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Academy Xi Blog

Designers in Residence Program – Highlight of 2020

By Academy Xi

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One of the things we are proud of at Academy Xi is being creative, agile and adaptable to the changes. This is a story about how we were able to reimagine one of our community-based initiatives for our students. 

Pre-Covid: Industry Night 

A few years ago, we organised our first Student Showcase event (or Industry Night as it became known), it was the main event for our User Experience and Service Design courses which students worked towards throughout the 10 intensive weeks of theory and client projects. This event represented the graduates’ first official introduction to the industry community as specialists, a networking opportunity to make a first impression in front of their potential employer and receive invaluable feedback from the experts that would bring them a step closer to their first interview. 

As we ran many Industry nights, we also gained deeper insights to help improve each time. As such we recognised that our graduates valued  more time connecting with industry practitioners, and so we introduced mentoring rounds to Industry Night. Before opening the night to everyone, the students would have rounds of brief sessions with the experienced  UX and SD specialists who would provide their feedback on the student’s portfolio and would answer their burning questions one-on-one.  

Being dedicated to our values and caring about the student experience, we’ve been seeing incredible outcomes resulting in 87% of all our full-time students landing their first job within 6 months after graduating. 

With the arrival of COVID-19  we had to iterate once again, this time taking the mentoring rounds digital. It is important to mention that we’ve been incredibly lucky to have had the support of the amazing HCD community in Sydney and Melbourne. No matter what, they always were there at our Industry Nights as experts, at our events as thought-leadership speakers, at our courses as Instructors, mentors and clients for students. So when the pandemic struck, they stayed with us and kept giving back to the community no less than ever! 

Again, what we find most important in our work, is to keep listening to our students and everyone involved in the courses. Through the internal and external feedback, we realised that the way we organised the final step of the course experience – feedback and networking with the industry professionals, was not sustainable anymore. And this is how our newest project was born.

Launch of Designers in Residence

We launched Designers In Residence (DIR) program with the huge support from Matt Tsourdalakis, a Design Lead and Consultant passionate about design leadership and having an insanely inspiring idea of transforming Melbourne into the capital of the UX knowledge and leadership. Being used to dreaming big at Academy Xi, we teamed up with Matt to gather the first cohort of DIRs to  mentor our full-time students throughout the 10-week program.

Believing in that value of diversity of experience, we chose to focus not only on industry veterans but also engaging our talented alumni and early specialists. With this in mind, we’ve built the the program the way that it would support not only our students but also our DIRs in their growth as mentors and people leaders. Filled with numerous learning sessions for the mentors, check-in sessions and active slack community discussions, this program is designed to empower mentors to share their own experience and pass on their knowledge and expertise to the next generation.

Throughout the 10 weeks, our mentors have fortnightly catch-ups with the students helping them in setting their mentee’s short and long-term goals by guiding them on the way to achieving them through practical steps and advice. Besides the sessions with their mentees, mentors also have regular meetings with the Lead DIR and each other where they discuss different techniques, tools and approaches to mentoring. 

At Academy Xi, we care about every single student walking through our, now virtual doors and we want to be able to support them not only while they’re studying with us but also after they finish the course. DIR is our first step to building a greater Xi community with a vision of become a learning hub for our alumni and other designers in Australia. 

Some of our Mentors

Anthony Currenti

Berenice Chong

Berlin Liew

Daniela Stoyanova

Lindsey Liao

Maria Sereno

Matt Tsourdalakis

Michael Dyson

Pola Trofimiuk

Rachel Zhang

At Academy Xi, we see this program as a step to building the learning hub which would be a place of life-time growth for our community. You might start with a course and later come back again as a mentor working on your leadership skills or a speaker willing to build your personal brand and practice public speaking, or having your own company you’d like to offer a client project to our students and explore external creativity of a fresh mind. With this one step closer to our bigger goal we look forward to building out our DIR program next year!

Interested in DIR? Apply here!

Academy Xi Blog

How a Jobs To Be Done Framework Can Help

By Academy Xi

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Every product or service bought or consumed has a need, a purpose or a ‘job’ that it is ‘hired’ to fulfil. Even a milkshake has a ‘job to be done’. The ‘jobs to be done’ framework is a Service Design tool that helps uncover a customer’s functional, social, personal, and emotional needs that a product or service can fulfil.

The ‘jobs to be done’ framework:

In his book, Competing Against Luck, Clayton Christensen explains the concept of ‘jobs to be done’ with the example of a McDonald’s store that was looking to improve their milkshake sales. After testing various components of the recipe and store experience, milkshake sales remained unchanged. Christensen’s team observed the lifestyle, interactions and consumption choices of every consumer that purchased a milkshake, and discovered:

  • Over half of all milkshakes were purchased before 8:30 am
  • Consumers who purchased milkshakes were alone
  • Consumers always got into a car and drove off after a milkshake purchase

After customer interviews, Christensen’s team uncovered that people who purchased milkshakes did so to keep them occupied during a long morning commute to work, or to keep full until lunchtime.

