In the years of the pandemic, many conferences and courses were set aside. The design field is no different, the world of events seems to have stopped for a while. But as we say, where one door closes, another opens – less available conferences finally went online. Imagine you wanted to attend a particular expensive course, far away from your hometown. And what if you need to take five courses like that? The budget goes through the roof.
After a few years of dreaming of participating in the Nielsen Normans’ Group (later NN/g) conference, I noticed they started offering online events and knew that this was my chance. When else will I get it? The plan to take five courses (required to get UX Certification) in 3-5 years’ suddenly changed to a plan to finish them all in one year.
How did I choose the conference?
Nowadays, we have various UX and UI conferences, courses, meetups, and other events to gather more knowledge, making it even harder to choose. While reading reviews on the internet about the best UX training, I was purposely searching for not a dry theory course, but something where I can pick the most interesting topics for me, go deep into them and fill the knowledge gaps I have. And here NN/g wins by offering a big program that has more than 50 full-day training courses with the possibility of picking the most interesting for you. Additionally, by attending five specialty courses and passing five exams, you gain a worldwide recognized UX certificate. For me, the certificate was more like a nice bonus than the primary goal.
The Godfathers of UX
If you are a UX designer, you probably don‘t need much explanation about the Nielsen Norman Group, but for others, let’s say it simply – they are godfathers of UX. One of the founders of NN/g – Don Norman, introduced the term “user-centered design” in the 80‘s, which turned the whole designing experience to a different level putting the user as the core of the design process and avoiding the „client wants“ mindset. To be precise, user and business requirements are equally important while creating the product, but focusing on the users and their needs in each phase of the design process helps achieve more desirable solutions.
Another co-founder of NN/g – Jakob Nielsen, is known for inventing several famous usability methods, including heuristic evaluation, which helps to identify usability problems in the user interface design.
How did my course package look
As I mentioned before, the goal for taking Nielsen Norman Group courses was to dig deeper into the most valuable and, at the same time, interesting UX topics. So all five courses I chose were from the User Research field:
- starting from gathering data not only from users but also preparing the business side for the beginning of the project (1 course),
- testing the functionality of the digital product with users both online and live (2 courses),
- combining different user research methods to achieve more accurate results (1 course),
- summing up gathered data (1 course).
It was interesting to learn how the UX processes changed when the whole world went online. Traditional, predictable testing environments changed to Skype and Zoom meetings where you face obstacles like lousy internet connection, sensitive information exposure, low tech experience of participants, background noise, and many other issues. However, changed processes also brought some advantages: more people are willing to participate in online testings helping you to evaluate a product.
In general, even if I was familiar with most of these topics before, courses let me make meaningful connections between new knowledge and things I already knew.
Tips and tricks I learned
- If you’re doing remote usability testing, recruit an extra 10% of people. Even if it’s easier to participate in online testings, users tend to skip them.
- For testing a particular audience of highly paid professionals like doctors, scientists, CEO, etc., remote testing is a better option as it requires much less effort to participate. They don’t need to drive to a specific place, search for parking, and sometimes they don’t even need to have a particular time lot to participate, just perform the test when they feel most comfortable.
- Don’t test younger children or teens remotely. It’s much harder for them to concentrate and perform the task without any distractions.
- Generally, remote testing is cheaper, so it’s a good alternative if your project has a smaller budget.
- Never use analytics data as the only source in research. Always combine it with other user research methods (surveys, usability testing, interviews). Analytics data will answer the question “what” users did, but not “why” they did so.
- Even if you use the term “users” and “tasks” everywhere in the team, try to avoid using them in front of your actual audience. As one of the computer scientists, Edward Tufle, said: “There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’: illegal drugs and software,”. When talking with people who use your products, instead of the term ‘users’ you can use ‘people’, ‘customers’ (carefully) or ‘audience’, instead of ‘tasks’ – ‘activities’. One of the goals in the UX is to make our products ‘speak’ the understandable human language and create a connection between technologies and people, so don’t forget about that connection while communicating with them in real life too.
After a participated conference or event, a finished course, or a book read, our Design team always shares what we learned inside the team and with other colleagues in TeleSoftas. There is a saying that “knowledge increases by sharing but not by saving”, it helps to increase overall employees’ mastery and at the same time helps you to repeat the topics you have learned. It’s a good idea to make a set of templates for a specific topic too. Templates not only help us inside the team but also make work with potential clients and the creation of reports much easier as the whole set of essential elements for discussion is already prepared. They help make UX processes faster and align the work between design team members.
Is it worth a shot?
- If you are just a rising UX star, NN/g courses will give you a path to explore, a lot of terms to google, and dive in. It will be an excellent roadmap.
- If you are already a few years in this field and want to explore new topics, connect the “dots” between them, and overall better understand the UX process – this conference will ideally suit you.
- And if you are already a UX pro – you’ll get more profound knowledge in the topics (just choose them wisely as the level is different), a lot of tips, and access to professional NN/g reports.