User Experience Design Bootcamp at General Assembly

I attended my first General Assembly course yesterday: the User Experience Design Bootcamp at General Assembly West in NYC!

I signed up for this one-day course in order to get an introduction to User Experience Design (UXD) to better understand what it is and how it relates to other (tech) fields. I’d say that this objective was partly accomplished.

My overall experience was great: I learned, asked questions, and felt the engaging energy of being in a learning session with other interested people…it was like college could’ve been if I’d had the maturity/presence of mind to have chosen my interests haha. The additional benefits to attending a course like this are that you get to connect with like-minded students, you get to engage in live discussion with expert instructors, and you get to spend time in an environment that cares about “transforming thinkers into creators”, a great tagline if I’ve ever heard one.

Because I enjoyed the course, and because I actually was not 100% satisfied–“discontented observationalism being the (aspiring) designer’s modus operandi”, I’m told–and because I care about effective education and explanation, I spent some time drafting a review for the course.

An excerpt of my review for the one-day User Experience Design Bootcamp is as follows:

Pros:

  • Daniel was great at engaging class attention through sense of humor and keeping things moving while allowing frequent pauses for questions.
  • Ron was great at diving into details and spending time discussing questions with the class.
  • The 2 exercises from Section I (paper airplane-making and website wireframe improvement) were good at engaging class while highlighting important UX principles.
  • Lunch provided by GA was unexpected surprise, allowing for chats between students/instructor.
  • Discount code from GA due to the three class location changes was again unexpected but highly appreciated and raises my trust for the GA brand.

Cons:

  • Having 2 instructors led to a break in sense of continuity and familiarity, as halfway through the day we had to get used to another instructor, especially as Ron’s teaching style was not as high-energy or overtly humorous as Daniel’s.
  • Instructors took no time to get to know our names or anything about us; this has nothing to do with course content, but even doing something as simple has having the class make bootleg name tags for themselves would’ve helped the class feel less “impersonal”
  • High amount of information to get through in the Omnigraffle section of the course, and we did not cover all the exercises that had been made available in the class Omnigraffle stencil.
  • I did not walk away from the bootcamp with the ability to be able to explain UXD to someone else beyond how UXD has to do with “everything the user experiences” and begins even before the graphic design of a given project.
  • At end of the bootcamp, I did not have a good sense for what next steps interested students could take; I didn’t get a clear sense of direction for what we students could do to continue learning and improving at UXD. Even a small plug for GA’s courses would’ve been acceptable at this point so that we would have an idea of what to do next. As it was, I posed the question to Ron near the end of class to get an answer.

Knowing what I do now after having taken this class, I would still have taken it, but I would want to arrive with more prepared questions so that I could walk away with the ability to explain what it was that I’d just learned (a hallmark of understanding, in my opinion), as well as walking away with a clear idea of what I as a student could do to pursue the next steps in User Experience Design.

Ultimately I have the feeling that a big part of the reason I enjoyed the class as much as I did, and felt that I took away what I did, had more to do with the improvements in my own mindset than in the efforts of the instructors: “We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are.”

Main priority

Take all steps involved in getting a more fulfilling job.

I wonder why it feels like I’ve lost sight of that so often. Or maybe I feel an even greater sense of urgency because I keep seeing what it looks like to be on a more solid career path and feel keenly a sense of missing out.

How many other things am I willing to move out of the way so that I can attain this priority before the end of this year? It’s a bit sobering to think that too many of the things I do that don’t have to do with the achievement of my main priority (and doesn’t have to do with basic life functions) are in effect procrastination, Resistance.

ideas at 25

Back from packed day in NYC celebrating my post-birthday.

– Afternoon tea at Alice’s Teacup
– Traipse around Central Park
– Short visit to Museum of Natural History
– Dinner at Fishtag
– Dessert in Chinatown area

The day as a whole was great and one of the most fun events in recent memory.

I noticed several interesting things that I wanted to jot down before I forget:

One person can change the direction of ideas. Before one guest’s arrival, there’d been little talk of drinking/partying, but after, that became a common theme.

When bringing together several differing groups of friends, seating arrangements seem to have a direct influence on the flow of conversation. It seems to me that next time when introducing differing groups of friends, I’ll influence seating so that those more comfortable with their familiar group will sit closer, but with the people more suited to bridging the group gaps sitting closer to the other groups so as to increase the chances of cross-group discussion and interaction.

