Knowledge and Skill Requirements of the Industry

6 Mar 2009 - 10:15am
5 years ago
20 replies
982 reads
Petra Bennett
2009

I conduct research viability analyses on potential program ideas for a
College.

I would like to take this opportunity to engage the IXDA members in a
dicussion regarding the types of knowledge and skill requirements that
you feel a post secondary education program should have if it were to
produce graduates that could fill interaction design jobs.

I understand this question is rather broad in its scope but based on
the evidence I have seen to date, it would seem that the program
should be a degree credential for people wanting to work as the
liaison between the graphic designers and the programmers. This is
based on my rather limited understanding of the field to date.

Can someone perhaps identify some of the key trends in the field and
how they are affecting the knowledge and skill requirements of the
profession?

I appreciate your thoughts on this!

Comments

6 Mar 2009 - 11:21pm
Sharon Greenfield5
2008

A liaison between a Graphic Designer and a Programmer (an Engineer or
a Developer?) sounds like a Web or Interactive Producer to me.

For what that's worth.

On Mar 6, 2009, at 8:15 AM, Petra Bennett wrote:

> I conduct research viability analyses on potential program ideas for a
> College.
>
> I would like to take this opportunity to engage the IXDA members in a
> dicussion regarding the types of knowledge and skill requirements that
> you feel a post secondary education program should have if it were to
> produce graduates that could fill interaction design jobs.
>
> I understand this question is rather broad in its scope but based on
> the evidence I have seen to date, it would seem that the program
> should be a degree credential for people wanting to work as the
> liaison between the graphic designers and the programmers. This is
> based on my rather limited understanding of the field to date.

7 Mar 2009 - 12:36am
SteveJBayer
2008

Liason sounds like an administrative support role.

While not a very accurate analogy, interaction design can be seen as
the third leg of a stool for software development with visual design
and coding being the other two legs.

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7 Mar 2009 - 4:02am
Roundand
2009

Hi Petra,
Given your college's emphasis on IT, digital media and design, Interaction
Design certainly looks like it would make a good fit.

I'm currently studying IxD at undergraduate level with the Open University (
http://www3.open.ac.uk/courses/bin/p12.dll?C01M364) so am not qualified to
discuss it as a practitioner, but do have a perspective on it as a
undergraduate-level student (albeit one with two decades of software
development and technical communications behind me).

The OU doesn't offer an entire first degree in IxD in the way you propose,
but includes my current course as an optional or required component in a
number of degrees, such as "Computing and Design".

It appears that most other IxD courses are at Masters level, so you might
want to consider that as a product option.

Finally, I have to say that your image of IxD as "liaison" triggered in me
an emotion that I can only say I last felt when, training for a marathon, I
was asked how my "jogging" was going. You clearly need to be indoctrinated!
Ask yourself, what are the most and least effective roughly equivalent
software programs that you use (eg GMail v. intranet messaging)? What are
the most pleasing and most frustrating roughly equivalent interactive
hardware products that you've used (eg iPod v. VCR)? What is the difference?
If I came to your college and asked how to become (or to find) the next
Jonathan Ives (chief product designer at Apple), which course could you
recommend?

Best of luck,

Francis.

7 Mar 2009 - 5:00am
Caroline Jarrett
2007

>From Francis:
>
> I'm currently studying IxD at undergraduate level
> with the Open University
http://www3.open.ac.uk/courses/bin/p12.dll?C01M364)
<snip>
>
> The OU doesn't offer an entire first degree in IxD
> in the way you propose,
> but includes my current course
> as an optional or required component in
> a number of degrees, such as "Computing and Design".
>

The Open University offers two courses:

- M364 Interaction Design, which is a 3rd level undergraduate course based
on the textbook 'Interaction Design' by Sharp, Rogers and Preece

- M873 User Interface Design and Evaluation, which is a postgraduate course
and from which the textbook 'User Interface Design and Evaluation' was later
created. (Declaration of interest: I was an author of the course and the
subsequent textbook, but I got a flat fee - if you register, it gives me a
warm feeling but no royalties)

In fact, there's not a huge gap in level between these two courses. M364 is
more theoretical; M873 is more aimed at practitioners, and its objective is
to turn you into a 'beginner usability expert' as one of my students so
memorably put it.

