About the Applicant
UXVISION is a leading boutique UX design company, providing UX services for top 500 companies in Israel as well as serving clients worldwide. The company also has experience in the UX training field, and has been leading the basic UX training courses in Israel. The company CEO, Tal Florentin, is considered a leading UX specialist and a senior lecturer, having taught thousands of people in the industry, over the past years. Florentin is the author of “The User Experience – When People Meet Products” – the first and currently only book about UX published in Hebrew.
Based on this background and the need for UX professionals in the industry, it was decided to establish a comprehensive certification program that will assist with the creation of user experience professionals in Israel.
UXV Certification Program
UXVision is a leading boutique UX design company, providing UX services for top 500 companies in Israel as well as serving clients worldwide. The company also has experience in the UX training field, and has been leading the basic UX training courses in Israel. The company CEO, Tal Florentin, is considered a leading UX specialist and a senior lecturer, having taught thousands of people in the industry, over the past years. Florentin is the author of “The User Experience: When People Meet Products”—the first and currently only book about UX published in Hebrew.
Based on this background and the need for UX professionals in the industry, it was decided to establish a comprehensive UX certification program that will assist with the creation of user experience professionals in Israel.
The course’s study program was designed to be cost effective. The point is to create a platform for sufficient, in-depth studies. On the other hand we ensure that the course is priced reasonably so the participants will gain a clear and fast return on their investment. As such, the structure of the course was defined to include 32 evening sessions, split to two evening sessions of four academic hours per week. The sessions are long enough for the participants to learn and practice, and the time in between sessions is sufficient for processing the information taught, gaining practical experience, and completing the homework. We did not conduct in-depth research on this matter, but as far as we know, this is the longest diploma study course offered in the industry in Israel today.
Not Everyone Can Get In: We debated lengthily, from a business and a professional perspective whether it would be right to accept anyone that wishes to study, and as a result of the research and insights we decided to stand behind a brave decision – to conduct preliminary interviews for everyone interested in the course and accept only those who are ready to be part of the user experience field. That way, their chance of completing the course and successfully integrating into the field is realistic. Naturally, as a consequence of this decision, the level of study in the classroom increased. The participants that applied and were accepted, were those whose experience and/or profession was close enough to the field. As a result, the interactions, questions, and debates in the classroom rose to a practical level. This outcome necessitated the highest level of lecturers – those that have sufficient experience and knowledge and are able to handle the level of the participants in the course.
- Introduction to UX
- Business Goals and UX Strategy
- The Process of UX Design
- Target Audience Analysis and Persona Profiling
- User Stories and Scenarios
- Learning to Sketch
- The Rules of a Perfect Screen
- Prototyping with Power Point
- Navigation Models
- Basics of UI
- Cognitive Sciences and Human Factors
- Micro UI
- Introduction to Graphic Design
- Conversion-Oriented UX Design
- The UX Designer Portfolio
- Introduction to Social Media
- Optimization and Analytics
- UX Prototyping Using Axure (workshop)
- Mobile UX Strategy
- Mobile UX Design
- The Mobile Platforms
- Designing for Touch
- Adaptive and Responsive Design
- Introduction to Software Engineering and Agile Methods
- UI Implementation and Front-End Development
- Usability Testing Methods and Processes
- Driving a Change
UXing Like a Pro
Prototyping and Assisting Tools:
As a clear part of our responsibility, the course includes the teaching of and gaining practical experience of using prototyping tools. The choice of tools was not a trivial one. We decided to teach the participants how to use 3 types of prototyping tools, which belong to different categories. We believe that the course graduates should not only be familiar with one tool; rather, they must be able to understand when it is best to use a certain tool and familiarize themselves with the outcomes that each tool provides.
The tools that are being taught in the study program are:
We have concluded that this tool is widely used as a prototyping tool in the industry. As UXVISION massively uses this tool and as it is available to all the participants in the companies they would be working in, we chose to teach how to use it properly. The usage is different than the classic Power Point presentation slides creation and while the participants learn how to use it even to the extent of creating a working mobile prototype, through the usage of presentations that fit the device’s size, combining the slides with the internal links and exporting the outcomes to a PDF file that can be opened and operated on the mobile.