I’m reminded that when trying to understand another person’s motivations and aspirations, observing their actions often reveals more truth than discussing those subjects directly.

Observations: Starbucks NJ-17S

Some thoughts about a few things I noticed about the men’s bathroom in the standalone Starbucks on NJ-17S:

  • Give guests a way to tell when bathroom is occupied: How useful it would be to have a lock that displays a red/green “Occupied/Empty” label, similar to the ones in airplanes. Since this particular Starbucks has doors with handles with built-in “push” locks (I don’t yet know the technical name for this kind of handle or lock), the labelled lock mechanism might be separate and also would require the user to touch another thing, which is notable because I’d personally want to touch as few things as possible within the bathroom. I’d prefer to replace the current handle with a single mechanism that incorporates a handle, lock and also the occupied/empty sign; I imagine this has to have been tackled by some designer somewhere. This is the biggest item that I thought could improve the Starbucks experience for all guests because it would eliminate the knock-on-door ritual that restroom-waiters do.
  • Standardizing the touch-free environment: While I quite like the motion-activated energy-efficient hand drier in the bathroom, I think the bathroom could also use a motion-activated toilet, motion-activated faucet, and motion-activated soap dispenser, all of which are currently manually activated. The point of this would again be to minimize the amount of things that a (theoretically) germ-laden user would have to actually touch.
  • Motion-activated lighting is pretty cool as it saves users from activating/deactivating the light, and saves employees time from having to remember to turn on/off the light.
  • General question: I wonder why there’s a rectangular metal plate attached to the bottom of the (wooden) door both on the inside and outside. From the outside, it makes sense because one could use their foot against that plate to push the door open, but once on the inside the user has to pull the handle to open the door. I wonder if the inside plate is just to provide some kind of protection against the doorstop attached to the inside wall of the bathroom; if so, why wouldn’t a smaller piece of metal suffice?

Customer Service Experiences

Interesting experience trying to reach PerksCard Customer Service! I’ve been put on hold without notice, transferred without explanation, and otherwise looking like my number’s being redirected all over the place except to Perkscard Customer Service.

12:11pm: calling Perkscard customer service, Meredill
877-307-1983

Meredill: Unfriendly-sounding woman, had to ask for her name. After describing my problem, she put me on hold for 3-5 minutes without any explanation, then i found i’d been transferred to t-mobile customer service.

I hung up, called the Perks Card Customer Service number (on the back of my Rutgers Alumni card) again, and after trying to describe my problem to the person who picked up, I asked a few more questions and found that I’d apparently been rerouted to the Rutgers University Alumni Relations. Huh.

I double-checked the phone number–it was the same number–and called it again.

This time a sullen male picked up. I asked his name–“Dante”, he said–and when I asked, warily, if I’d reached PerksCard customer service, he said that I hadn’t, and when I asked him where exactly I’d reached he transferred me to another voicemail system that said to press 1 to reach customer service (Brief mailbox alert: “Thank you for continuing to hold; all representatives are still busy.” ) Upon pressing 1, my call was disconnected.

Okay, so I try again. Now, I’m redirected without warning to another automated message: “Thank you for calling the perks card network….if you have not received a Perks Card…if you are a perks card merchant, please contact the sales office for further assistance. to speak with a perks card customer service representative, please press “1” at the end of this message.” Same problem.

Finally after calling again, I get: Sean, real customer service rep.

-explained situation; he went to ask program manager about details, as he’s not familiar with perks card agreement with t-mobile. when put on service this time, i did hear ‘wait music’, as opposed to an ominous silence that indicates me being transferred. ok then ringtone…what happened?
– much better service than previous rep.
– taking down details, forwarding to legal/program manager, expect response next day; confirmed it’d be fine to call again if received no word.

At the end of my call I described my previous call-routing problem, and he gave me his personal number to call: 651-204-5656.

It’s now Tuesday and I haven’t heard back from Perks Card, unsurprisingly. Maybe one day when I have massive Twitter power I’ll tweet about this and I can get an escalated resolution to problems like this!

For now I’ll settle by calling Sean tomorrow.