Despite the different titles, I'd say that the subject matter is much the
same.

M364 can count towards a wide range of undergrad degrees; M873 can count
towards some postgrad diplomas and you could add a dissertation to get a
masters'. However, you'd be doing a lot of courses that aren't all that
relevant to user experience.

In the past, Whitney Quesenbery and I have speculated about putting together
a 'diy' masters-equivalent programme at the OU by studying a selection of
their courses like this:

M873 User Interface Design and Evaluation
http://www3.open.ac.uk/courses/bin/p12.dll?C01M873

D844 Ethonography
http://www3.open.ac.uk/courses/bin/p12.dll?C01D844

M865 Project Management
http://www3.open.ac.uk/courses/bin/p12.dll?C01M865

D840 Introduction to research: basic skills and survey methods
http://www3.open.ac.uk/courses/bin/p12.dll?C01DT840

and the courses required for the Certificate in Web Applications Development
http://www3.open.ac.uk/courses/bin/p12.dll?Q01C39

A programme like this would give you a pretty good background but
unfortunately wouldn't actually give you a specific qualification (apart
from the Certificate).

If you did want to try it, sign up soon: it looks like the last presentation
of M873 will be in May of this year.

Best
Caroline Jarrett

7 Mar 2009 - 6:40pm
Evan Meagher
2009

I'm an undergrad at the University of Washington in Seattle planning
on studying computer science/engineering. However, I feel as though
my passion is more in the area of interaction design than in
mindlessly programming. I'm dabbling in research in human-computer
interaction within the CSE department, which seems more directly
related to my interests. However I at times, in moments of weakness,
worry that I could be pursuing the wrong type of degree.

How well do you think an undergrad degree in computer engineering
could play toward a master's degree and/or career in IxD?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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8 Mar 2009 - 3:53am
djlittle
2009

Hi,

I'm currently studying on the OU course M873, User Interface Design
and Evaluation so just thought I'd add a couple of thoughts in case
it's of interest to this discussion.

I think the course content is good -- it covers the principles of HCI
and usability etc. It's supported with some multimedia elements such
as DVDs and PC (not Mac) applications.

One of the complaints I'd have about it is that the examples are
quite old as the course last seems to have been revised around 2000.
This means screenshots of websites taken from Netscape 4.7 etc., no
mention of areas such as ethnography which I've come across by
reading other usability websites etc.

I guess that's the danger of any course in this area, although at
least with HCI the principles will remain more constant than with
things like web design, programming etc.

I'm taking this as a standalone course and I'm hoping it will make
it easier to move into a usability / UI / IX etc. role (I'm
currently a web developer). I'm not sure how useful the course will
be in supporting this -- how much do employers value these
qualifications and is a course such as this sufficient on its own?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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8 Mar 2009 - 6:25am
Caroline Jarrett
2007

>From David Little
> I'm currently studying on the OU course M873,
> User Interface Design and Evaluation

<snip>
>
> One of the complaints I'd have about it is
> that the examples are quite old as the course
> last seems to have been revised around 2000.

Correct. I'm not involved in this course any more, but the OU web site tells
me that its last presentation will be in May 2009. I don't know whether
there are any plans to replace it.

When we created the textbook from the course ("User Interface Design and
Evaluation", Stone, Jarrett, Woodroffe and Minocha, 2005), we refreshed a
lot of the screenshots etc but truthfully, it doesn't matter all that much.
The underlying principles are the same.

In the years when we were writing the course (1998-2000, roughly), we had to
fight hard to convince people that interaction design wasn't solely about
the web. That was going in the height of the dot com boom, of course. We
pointed out that people interacted all the time with all sorts of computers
that were nothing to do with the web, ranging from washing machines through
to the controls of a nuclear reactor. I think we were vindicated in
hindsight.

When editing the material into a textbook, the bit I found the hardest was
what to do about the chapter on designing for mobile. I ended up rewriting
the chapter to say (more or less): "this stuff changes all the time: get out
there and find out what mobile devices are like at the point that you're
actually designing for them".

> I'm taking this as a standalone course
> and I'm hoping it will make
> it easier to move into a usability
> / UI / IX etc. role (I'm
> currently a web developer).
> I'm not sure how useful the course will
> be in supporting this --
> how much do employers value these
> qualifications and is a course such
> as this sufficient on its own?

