Fill in the Gap

lightningstrike_JohnP

Almost a year ago I had my lightning strike moment and since then I’ve volunteered for the Mozilla Philippines Community, participated in a number of Developer and Designer events and met a lot of new and fascinating people. It was fascinating to be among the Developers, Designers, Evangelists, and Volunteers they’re all passionate and engaging people always welcoming to strangers and willing to share their knowledge .

Being around them cemented the feeling that I really do want to be in this industry.

I could feel it in my bones, and it still amazes me to this day that it took me this long to figure out. Even though I’ve graduated a decade ago (has it really been that long?) I feel like I’m starting anew again. There are so many possibilities open and, yet, I also feel like there’s a lot I have to trudge through in order to really feel like I could be part of the industry.

My main barrier to entry was I wasn’t a developer nor was I a designer.

I knew that there were other jobs that didn’t involve a lot of technical knowledge but I still find myself searching.

And then I found it.

The Middle Ground

Here’s the thing. I know my way around Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop and I know some basic HTML and CSS (although I’m currently teaching myself HTML 5 and CSS3 –maybe with some JavaScript thrown in) but I’m not an expert in them but I’ve realized I love learning about the websites I’ve visited and the apps I’ve used.

I read everything I can get my hands, it wasn’t long until I was reading about usability, Information Architecture, Interaction Design, and User Experience Design.

User Experience Design was fascinating, and more and more I found myself being drawn to that. I love the idea of user centered design and usability.

I felt that ‘User Experience Design’ was the middle ground for someone like me: someone interested in technology but not versed in Developer skills, or particularly talented at visual design.

It was quite fortunate that one of the people I knew from the Mozilla Philippines Community was Allan Caeg (@allancaeg), he was able to give me a few background and tips to start out and invited me to one of the Usability Philippines meet up and I got to know the other UX Designers in the country.

What is User Experience Design?

There have been a lot of back and forth about what User Experience Design (UXD) really is, and I’ve been confused as much as the next person but this are the definitions of UX Design that resonated with me.

According to Wikipedia User Experience Design is:

User Experience is any aspect of a person’s interaction with a given system, including the interface, graphics, industrial design, physical interaction, and the manual.[1] In most cases, User Experience Design (UXD or UED) fully encompasses traditional Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) design, and extends it by addressing all aspects of a product or service as perceived by users.[2]

What the #$%@ is UX Design?

I like how Matthey Magain (@mattmcg) of UX Mastery’s defines UX Design: Its the design behind the visuals. I’m also partial to Whitney Hess’s (@whitneyhess) definition:

Experiences happen whether or not you plan them.

When not intentionally designed there’s a much higher likelihood of the experience being poor.

Now that we have defined what User Experience, what’s next?

And they have a plan. (Or, I have a plan).

I want to be an Experience Designer. I really, really want to be one. You bet I’ve read almost every article and blog post that so much has a hint of the words ‘So You Want to be a User Experience Designer?’

I even looked up a few graduate courses in Human Computer Interaction and Interaction Design but was rebuffed by how expensive they are, at any other time I might be discouraged but there was something I realized. I can still learn.

We are fortunate to live in a time when knowledge is being shared freely through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). This is why I honestly believe the internet is a good way to level the playing field and help people who can’t afford going to expensive schools can get a chance to learn.

The past few months I’ve been taking one open courseware after another without a plan in mind but I’ve come to realize that shouldn’t be how I should go about it, and then I found inspiration.

Karen Cheng’s was a former project manager from Microsoft, who was also at a crossroads of her career. She documented her struggle and journey switching careers from being a project manager to becoming a designer. It struck a chord but it wasn’t until I’ve read her post on “How to become a designer without going to design school” that I realized I needed a plan.

So I’m going to ‘hack together my own design education’, follow her guidelines and as much as I can, I’m going to post everything I’ve learned and by each lesson or course I’m going to produce a project: I’m going to design openly and try to get feedback from my peers, and then I will pass on what I’ve learned.

Essentially: Learn One, Do One, Teach One.

This of course, isn’t going to be as easy, it’s going to be something I have to struggle with but it’s something I’m going to do and, hopefully I’ll come out the other side having gained something.

Wish me luck!

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