We chose this tool as it is a complementary tool when using Power Point for websites (it enables to experience the real scroll down in websites). It enables one to reach a very high level in creating a working prototype. InVision also offers advance and quality collaboration services with the client. Since this tool is not used for the creation of the model itself, it is complementary to the tools used to design the UX model.
We chose this tool as it is the most common and popular tool in the field in Israel. Knowledge of the tool and experience in using it is almost always a requirement for positions in the field. Moreover, the tool enables advanced abilities with the micro-programming in it, and as such allows reaching an even more substantial prototype level. Alongside the investment of the in depth study of the tool and crossing over the initial learning stage, we also engage in discussion when it is of value. This is to deepen and realize the prototype at the design stage up to the code level. We also discuss when there is no added value in it, while considering the cost-benefit outcome of the prototyping work.
Usersbox is not a widely spread tool yet, so you might not be familiar with it. It is an online service created by UXVision intended to support the definition and management of personas. Usersbox offers the ability to create personas and fill in all of the necessary information about each one of them - to define their needs, motivation and blockers and to define the relative importance of each one of them. It includes a library of randomly selected photos of people to choose from and provide a face to each persona. Moreover, Usersbox offers the ability of managing the list of features planned to be provided within the product and define each feature’s importance for each one of the personas. Based on this information, alongside the relative importance of each persona, Usersbox provides an insight report showing the calculated rate of each one of the features, allowing one to focus on the features that really matter.
Focusing on the Practical Aspect:
As a clear part of our responsibility, our aim is to create professionals in the field. It is clear that the study experience must be gained with a “hands-on” approach. Based on that, the course was put together combining exercises, in-class assignments, and homework that needs to be handed in to the instructor. Part of the course includes group workshops in class, where processes, which are part of the specification field, are carried out step by step. In other workshops the students' outcomes are inspected and live criticism is given for cross-fertilization. Every few weeks, the participants get a meaningful project to complete – fully specifying a certain type of product. The outcome, which is submitted in class, is revised by a leading lecturer who writes a detailed evaluation report for each student. As part of our approach to creating improvement, we encourage the participants to go over the comments and hand in an improved version of their outcomes. The improved versions are also assessed. This process goes on for an unlimited period of time, in order to allow the students to experience a real improvement curve.
Preparing for the Creation of the Portfolio:
The projects within the program are chosen carefully so that upon completion of the course, the participants are able to connect all of them together into a single portfolio that demonstrates their diverse abilities, versatility and knowledge of the different worlds of UX design. The projects include dealing with web applications, dealing with the marketing world - landing pages, conversion and call to action pages, and dealing with the smartphone world, tablets and touch for the different operating systems, including facing the challenges related to responsive design. In addition, during the course, we devote time to familiarizing ourselves with the essence of the user experience designer’s portfolio. Unlike the graphic design industry, where the portfolio is examined based on the final outcomes, in the world of UX, the portfolio is examined mainly based on the ability to lead a process, on the familiarity with the intermediate outcome and the working steps along the design process and deliverables, and also on the final outcomes of the process – the variety of wireframe diagrams that constitute the basis for the design stage and the technical realization.
About a month before the end of the course, the participants are asked to form groups of three to complete the final project. The goal of the final project is to allow the participants to deal with the complete process of UX design of a product, starting with the first initiation stages where the business objectives are set, the target audience is analyzed, and the market and the demands are analyzed, up to the introduction of the product’s concept for both desktop or web and mobile. Working in groups was designed to enable the participants to experience a team work challenge, as a team of designers, and enjoy the special opportunity of cross-fertilization. The split into groups is carried out while taking into consideration the participants’ background, so that in each team there is a technical person, a graphic designer and a person with a managerial/marketing/product background. Each team member is required to propose an idea for the final project, which is based on a real client – an acquaintance, a friend or any person for which they may work. We encourage the students to cope with real needs and we do not hand out any theoretical, futile projects. After each team member submits an idea for the project, we choose the most relevant project for the team – the project that will fit the scope of work for a team of three members that, in return, will maximize the learning process and will create an appropriate outcome for the participants to use in their portfolios.