I'd be interested to hear from employers / hiring managers on this list what
they think. My instinct would be to say: a course helps, but it isn't going
to guarantee you a job. And you need to complement the academic stuff, which
is inevitably going to age a bit, with becoming conversant with the general
vibe on lists like this and reading relevant online zines like UX Matters, A
list apart, www.usabilitynews.com etc

As a minimum, I'd suggest that you should find a way of creating a portfolio
for yourself, whether by working on paid-for jobs, or doing some
moonlighting, or by helping out friends, family and worthy causes.

Best
Caroline Jarrett

8 Mar 2009 - 6:40am
djlittle
2009

Thanks for this response Caroline. I agree that the course isn't
web-centric (in fact I'd like it to be a little more web-oriented
given my personal interests!). Of course HCI covers a huge area as
you rightly point out.

>> I'd be interested to hear from employers / hiring managers on
this list what they think. My instinct would be to say: a course
helps, but it isn't going to guarantee you a job. And you need to
complement the academic stuff, which is inevitably going to age a
bit, with becoming conversant with the general vibe on lists like
this and reading relevant online zines like UX Matters, A list apart,
www.usabilitynews.com etc

Yes, I definitely read all of those sites and more. In fact I've
been familiar with some of them for some time given my work in design
/ development

>>As a minimum, I'd suggest that you should find a way of creating a
portfolio for yourself, whether by working on paid-for jobs, or doing
some moonlighting, or by helping out friends, family and worthy
causes.

Yes, I have a portfolio on my site www.littled.net which I've tried
to make UI / IX relevant rather than being "developery". So hope
this will help and complement the study.

A related question for consideration elsewhere might be how easy is
it to move from one area of web (etc.) work into another, i.e. from a
developer / designer to a usability role. Maybe I'll start another
thread!

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8 Mar 2009 - 7:51am
Chauncey Wilson
2007

On Fri, Mar 6, 2009 at 12:15 PM, Petra Bennett
<petra.bennett at sheridanc.on.ca> wrote:

> Can someone perhaps identify some of the key trends in the field and
> how they are affecting the knowledge and skill requirements of the
> profession?
>
> I appreciate your thoughts on this!

Hello Petra, Here are some ideas for you based on my experience
teaching HCI related courses in the Boston, USA area.

1. Prototyping/ideation methods. There has been some debate on this
forum, but putting aside, a solid course on techniques for generating
ideas, examining those ideas from different perspectives, and
evaluating those ideas. Things that the course might include range
from braindrawing/sketching to workflow models to storyboards to
wireframes to interactive prototypes etc.
2. A survey of design principles (visual, interaction, human factors)
3. Persuasive principles. This is becoming a popular topic and the
main book on this in the HCI area is B.J. Fogg's book on Persuasive
Technology. Persuasive is important now for almost every product.
This would merge social psychology with product design
4. Interviewing skills. This is a fundamental skill for
understanding our users, stakeholders, etc. If you are an
anthropologists, you get many chances to practice, but a course that
mixes practice with theory would be great. Many HCI schools give
basic interviewing skills short shrift.
5. Widget Wisdom. This would be a short course, but after 30 years
or so of GUIs being around, many designer/developers make fundamental
mistakes in the choice of widgets and how the attributes of the task,
user, and environment interact and affect what widgets we put forth in
our designs. Every week in this forum, there are debates about bad
calendar objects, poor selection mechanisms, etc.
6. Quantitative wisdom and looking closely at numbers. I get so
tired of getting the "5 users is enough" thrown at me when the number
of participants is a function of the complexity of the interface, the
tasks presented to the user, the size of the database (small versus
millions of items) and understanding the various types of sample that
we employ (often our sampling is convenience). There are a number of
books out that get into cognitive biases that affect our beliefs and
interpretations (the work of Kahneman and Tversky and others on things
like the "availability bias" and the "fundamental attribution error".
7. The politics of interaction design - a case study approach of
different political problems and possible solutions
8. Designing for the very small (iPhone) and the very large (multiple
large monitors or HD TV or huge panels for nuclear power plants)

Those are a few ideas that come to mind.

