Over the past 10 years, user experience and user interface skills have become one of the most valuable skills for graphic designers to have. Almost three years ago, I graduated from a Graphic Design course at Weston College University Campus, run in partnership with Bath Spa University. It was a fantastic course, with excellent tutors, yet it didn’t cover apps or the need for digital UX and UI skills.
Despite the massive demand and need for UX and UI today, it is still not being covered on Graphic Design courses by many universities. If the courses being taught at our universities are not delivering the training that designers need, how can we expect to create new talent within this field?
I developed an interest in apps in my third year, where I created the designs for a concept app. This led me to get a job at Mubaloo, where I have been able to gain industry knowledge and expertise. Three years on, it seems from looking around at what universities offer, that graphic design courses still aren’t preparing students with the skills they need for the marketplace and changes in the devices we engage with daily.
Weston College University Campus, I’m pleased to say, does. Last Monday, I was invited back to give a lecture to the first, second and third year students on the core principles of UX and UI.
Design students are taught to use design to help problem solve. Yet, they don’t necessarily think of this as User Experience – indeed many of the students hadn’t heard of UX. Yet they use and practice UX without knowing it.
In many cases, it’s possible to link what students are being taught with how it relates to mobile app development. The lecture began by defining what UX and UI encompass. Amongst many things, a UXer is responsible for identifying the target user(s), creating user stories around the challenges those people may face and their journeys, partaking in user research and leading user testing.
In design courses, students are taught to follow the Double Diamond process for their projects, where you ‘Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver’. This is very similar to the UX process and, to my delight, is what was recently discussed at South West UX.
The talk also focused on the use of wireframes and the importance of focusing on the functionality of the app and how it is going to work. Here, it was important to stress that user experience at this stage is more about how the experience flows, without worrying about aesthetics.
Whilst UX/UI skills for mobile aren’t taught on design courses, understanding hierarchy and layout, delivers the basic understanding to create UI for an app. If this were part of courses, and taught to students, I believe this would lead to a better foundation for the workplace, especially in today’s workplace where so much of graphic design touches on mobile and digital.
Of course, one of the challenges with teaching mobile UX and UI on design courses is that there are new subtleties between different OSes and upgrades that happen every year. Yet, there are some core basics that can be taught to enhance UX through UI; through teaching topics such as:
- Utilising screen real estate, by making sure it is not cluttered by unnecessary branding
- The importance of allowing enough room for tappable areas, as this quickly makes the experience of the app poor
- Highlighting interactive areas with colour and not squeezing a website into an app
Essentially, there are subtleties that need to be taught when approaching design across different platforms. With the use of tablet devices in businesses, where there is a drive to be ‘paperless’, may mean that, as designers, we need to think about the difference between an A4 piece of paper and a tablet that comes in different shapes and sizes. The same is true of knowing the differences between a website and web inputs versus mobile inputs. Within mobile, there are different design languages and things that designers need to know about.
Ahead of my talk, the students had been set the task of coming up with app ideas, which we were then able to discuss following the lecture. It was great to think that the students at the College I attended are being encouraged to learn these skills.
It was such an awesome thing to be a part of and great to see them get excited about their cool projects. I am hoping to go back and do lectures on UI in more detail and look at helping the students develop prototypes for their ideas, so they can begin to test their concepts on their users.
Whilst mobile development is taught now on some university courses, it’s ironic that so much of Further Education is now done on mobile devices; yet mobile skills aren’t necessarily taught to students. It’s important that companies deliver guest lectures to students to help plug the gap.
By Hannah Corke, UX/UI Designer