In order to place the participants in light of the real challenges of the industry, the participants are asked to present their final outcomes in designated presentations. For the presentation sessions, we devote two full meetings in which we host the clients of the projects and expose them to the outcomes that were created specifically for them. In order to maximize the experience in these sessions, we host well known UX leaders from the local industry that come to view these presentations and express their professional opinion. As an added value, the participants receive different feedback from the prominent user experience professionals in Israel. This opportunity allows the graduates to prove themselves in front of the guests – an entry door into the integration in the industry workplace. The work on the final project has proven itself as a challenging learning experience. We have already had the pleasure of witnessing one team form a startup continue their work on the product, even after the course had ended. We also had the great opportunity to see the success of a team that, upon completion of the final presentation, received an investment offer in the project, instead of the standard judges’ criticism.
We Walk the Extra Mile for Our Students:
While working on the final projects, we teach the participants how to capture inspiring shots of user experience design work and hold an inspirational photography competition between them. The participants take pictures of their work process—pictures that later on become part of their portfolio. We display the best pictures on the web and allow the public to vote and choose the winning photograph. This way, we expose the public to the photographed content, the participants and their work. Towards the end of the course, we host our photographer, who takes professional profile pictures of the participants in order to ensure their presence on the web. Diploma: Upon completion of the challenges and duties of the course, the participants receive the certification diploma. The diploma, like other aspects of the course, was uniquely designed and provides the participants with the proper acknowledgment. This gives them the push they need in order to integrate as prominent professionals in the field.
Upon Completion of the Course—It Only Begins:
We do not believe that our work is done once the training is over. Once the study program is over, the real work starts and we are committed to maintain the relationships we have with our graduates. We put in much effort in placing graduates in industry positions, creating opportunities for them to integrate into projects, offering complementary training and opening the graduates to the opportunity of significant presence on the web.
Practical Internship Opportunity in Collaboration with the Leading Accelerators in Israel:
One of the most significant challenges for the graduates is acquiring the first real project for their portfolio. In order to assist them with this, we have partnered with a few of the leading startup acceleration programs in Israel. Within this framework, a compatibility process is conducted between the graduates and the leading accelerators, and the graduates are given the opportunity to take part in a 100 hour internship program that will allow them to experience one-on-one professional guidance for a startup. The graduates profit from the exposure to the startup world and gain experience while the companies receive important consultancy services they would not be able to fund otherwise. Once the 100 hours of consultancy are over, assuming the service the startup received was satisfactory, we encourage the graduate to work with the startup for compensation. In certain cases, this turns out to be the graduate’s first paid UX service.
Collaboration with Placement Agencies:
In order to assist our graduates, we have also partnered with the leading placement agency in the high tech and startup industry in Israel. The course graduates conduct interviews and receive help in building their CV’s. Following that, they are connected to the relevant jobs in the field.
Opportunity for Web Exposure:
We are great believers of the ability of the web to help create presence and open opportunities. Since we are aware of the personal difficulty of creating a blog, building a personal portfolio website and creating significant web presence, we created a professional exposure platform for our graduates. Since its launch, UXVTODAY constitutes the leading content website in the field of user experience in Israel. The website gathers content from the user experience field on the web in addition to articles written by professionals—the creators of the content are the course graduates and its lecturers. The website allows the course graduates to build a professional profile tailored to the world of user experience. They can provide information about themselves, point out their competitive advantage, present their portfolio, indicate the main projects they have conducted, link to recommenders and link to their social profiles. When the course graduates produce content, they are given the opportunity to expose it on social networks. Furthermore, the content they produce is added automatically to their profile page. The profile page is indexed on Google and allows the graduates to have a professional presence online. The graduates may also refer to other websites that have the relevant content and recommend them. Once this content is published on the social network, their viewers are exposed to the graduate and their page. In order to spare the graduates of the need to go into the content creating platform of the website, we created a designated CHROME extension, which allows them to recommend a different website, categorize its content and upload it as a post on UXVTODAY using only a few clicks within seconds, from the website they found, and without logging on to their account. The graduates’ page allows those browsing it to filter the graduates according to professional specializations and according to their employment status, in order to locate the relevant professional, and hire him, or work with him.