This simple insight was a game changer. Christensen explains that the milkshake had a specific ‘job to be done’: cure boredom and provide sustenance during a mundane morning commute. It was for this reason that customers ‘hired’ a McDonald’s milkshake and from the customer’s point of view, it was a job that a bagel, banana or other alternatives could not fulfil.  

There is a job out there that arises in people’s life on occasion, that causes them to need to buy a milkshake, and we need to understand this job,” explained Christensen.

You can only understand how to improve the marketing of a product or service when you understand the job that needs to be done.

What are the benefits of jobs to be done?  

Ultimately, the goal of uncovering a user’s ‘job to be done’ is to create, promote or innovative a product or service to fulfil a ‘job’ for a customer. The benefits of understanding a customer’s job to be done include:

  • Delivering true customer value: By identifying a customer’s ‘job to be done’, Service Designers are better placed to deliver value. For example, the desire to eat healthier is often inhibited by convenience and a time-poor environment, meaning more people are likely to get takeout. Making healthier food more convenient and cheaper to access has huge appeal and solves multiple pain points. By exploring a customer’s job to be done, Service Designers are able to adopt a needs-first approach and tailor the best solution that addresses customer pain points.
  • Prioritisation of tasks: With an understanding of a customer’s needs, the ‘jobs to be done’ framework can help prioritise the tasks that deliver the greatest value, such as through the creation of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
  • Reducing waste: Rather than creating ‘perfect’ features, identifying a customer’s ‘job to be done’ removes the production of anything that does not align to a customer’s core needs, and is therefore wastage. 
  • Aligning business functions to a single cause: A customer’s ‘job to be done’ forms a product roadmap that can be used to align the marketing, development, and research into building these solutions to systematically create value, as you tackle customer’s needs.

Understanding a customer’s ‘job to done’ is extremely valuable for Service Designers to understand the true function of a product or service. Expand your toolkit and learn more about Service Design here.

Academy Xi Blog

Creating a User Persona (Free Templates)

By Academy Xi

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Creating a User Persona

The start of the User Experience (UX) Design process involves user research. It’s the process of data collection that provides an in-depth, holistic view of your user’s motivations, behaviours, and ways of interacting with your product.

UX Designer will always rely on user research that can be compiled from a combination of one-on-one interviews, card sorting, surveys or personas.

Arguably, user research is the most important component of UX Design; the user research phase is vital in crafting delightful customer experiences that are user-friendly and human-centric.

One method of user research is the creation of a user persona.

A user persona is:

  • An archetype or a fictional representation of people researched
  • A group of people with similar traits represented as a single person
  • A personified expression of a noticeable trend

Create your own user persona with our free persona template.

The Value of User Personas

By crafting the right user persona, you can visualise exactly what visitors are doing on your website. This gives a greater understanding of users and provides more insight than a survey for example.

Personas help drive design and feature decisions, and their benefit can be summarised as:

  • Helping identify a user’s needs
  • Highlighting a customer’s desires
  • Focusing on your audience’s challenges
  • Creating a User Persona

There are two types of personas; lean (proto) and detailed. Proto-personas engage stakeholders and efficiently communicate a user’s story. Detailed personas are becoming less and less common as they require significant validation and take longer to develop than a proto-persona.

Simplified steps to creating a user persona:

  1. Compile data and insights from your research
  2. Group your findings into a spreadsheet or create an Affinity Map
  3. Identify behavioural traits and the demographics of your users to understand how they interact with your product

Have a go at creating your own persona. Download template here.

Developing UX artefacts and conducting user research is a fundamental UX Design principle ensuring UX Designers are better placed to remove any assumptions and biases, validate a problem statement, and thoroughly test a hypothesis. Detailed user personas remind UX Designers to keep their user at the centre of their work.

Get hands-on and learn how to create a user persona and more. Launch your career in UX Design today.

Academy Xi Blog

What is User Experience (UX) Design & the processes?

By Academy Xi

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Leave behind what you know and start with a clean state.

Welcome to User Experience (UX) Design —an approach bent on providing users with exceptional, intuitive, and seamless experiences, leaving them satisfied with what they were looking to achieve.   

UX Design involves unlearning the assumptions that every marketer, developer, and designer has of their customers. UX Designers rely on research, to better understand the motivations and pain points of a user.

What is UX Design?

Simply put, UX is the process of understanding and designing to solve problems, creating greater satisfaction. It’s about solving problems for real people in real contexts.