Chauncey

8 Mar 2009 - 11:15am
Michael Micheletti
2006

Hi David,

A few months ago, when the IxDA meetup happened at the UW, I was impressed
that students from the Technical Communications/UX path, students in the
Industrial Design curriculum, and Computer Science students were all
present. And they were working together on projects. They made it sound like
they were doing this in stealth mode. So it may be a possibility for you to
stay in the CS path but mix it up a little with design classes and design
projects along with students in other majors.

When I took graduate courses in the UW's Technical Communications UX
program, they seemed oriented towards HCI and UX principles, usability
testing, and research. This was a helpful program for me - I'd already been
working as a designer for some years - but it wasn't a studio-based program
where you designed lots of stuff. Perhaps this has changed in the last
couple of years. I got the impression that Industrial Design students at the
UW spent more time designing things, including interactive media. So perhaps
mixing things up between the CS, ID, and UX programs might work. I think the
UW might actually be able to create a solid studio-based Interaction Design
program by rearranging/regrouping existing courses should they wish to.
Perhaps a sympathetic professor or advisor can help you along a dual-major
path or similar self-designed curriculum? And perhaps current UW ID or UX
students can chime in here and correct me if I'm wrong, thanks.

Hope this is helpful,

Michael Micheletti

--
Michael Micheletti
michael.micheletti at gmail.com

On Sun, Mar 8, 2009 at 5:40 AM, David Little <david at littled.net> wrote:
<snip />

8 Mar 2009 - 3:37pm
Francis Storr
2009

I took M364 last year and really enjoyed it. The price of the course,
~£400 compared with ~£900 for M873, is significantly less than
others, which was (and is!) good for me. There is a reasonable amount
of web stuff on there and, although some of the course does feel a
little dated (the set text is pretty old), I have to agree with
Caroline's comment on M873 that the underlying principles are the
same.

I'd love to do more courses like this but the expense is,
unfortunately, too great :(

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8 Mar 2009 - 11:41pm
Roundand
2009

Hi Francis,

2009/3/8 Francis Storr <fstorr at gmail.com>

> I took M364 last year and really enjoyed it.
>

Did you take it as part of a career development? If so, has it helped you
make the move you were trying to make?

Thanks -

Francis (same name, same course!)

9 Mar 2009 - 1:09am
Francis Storr
2009

Hi

Yep, I took it as career development. The course helped me realise
that I am very much interested in the field and that I want to learn
a great deal more and start building into everything I work on. I
very much want to make a move into the field but it's not the best
time to find a new job when I have a good amount of benefits built up
with my current employer.

Hope you enjoy the course as much as I did.

Francis

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9 Mar 2009 - 8:27am
GIO MONTOYA
2006

Hi Francis.

Sorry what is M364 stands for? I have taken some classes in order to improve my knowledge in interactivity, but I would like to hear some suggestions for development and maybe touch screen state of the art tech.

cheers,

Gio Montoya

Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.
Let's protect our mother-earth is dying and we are the only
one who can do something. Protect its flora and fauna"

--- On Mon, 3/9/09, Francis Norton <francis.norton at gmail.com> wrote:

> From: Francis Norton <francis.norton at gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Knowledge and Skill Requirements of the Industry
> To: "Francis Storr" <fstorr at gmail.com>, "IXDA list" <discuss at ixda.org>
> Date: Monday, March 9, 2009, 1:41 AM
> Hi Francis,
>
> 2009/3/8 Francis Storr <fstorr at gmail.com>
>
> > I took M364 last year and really enjoyed it.
> >
>
> Did you take it as part of a career development? If so, has
> it helped you
> make the move you were trying to make?
>
> Thanks -
>
> Francis (same name, same course!)
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
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9 Mar 2009 - 9:26am
Roundand
2009

Open University course M364 (
http://www3.open.ac.uk/courses/bin/p12.dll?C01M364) is an undergraduate
course in Fundamentals of Interaction Design. I think it's good for someone
who wants to get the basics right, maybe not so good if you're looking for
state of the art technology - in fact we get marked down if our sketches are
not done freehand, in order (I believe) to loosen us up and make us think
like designers, not techies.