UXVision has 7 years of experience in UX training. In the first years our focus was on fundamental UX training. We taught UX as part of other courses, such as webmasters training or system analysis training and held UX specific courses which varied in length and participants could chose from a single day course, a 3 day course or a 5 day one. During the 5 year period in which we provided UX training, prior to the creation of the UXV Certification Program, and throughout the year and a half as an active program we certainly acquired a few insights worth sharing.
LESSON 1: LEARNING PRACTICAL UX TAKES TIME
From all of our short term training courses, one feedback given to us was repeated over and over again. Although the participants of the short courses had learnt a lot about the UX world, this was never enough for them to practically take control over UX in an organization or lead an end-to-end UX design process. The lack of practical assignments and the lack of time to execute their experience, together with the lack of personal feedback, left the participants with no tools to deal with the challenge of UX design in real life. We understood that a crucial part of the learning process and acquisition of the required tools would have to involve a correct use of
another factor—time. Our Certification Program is based on two 4-academic hour sessions per week, with enough time in-between sessions to think, read, exercise and absorb the information taught.
LESSON 2: FOCUS ON PRACTICAL SKILLS REQUIRED BY THE MARKET RATHER THAN THEORETICAL KNOWLEDGE
When we started discussing the structure for the UXV Certification Program we included all of the topics required “by the book”. In order to make sure our program offers whatever is needed in order to prepare our participants, we conducted research with UX teams in different companies, trying to reveal the most crucial skills required for a UX professional. This was much like taking the list of product requirements and finding out that most of the users need only 40% of them. Based on the research findings, we dramatically reduced the number of introduction sessions (marketing, social media, copyrighting, Photoshop, etc.) and added much more time for the key skills we found necessary. This allowed us to add plenty of time for practical work.
LESSON 3: TEACH BY DOING RATHER THAN TALKING
The standard teaching model we used in our short courses was mostly frontal—the lecturer speaking and the class listening. Of course we did use short exercises from time to time in order to create engagement, but this was never enough.
We understood that if we want to produce UX professionals we must change our approach—from “talking” to “doing”. We did not eliminate all frontal training, since the basics should be presented in a frontal way, but we reduced the philosophical discussions to a minimum, and decided to invest as much time as possible in active sessions where we practice the methods learned practically.
- The session that dealt with target audience analysis and personas was split into two. One half is theoretical, following some required offline reading and the other half is a frontal live kickoff session for building basic archetypes of personas based on prior research conducted by the participants, prior to the session. Instead of learning simply the theory, the participants now take part in a live session and understand the dynamics, inputs and outputs of the process.
- The session that dealt with scenarios was re-defined. First, we start with providing a business case and a set of personas, then we split the class into working groups and leave if for each group to explore the lives of one specific persona over a timeline, and identify key insights and opportunities. Once all of the groups complete their work, we produce a functional timeline and extract ideas, screens and requirements from the charts. Once again, the students in this session gain experience by performing a scenario analysis using different aspects and tools.
One of the most difficult topics to teach is that of Usability Testing. In Israel, there is a general problem where most of the customers and organizations do not understand the importance of Usability Testing and how easy it can be to perform it. Even though we taught the concepts thoroughly, we found that none of our graduates got the chance to experience Usability Testing in reality. In order to deal with that, we changed the teaching method. Once again, learning the basic ideas is done offline by reading. In order to get a maximal value of the sessions, we now ask our students to get a prototype of their work ready for the session we hold together. Once they arrive to class, they split into groups of three. In each group we assign a moderator, a camera-man and a person in charge of viewing and documenting. Each group leaves the building and performs a live Usability Testing. These tests are filmed and shared. Once they get back from a two-hour live Usability Testing session, they share their insights. This way our students get the chance to experience live testing and add another skill they have developed, to their growing set of skills.
LESSON 4: ONGOING PERSONAL FEEDBACK IS A MUST
Over time we found that in order to create UX professionals it is not enough to give out simple tasks. Becoming a professional requires ongoing practical work. From one program to
another we gradually added more and more practical assignments. Each assignment is checked personally and thoroughly by a UX expert. We do not make our lives as teachers easier and we do not use the assistance of junior tutors. We insist that each student will get his feedbacks directly from the ones who earn a living as UX professionals.
