THE CHALLENGE OF EDUCATING UX PROFESSIONALS – HOW TO TAILOR TO COORPORATE NEEDS
Different methods around User Centred Design support the development of user-friendly products, services and software. Besides personas, paper prototyping, diary studies and eye tracking, usability testing is considered to be one of the main methods. As a University of Applied Sciences, one of our challenges is to make engineering students more aware of the importance of usability, User Experience (UX) and User Centered Design and to strengthen the basic idea of UX. Interviews with a number of part-time students and graduates show that it is often unclear who is responsible for usability issues within a company and what qualifications are necessary. What training, skills and qualities are relevant for fulfilling corporate needs? What paths lead to being a UX professional?
Our most recent research focused on answering these questions. Based on a 2013 online survey about the integration of Usability in the development process answered by more than 80 companies within the German-speaking area, a panel discussion was organized on the previously mentioned questions. Participants in this discussion were designers, usability expert and managers from different companies in the sectors of software development and consulting. The discussion took place as part of the event "UXcamp Vienna" for usability and UX design at our university and showed amongst other findings that besides knowledge of UX methods, social competences, sketching experience and diversity are also relevant skills for UX professionals. In the course of another workshop with Jacob Buur, professor in User Centered Design at the University of Southern Denmark, interesting discussions about the design of a new curriculum for a User Centered Design and Human-Computer Interaction master’s degree program helped us to further develop our current courses.
Based on these workshops and the survey, we have concluded that UX can be integrated into the development lifecycle using two different strategies: Firstly, some companies, especially smaller organizations, expect their developers to integrate UX as they are programming, therefore limiting the tools to simple and cost-effective User Centered Design methods. Secondly, explicit UX professionals are introduced into larger development teams to support them, using UX methods. As a University of Applied Sciences, we intend to meet the requirements of the economy, which is why we need to offer appropriate courses and degree programs to fulfil the requirements of both small and larger companies. Therefore, mandatory UX courses teaching basic and cost-effective methods of User Centered Design are part of our Computer Science bachelor’s degree program in order to teach future developers suitable methods which can be directly integrated into the development process. Students also have the possibility to specialize in User Centered Design by choosing a UX major. However, experience has shown that the UX field is too broad and complex to be taught in one single major. In order to educate UX professionals, we are therefore planning to introduce a new master’s degree program focusing on Human-Computer Interaction and UX from a software development perspective. This paper contains our current findings about fields, topics and courses which need to be integrated into a UX master’s degree program based on the held workshops and the completed survey.