2009/3/9 GIO MONTOYA <giomontoya at yahoo.com>

>
> Hi Francis.
>
> Sorry what is M364 stands for? I have taken some classes in order to
> improve my knowledge in interactivity, but I would like to hear some
> suggestions for development and maybe touch screen state of the art tech.
>
>

9 Mar 2009 - 12:56pm
Adrian Howard
2005

On 8 Mar 2009, at 17:15, Michael Micheletti wrote:
[snip]
> A few months ago, when the IxDA meetup happened at the UW, I was
> impressed
> that students from the Technical Communications/UX path, students in
> the
> Industrial Design curriculum, and Computer Science students were all
> present. And they were working together on projects.
[snip]

This makes me happy :-)

Adrian

9 Mar 2009 - 3:18pm
Adrian Howard
2005

On 8 Mar 2009, at 17:15, Michael Micheletti wrote:
[snip]
> A few months ago, when the IxDA meetup happened at the UW, I was
> impressed
> that students from the Technical Communications/UX path, students in
> the
> Industrial Design curriculum, and Computer Science students were all
> present. And they were working together on projects.
[snip]

This makes me happy :-)

Adrian

10 Mar 2009 - 10:30am
Renee Rosen-Wakeford
2008

Hi David,

I took M873 a few years back while working as a front end developer/web
producer. It got me a hybrid front end/user experience role, but I found it
hard to move into a full UX role with just that course and my limited
experience. It helped me get my foot in the door for interviews, but the
common feedback was that I wasn't experienced enough, even for junior roles,
and to try again with about 6 months more experience.

So I took a year off and did UCL's HCI-E MSc, which I highly recommend, both
because of what I learned and because it helped me get a UX job. I realise
this isn't an option for everyone (it helped that I lived in London
already), but you can do it part time and only go 1 or 2 days a week. I know
some people did that and worked as well. I knew I couldn't focus on working
and studying from my experience with the OU module, so I decided just to
study.

The OU course prepared me well for the MSc and it did help my career but not
as much as the MSc did. But someone with a larger portfolio and more working
experience might have a different experience.

Renée

P.S. That's no reflection on the OU course - I thought it was excellent
overall. Only complaint was that the textbooks fell apart too easily - when
I did it, there were 3 separate books plus appendices, etc. I still refer to
the ebook editions that I got and find them to be useful references.

On Sun, Mar 8, 2009 at 9:53 AM, David Little <david at littled.net> wrote:

> I'm taking this as a standalone course and I'm hoping it will make
> it easier to move into a usability / UI / IX etc. role (I'm
> currently a web developer). I'm not sure how useful the course will
> be in supporting this -- how much do employers value these
> qualifications and is a course such as this sufficient on its own?
>

--
Renée Rosen-Wakeford
reneerw at gmail.com
Twitter: @lilitu93

10 Mar 2009 - 10:45am
Caroline Jarrett
2007

Renée

<snip - accurate analysis of M873 at the OU compared to a full Master's at
UCL>

> P.S. That's no reflection on the OU course -
> I thought it was excellent
> overall. Only complaint was that the
> textbooks fell apart too easily -

Glad you liked the course. For anyone who wants to read a very similar
version of the course materials, our textbook "User Interface Design and
Evaluation" is a more recent version of the same stuff, somewhat edited to
turn it from distance learning materials into a book.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0120884364/qid=1124804621/sr=8
-1/ref=pd_bbs_1/104-2283683-3439158?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

However, I can't tell you anything about its longevity in actual use: I
rarely crack mine open, as I became pretty familiar with the material when
working on it.

(Declaration of interest: I was paid a flat fee for my work on this book:
any further royalties go to the Open University).

Best
Caroline Jarrett

12 Mar 2009 - 5:22am
djlittle
2009

Renée

Thanks for this advice -- very interesting.

I keep meaning to start a thread up about how easy it is to move into
UI design / UX from a another (web) job and you've given me some
insight into this from your post.

For financial and other reasons I'm not that keen on stuyding for a
Master's course (having done two unrelated ones already!) but it's
interesting that this was seen by employers as useful. In other areas
of the Web world there is less emphasis on qualifications as the
technology moves too fast. But, HCI has more of an academic pedigree
and concepts tend to remain constant so I can understand why it would
be seen as important and relevant.

Lots to think about -- an interesting thread.

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