In addition to that, we follow one rule: each student can get his feedbacks and re-submit any of the assignments for further feedback. We do not limit our students to a single session of feedback, because the actual improvement occurs after the students receive their first feedback. We see that once they re-submit the assignment, their work has substantially improved. Giving students one assignment after another with no limitation on feedback, allows them to go through a very intense learning and improving process.
The feedback sessions are done in video, using a camera and a screen recorder. The UX expert goes over the submitted work and provides detailed explanations and tips, allowing the student to view them back and forth as he pleases. This of course, is much more engaging than a textual written feedback.
Furthermore, the feedback videos of all students are shared, allowing them to learn from the success and failure of their classmates. Each assignment produces around 6 hours of feedback. Adding this time to the precious course time would mean adding more than 8 sessions! 25% of the training. These videos remain available for the students.
LESSON 5: UX SHOULD BE TAUGHT IN A CLASS CONSISTING OF EXPERIENCED INDIVIDUALS
It might not be politically correct, but we believe that UX design cannot be the first profession in the digital world. UX is built over the meeting point of four disciplines:
- Business and Marketing
- Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
- Visual Design and Aesthetics
Technology, Logic and Software Engineering
We believe that a UX designer has to have prior knowledge and experience in at least one of the fields mentioned above in direct relation to the world of digital products. Becoming a UX designer should be based on prior experience at hand combining the exposure to other disciplines, the methodology and practice.
During our first course we tried to make it easy for individuals to participate in our program, but we found out that the ones who did not have relevant experience had a hard time filling in the gaps, and even though their knowledge was relevant, the market did not open its arms to embrace them. In addition, the presence of participants with less relevant experience made the class sessions slower and prevented the classroom from achieving an adequate discussion level.
Based on that experience, and our desire to improve the level of training, we defined a certain criteria for accepting applicants to our program. This criteria allows a wide range of individuals, coming from different disciplines to join. The level of discussion has risen and it enables advanced professionals to get training that better suits them.
LESSON 6: HETEROGENIC SET OF PARTICIPANTS SHOULD BECOME AN ADVANTAGE
Since the class includes a wide range of experienced individuals with a background in different disciplines, we understood that we should turn this into an advantage and find a way to benefit from that. As such, whenever group work is done, we instruct the participants to set heterogenic groups that will include one person from each discipline. This way the groups enjoy an opportunity to learn from others and they are better exposed to other ways of thinking, methods and mind sets. This experience enables the technical ones to absorb knowledge from design, for designers to hear about business aspects, for business ones to understand design and aesthetics, and for the visual guys to learn about behavior.
LESSON 7: ANY THORUOGH UX TRAINING SHOULD INCLUDE SOFT SKILLS AS WELL AS KNOWLEDGE AND TOOLS
A repeating requirement is raised by most of the Israeli UX recruiting employers. They expect the UX professional to be a leader and be able not only to design the correct solution, but also to explain, present and sell their work to customers. The challenges that UX designers deal with require a wide set of soft skills and our Certification Program offers tools in this area as well. We incorporate a session about sales and networking, providing the students with the tools to drive change, market and sell their ideas and understand the importance of team work. In addition, we train our students to prepare for concept presentations and carry them out. We believe that this set of skills is as
important to the success of a UX designer as the obvious more professional skills.
LESSON 8: TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE PROGRAM, IMPROVES THE CHANCES FOR SUCCESS
It is easy for us to stop working once the academic program ends. However, our success means not only teaching, rather, success is enabling our students to ultimately take active presence in the UX field; therefore, our responsibility as education providers is not limited.
It was clear to us that if we wanted our graduates to be able to find a quick way into the market; we had to pave them a way there. In order to do so, we had to connect with a service provider that holds an open list of positions in the field, we had to direct our graduates and provide them with a way to gain experience and ultimately we had to assist them in presenting themselves and becoming visible in the field. Without taking responsibility over the entire process, odds are that most graduates would have lost themselves in the process, but this is not the case.
In brief, the added values our students receive from us assist them to integrate into the UX industry in many ways:
Our graduates receive formal certification which is respected and thought highly of by the local market.
