and experience. I found myself spending hours reading designers’ case studies on Medium and scrolling through thoughtfully curated portfolios. In late February, General Assembly, a technology-focused education organization, hosted a free Introduction to User Experience (UX) Design workshop at its Atlanta campus, which is located on the second floor of Ponce City Market. I eagerly signed up, brought my notebook and multicolored Muji pens, and awaited the exciting world of UX ahead of me. The class was taught by Todd Chambers, the Creative Director at Moonraft Innovation Labs. Here are three things I learned that surprised, intrigued and interested me.

Design is Everywhere

Our conversation began with ketchup bottles. On the powerpoint slide, I saw images showing the evolution of the Heinz ketchup bottle: from glass to squeezable plastic to the iconic Dip & Squeeze. As a proud Chick-Fil-A enthusiast, I love using the Dip & Squeeze ketchup packets while eating my favorite crispy chicken deluxe sandwich. Yet, when I enjoy my glorious sandwich, the last thing I think of is the fact that my experience of using ketchup was an intentional design.

Researchers who worked on the new packaging knew that while the majority of consumers prefer the ability to dip their food in ketchup, they also wanted the ability to squeeze ketchup on certain foods, such as sandwiches or burgers. They conducted studies on how much ketchup, on average, consumers use while eating. So, when you use all of the ketchup in the package, remember that it is not a coincidence. It is a good design.

Good UX design is subtle. Good UX design makes you think: wow, this is how it should be.

The conversation then progressed to the topic of doors. Mr. Chambers asked the group if we ever approached a door and did not know whether to push or pull. The crowd let out many sympathetic groans and chuckles. Such doors are considered bad UX, since signs labeled “push” and “pull” still fail to signal how to use them.

Whether it be ketchup or doors, design surrounds us in everyday life.

Humble Designers are Good Designers

Coming into the workshop, I had an idea (honestly, a limited one) of what the design process looked like. Mr. Chambers outlined the steps: research & planning; sketching; prototyping; testing & refining; and launching. Prototyping is an important stage to see the design in physical proximity. Designers should be able to easily toss their prototypes if need be, since “no ego [should be] involved.” Further, he said that testing and refining is crucial. Designers must put their products in front of users to find out what went wrong and what could be better. So, truly, it takes humility to listen to users’ feedback, in order to maximize the potential of the products.

We spent a solid chunk of time talking about conducting research and interviews. He asked us, why is it important to do research? Well, he answered that conducting research allows designers to get out of their own heads and reduces the risk by validating real, human needs. Good designers are humble and empathetic — those who step out of their own shoes and minds to critically look at the needs of other people.

At HackATL, my group created and pitched a business idea for the Social Innovation category. I worked mainly on the design aspect of our project, working on mockups of the user interface of the website. With what limited design experience I had, I didn’t think to put out the website in front of users, so I could find points of improvements to maximize the user experience. Granted, we did only have 48 hours to create everything. Next time, I hope to have a mindset that is focused on designing an overall positive experience of using the website, rather than only focusing on its aesthetics.

Designing for Inclusivity & Accessibility

In his powerpoint, one of the slides read, “Good UX is…” followed by a list of adjectives, including universal. Universal design refers to designing content and services that are accessible to everyone. Can people with vision impairment access your website? Can anyone access your content?

According to the Interaction Design Foundation, “Designers should create output accommodating the needs of all potential users, be they disabled (e.g., color-blind users) or anyone facing situational barriers (e.g., being forced to multitask).”

Accessibility is growing within the design industry, one that mirrors its progressive, forward-moving nature. Mr. Chambers expressed that in the past, accessibility was only a part of a designer’s job, but now, it is expanding to be the sole focus of an individual’s job. Its expanding importance reflects both an ethical and a legal issue. For me, hearing the group’s discussion on this issue reminded me that design is, at its core, a human-centered field of work. One that includes all humans, regardless of all other factors.

Ultimately, General Assembly’s Introduction to UX workshop helped me to see beyond everything I thought I knew about the field of UX design. Design is everywhere — both good and bad. Good design is subtle while bad design can be quite apparent. Design is truly human-centered, which demands humility, compassion, and empathy on the designer’s part. Lastly, design is becoming more universal and inclusive, which reinforces the humanity of the field of design.

Written by Annie Li | IQ Magazine Associate

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