By: Ian Natzmer  -  April 17, 2017

Leveraging local Universities for UX

We all want our tech products to be intuitive and easy to use. Often, the user experience is critical to the success of a product. There’s a right way and a wrong way to go about User Experience (UX) design. Finding a good UX designer is critical, but can be difficult. One overlooked resource for finding UX help is your local university.

UX is not UI

User Interface (UI) artists are often confused with UX designers and often termed UI/UX. When hiring a UX expert, teams often look for UI/UX, which is often an artist who has designed UI. But UX design is much more science then art. There’s a methodical process involved that doesn’t require any form of art background. UX design comes from researching and understanding the user and how they go about solving the problems your solution addresses. It’s about interviewing your customers and watching them with your product. Creating simple versions and collecting data. Then using that data to arrive at a UX design. Only then does a UI artist get involved.

Finding UX Experts

Finding a UI artist who does UX design is easy. But, you need to find out if they have experience with the UX design part or are they designing based on their “experience.” Ask what their process is. If it doesn’t include a clear methodology involving the customer and collecting data, then they aren’t really a UX designer.

Finding true UX designers who use user experience methodologies can be difficult. However, they do exist and Universities actually have degree programs in Human Computer Interaction where these methodologies are taught.

Your Local University

Chances are your local University has a program in Human Computer Interaction in their school of information. These students – often graduate students – need to gain real world experiences under the guidance of their professor. They usually have a capstone project course where students execute on the theory they learned under the helpful eye of their professor. You can leverage your local university by signing up your product for UX help from a team of students. The team will conduct the interviews, observe customers, and create a design for improving your products UX. All of this under the expertise of a UX design professor. These students are taught the methodical process of customer centered UX design and will provide you with what you need for your UI artist. And best of all it’s free!

My Experience

I had a very difficult time finding UX expertise. Those I interviewed had experience as a UI artist, but in discussions never talked about interviewing my customers much less using data to create the UX. For my product, Odeum - an EdTech product, the UX is essential. Teachers, who are not always the most tech savvy, must be comfortable using the product. I found a program at the University of Michigan where graduate students conduct user-research, wireframing, and prototyping for customer products. They put together a team of graduate students who spent the semester interviewing teachers, observing teachers use Odeum, and gathering data. They then built a low fidelity prototype and tested it with teachers constantly improving the prototype. The result was a high-fidelity prototype and a UI guide which my UI artists were then able to take and use to implement the new user experience.

Finding good user experience professionals is hard. Especially when the term UX is often mixed in with UI development. Universities offer one more outlet in getting quality research based user experience design work done for your product.


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