UX Design takes into context who the user is and the circumstances in which the product will be used. Being a user-centric process that goes beyond simply executing customer feedback, UX is a utilitarian approach that aims to provide the best solution to the greatest number of users within the product’s target audience.

UX Design focuses on a person’s interaction with any product and ensures their needs are met through meaningful designs and solutions. A UX Designer is concerned with how you shop on your favourite         e-commerce website, book a flight online, or navigate an internet banking transaction – ensuring these experiences delight and allow you to do what you intend, seamlessly.

User Interface (UI) vs User Experience (UX)

UX Design is not interchangeable with User Interface (UI) Design even though the two disciplines are closely interrelated. UI Design focuses on designing visual assets and on-screen interactions, as well as additional elements such as responsiveness. UX Design is concerned with the underlying function of UI. UX Design allows the product to work well for the user.

“You can have an application with a stunning design that is clunky to use (good UI, bad UX). You can also have an application that has a poor look and feel, but is very intuitive to use (poor UI, good UX).” — Helga Moreno for One Extra Pixel.

UX Design also plays a pivotal part in product creation. It’s a common misconception that UX Design is similar to Graphic Design. In truth, UX Design is not merely concerned with aesthetics. In fact, UX Design acts as a bridge between visual design and function, as well as the look and feel of a product.

The UX Design process

Strategy and research

Strategy and research is the start of the UX Design process. To create something truly insightful, meaningful, and useful, a deep understanding of your business’ goals and customers’ problems is required.

Designing a solution is useless unless you spend time understanding the goals of your customers. Meeting with users is critical, to ask them questions about your product and their experience of it: Is it useful? Is it desirable? Is it what you truly need?

We invest in research to avoid building the wrong usable thing. There are a variety of research techniques, from one-on-one interviews, providing a deeper understanding of our customers, to contextual inquiries or field studies, which give the opportunity to observe people in the real context of how they’re experiencing problems. This in turn allows UX Designers to think about how they might solve these problems.

Personas

To give further form to consumer research insights, we enter the analysis stage of the UX process. 

In the time-poor reality of today, most companies don’t have the luxury of lengthy research processes. UX Designers use proto-personas to gain an understanding of users before moving onto concept and validation.

persona is an archetype or a fictional representation of the customer group experiencing problems. Personas are used to drive design and feature decisions, focusing the product team on creating the right solution for the customer, thus reducing the subjective nature of feature decision-making.

From there, a customer journey is created, to show the process and journey a customer follows in order to achieve their goals. More than just a step-by-step task process, customer journeys are an important technique used to understand the time, context, device and most importantly, the feelings of the customer.

Concept, validation, and design

If we dive straight into the design process without having completed the previous stages, we’ve done so with very little but assumptions. Which means we run the risk of designing for ourselves, based on our needs instead of real users’ needs. It is critical to keep customers at the core of the UX process.

UX Design develops and evolves with technology. Borrowing heavily from the Agile process and Google’s famous 5-day sprints, modern UX Designers are moving away from waterfall delivery and are adopting a rapid, lean, and focused approach to releasing a product that can be built, tested, and validated quickly.

The concept and design phase gives the opportunity to explore low fidelity concepts, show them to real customers, hence probing if the product or feature is a truly useful, usable, and meaningful solution. This is a collaborative, iterative process which is critical in establishing the fundamental User Experience of the product.

Using low fidelity methods such as whiteboards and paper allow UX Designers to adapt and refine quickly before becoming attached to a particular design solution.

Creation

If you’ve worked with an Information Architect before, you’re likely to be familiar with this phase. It’s about creating wireframes and the design blueprint that details the page hierarchical structure, content areas, as well as the interactions between functions and pages.

In this design sprint approach, UX Designers work closely with Developers to ensure that they’re building the right thing at the right time and solving the right problem for the right customer.

Why is UX Design important?

UX Design considers all aspects of the user’s interaction with a product by ensuring its features and design are optimised, useful, desirable, necessary, and reflective of both the brand and client’s needs.

A UX Designer works at fulfilling a company’s objectives by satisfying the needs, goals, and motivations of a user. By considering the human experience above other elements, UX Design plays a fundamental role in retaining the attention and loyalty of users.

The value of UX Design doesn’t end after a product launch date, but involves itself throughout the product’s lifespan, using feedback to develop and roll out updates that continue to generate customer satisfaction.

Good UX Design has the potential of increasing and retaining users, directly impacting a company’s bottom line. Bad UX Design, on the other hand, encourages users to take their business elsewhere. 

With user research as a guiding light, every element and process of UX Design is prioritised and justified by data, ensuring a product is designed to satisfy a real user. For businesses of all sizes, the value of UX Design in a product’s creation and development is unquestionable.

Ensure you understand the fundamentals of UX Design and give your users the right experience by joining one of our UX courses today.