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Evolution of Design Competence in UX Practice
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Evolution of Design Competence in UX Practice

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There has been increasing interest in the adoption of UX within corporate environments, and what competencies translate into effective UX design. This paper addresses the space between pedagogy and UX …

There has been increasing interest in the adoption of UX within corporate environments, and what competencies translate into effective UX design. This paper addresses the space between pedagogy and UX practice through the lens of competence, with the goal of understanding how students are initiated into the practice community, how their perception of competence shifts over time, and what factors influence this shift. A 12-week longitudinal data collection, including surveys and interviews, documents this shift, with participants beginning internships and full-time positions in UX. Students and early professionals were asked to assess their level of competence and factors that influenced competence. A co-construction of identity between the designer and their environment is proposed, with a variety of factors relating to tool and representational knowledge, complexity, and corporate culture influencing perceptions of competence in UX over time. Opportunities for future research, particularly in building an understanding of competency in UX based on this preliminary framing of early UX practice are addressed.

[Presented at CHI'14, Toronto, ON, Canada]

Published in: Design, Technology, Business

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  • 1. Evolution of 
 Design Competence 
 in UX Practice ! COLIN M. GRAY Indiana University
  • 2. INTRO PhD Candidate in Instructional Systems Technology at Indiana University Practicing graphic and interactive designer My research focuses on design education and how pedagogy and practice can be more strongly linked
  • 3. THE CONTRIBUTION Step towards an understanding of UX competence How junior UX designers relate to their workplace Linkages between pedagogy and practice
  • 4. GROUNDING VIEWS OF COMPETENCE System of abilities applied in context (Rychen & Salganik, 2003)
  • 5. –Weinert, 2001 “a roughly specialized system of abilities, proficiencies, or skills that are necessary or sufficient to reach a specific goal [that] can be applied to individual dispositions or to the distribution of such dispositions within a social group or an institution.”
  • 6. GROUNDING VIEWS OF COMPETENCE System of abilities applied in context (Rychen & Salganik, 2003) Design ability and reflection (Arvola & Artman, 2008; Schön, 1983) Expertise (Cross, 2004; Dreyfus, 1981; Lawson, 2004) Learnable and teachable (Trier, 2001)
  • 7. SO WHAT? 
 …FRAMING THIS STUDY No set of UX competencies exists Pedagogy must adapt to changes in the market This study focuses on the liminal space where a student becomes a practitioner
  • 8. METHOD | PARTICIPANTS 11 PARTICIPANTS 5 STUDENTS 5 EARLY PROFESSIONALS } }completing an internship taking their 
 first UX job
  • 9. METHOD | DATA COLLECTION 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 SURVEY + CRITICAL INTERVIEW } weekly survey monthly
 critical interview
  • 10. METHOD | ANALYSIS 111 SURVEY RESPONSES 23 INTERVIEWS+ QUALITATIVE QUANTITATIVE } thematic analysis } scatterplot
  • 11. FINDINGS & DISCUSSION 
  • 12. FINDINGS | 
 INTERNS W1 W5 W9 10 8 6 4
  • 13. FINDINGS | 
 EARLY PROFESSIONALS W1 W5 W9 10 8 6 4
  • 14. FINDINGS | 
 EMERGENT THEMES Tool/representational knowledge Dealing with complexity Vocabulary/language/ communication Design leadership Internal/external upskilling Reconciling corporate reality/culture Designerly identity
  • 15. FINDINGS | 
 EMERGENT THEMES Tool/representational knowledge Dealing with complexity Vocabulary/language/ communication Design leadership Internal/external upskilling Reconciling corporate reality/culture Designerly identity
  • 16. –Intern, Week 7 “I've learned to stop worrying about what software I'm using and leverage what I know.” TOOL/REPRESENTATIONAL KNOWLEDGE
  • 17. –Early Professional, Week 8 “They sort of test the limit of what our ‘nice’ designs do once they get thrown into a more complex and outlier situation. It's a lot about making a judgment call and keeping up with consistency.” DEALING WITH COMPLEXITY
  • 18. –Intern, Week 3 “We had a phone call with a client today. We were briefed before to only speak if ‘teed’ up to speak. That is such an abrasive thought for a HUMAN computer interaction designer.” DESIGNERLY IDENTITY
  • 19. DISCUSSION Competence in UX as: Fluid Personally and organizationally situated Bound to context of use Based on the identity and life experience of the individual designer
  • 20. DISCUSSION |
 FLUIDITY OF COMPETENCE Corporate culture was the center of the beginning UX designer’s experience Designers experienced a decreasing reliance on tool knowledge, focusing more on soft skills Movement to self-directed learning Co-constructing a professional identity
  • 21. DISCUSSION | IDENTITY Students actively evaluated their own identity in relation to their work environment They had to reconcile inconsistencies between pedagogy and authentic practice, including: what it means to be a competent UX designer how their identity is shaped by their 
 work environment
  • 22. IMPLICATIONS & 
 FUTURE WORK HCI pedagogy linked to professional practice UX competencies and individual design identity Larger scale work
  • 23. THANK YOU Erik Stolterman Martin A. Siegel Omar Sosa-Tzec Jordan Beck Gary Dickson ! NSF Grant #1115532

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