It feels like I just returned from the annual ASEE meeting. I presented a paper about a topic near and dear to my heart: the new undergraduate major in Human-Centered Design and Development (HCDD) I spearheaded at Purdue.
The paper tells the design story (birth story) of the new program. I took a user-centered approach to curriculum design, since that’s what I know best. I think one of the most valuable tools that came out of it was the vision persona. And, of course, the program itself. 🙂
The paper is available online (you can read it here) and the slides I used are below.
I am so pleased that we launched the redesign of DIA2 and the new homepage this weekend! It’s been a long and fun journey!
DIA2 is a Web application for knowledge mining and visualization of the NSF funding portfolio. Anyone can use it to explore where NSF funding goes, how it’s distributed geographically, across NSF divisions, across topics, and institutions. You can explore collaboration networks of researchers who worked together on proposals, identify who’s well connected in a field, and figure out what NSF programs and program managers have funded research similar to yours.
I’m happy to have been involved with DIA2 since the very beginning, as a co-Principal Investigator (co-PI). I led the UX team for the project. We started with user research to understand user needs, and moved through ideation, wireframing, testing, the whole 9 yards. It’s been very rewarding to hear users say, “This thing reads my mind!” and “I feel it was designed for ME!” Perhaps best of all, DIA2 gave me the opportunity to work with and mentor many talented students. All DIA2 “employees” have been students working under a PI’s supervision. I am so proud of them!
If you’d like to, go check DIA2 out for yourself – it’s available for all at DIA2.org.
Or, read some research papers about it:
Using visualization to derive insights from funding portfolios. In IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, 2015.
DIA2: Web-based cyberinfrastructure for visual analysis of funding portfolios. In IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 2014.
Portfolio mining. In IEEE Computer, 2012.
I came across this article in HuffPo about a new app some students created that can help you identify your most toxic friends. They call it an art project, but I seem to recognize here a common structure for research projects in HCI. So, if you’re my student looking for thesis ideas, read on. 🙂
The recipe goes like this:
- Take a problem or issue from the social world (e.g. toxic friendships, collaboration, long-distance family relationships, etc.)
- Create a technology that mediates how people deal with that issue – ideally, the technology should improve the human condition or raise critical questions.
- Evaluate the technology.
- As a result/consequence of evaluating the technology, illuminate some aspect of and contribute knowledge to #1. And/Or, at the very least, derive design implications for this type of technology.
Some examples of papers following this structure:
I recently watched this TED talk by Daniel Kahneman about the experiencing self and the remembering self.
Apparently, they’re quite different. The experiencing self is the one who lives and feels in the moment. The remembering self is the one that engages in retrospective sense-making and decides, post-facto, whether the experience was good, fun, etc. It is the remembering self’s evaluation that informs future decision making.
This has enormous implications for UX evaluation. Even if the experiencing self has a (relatively) bad time, as Kahneman explains in the talk, but the remembering self makes a positive evaluation, the experience is remembered as good. We can measure UX in the moment, and track eye gaze and all that jazz. But ultimately, what really matters for future decisions is what users take away from the experience and how they evaluate it after it’s over. This is good news. It means that users may forget or put up with a few frustrations – and still assess the experience well, especially if it ends well. It also means that the research framework for website experience analysis that I created back in 2004 is valuable, because it focuses on how users make sense of the experience and what they take away.
I get this question a lot from undergraduate students interested in pursuing careers in user experience (UX):
If I want to pursue a career in UX, what kinds of courses should I take to prepare?
In addition to courses about user centered design (i.e. CGT 256 and possibly other new courses coming up in CGT at Purdue), it would help tremendously if you learn a bit of any combination from the disciplines below:
- programming – especially front end (e.g. CGT 141, 353, 356)
- human behavior – any courses that help you understand cognitive psychology: how people learn, how they process information, what gets their attention (visual attention), what motivates them, how they make decisions, how they communicate, how to communicate effectively with them, how to research human behavior – aka research methods in social science, especially qualitative, such as interviewing and observation (at Purdue, for example, PSY 121, PSY 200, PSY 240, PSY 285, COM 318, COM 307)
- business and marketing – it is important to understand how a digital product, say a company’s website, is related to the company’s business goals. For that, a bit of knowledge in business and marketing or entrepreneurship is very useful.
Are there jobs out there is UX?
Yes, tons – and thousands remain unfilled.
What exactly is UX?
The resources on this Pinterest board can help you understand UX.
How to I keep up with news about UX courses at Purdue?
If you need more guidance, please contact me, Dr. V.
Geovon graduated with an MS in Technology specializing in Innovation. After a couple of great years with Mongo DB, he is starting a new position at a large company whose name may or may not begin with G. Here is his advice:
Find the right advisor
Grad school is a journey, and you’ll need someone to guide you through it. So quickly and carefully seek out an academic advisor who has the following:
- a stellar reputation among current and former undergraduate and graduate students
- a personality and work ethic that aligns with yours—or what you hope to become
- a schedule that’s focused on student interaction
Treat grad school like it’s a training ground for your dream job
Be self-motivated, work hard at everything you do, and aim to succeed—to be the top of your class, field of research, etc. If you don’t do this in grad school, you likely won’t in your post-grad professional career.
Join clubs, attend socials, and take electives in different departments or schools. Use your free time as an opportunity to meet your peers, grow your professional network, and increase your chances of landing a job.