- The assignments given throughout the program are aimed to be collected into a wide range portfolio demonstrating relevant skills in different aspects of UX design.
- We provide assistance and guidance for creating a professional UX portfolio and CV.
- Our students go through a variety of challenges that provide them with tools to deal with the examination and exercises given to them by companies when testing candidates.
- We provide our students with the opportunity to deal with the challenge of presenting a model and explaining it to a customer, in addition to handling the design process itself.
- We prepare our students for real-life situations by hosting leading UX professionals and getting their feedback in the presentation sessions.
- We offer our graduates the opportunity to participate in local startup accelerators in order to acquire real-life experience.
- We work closely with a local leading recruitment company that specializes in high-tech, in order assist graduates find relevant open positions in the market.
- We provide our graduates with a respectful online presence and a chance to create content, spread knowledge and be recognized by the local market as leaders.
Providing knowledge and sharing experience with a heterogenic group of experienced professionals, who expect to get the tools to find their way into the world of UX is not trivial. It required us to find the top notch lecturers and professionals. It took some time, but we are pleased to say that we have a winning group of lecturers that are able to take our students by the hand and provide them with the tools they really need.
Our key lecturers include a list of top Israeli UX leaders and other professional leaders, each one in his own field. All lecturers come from within the market rather than the academic world. Some of professional leaders include:
Mr. Tal Florentin: CEO at UXVision, a local boutique UX service provider for Fortune 500 companies in Israel. Florentin is a leading Israeli User Experience practitioner, holding the experience of over 100 UX design projects, leading to business improvements and success, some of which went on to win international awards. Florentin is a graduate of Mamram, the renowned Israeli school for Software Programming and a Certified Usability Analyst (Human Factors International). Florentin is the author of “The User Experience: When Users Meet Products”, the first UX book published in Hebrew, Holding 17 years of experience in IT, internet, software engineering and User Experience. Florentin also has a few years of experience in IT training management at John Bryce training – the leading non-academic technology training center in Israel. His experience in creating training programs is a valuable factor for the success of this program.
Mr. Ilan Dray: Founder & VP of Creative Inkod-Hypera Ltd, magician (really) and art director. Former art director at Publicis advertisement in France, with wide experience in
the world of interactive media. Founder of PixelPerfect, a local leading design online magazine.
Mrs. Michal Schreiber: CEO at Web Done, a local social media marketing service provider, Schreiber is an appreciated speaker, teaching in universities in Israel and abroad. She holds a weekly radio program and writes for the leading Israeli business magazine. Schreiber is the winner of Social Media Leaders award of Philadelphia’s Wharton School of Business.
Mr. Amit Daliot: CEO at MyUI, a leading UX practitioner, lecturer, author of “Instant Axure RP Starter” and an Axure prototyping specialist In addition to our permanent lectures, we often invite additional professionals to teach our students, such as the local UXPA president, Dr. Talya Lavie and many more. Our team of “judges” that participate in the presentation sessions include a respectful list of UX professionals such as Mr. Ami Rotter, winner of the 10 Best Application UI’s of 2008 by the Nielsen Norman Group.
The UXV Certification Program is measured by its contribution to the market. The only goal we set for ourselves is preparing our students for the real world market and the main KPI we use to test ourselves is the percentage of graduates that find their place in the market and as UX professionals within a few months from the end of the program.
Holding this kind of success criteria requires us to have a direct connection with the market. In order to ensure we do that, we use a few tools:
Involving professionals in the creation of content: Whenever we feel that our knowledge as program leaders may not cover what happens in the market, we use a net of professionals and UX leaders. We conduct surveys and ask for information, and collect it as basic information to be used when we prepare our teaching material. For example, one of the program sessions deals with tips and instructions for preparing a proper UX portfolio. In addition to reviewing good and bad examples and providing guidelines, we carried out a survey and asked the key UX employers in the country what their expectations are and what would make them start a hiring process with a potential UX professional. The survey findings were provided to our students, allowing them to adjust their offerings accordingly.
Hosting the key players as lecturers: The lecturers in our program are key players in the local market. Rather than speaking about theory, they share their experience, case studies and knowledge. There are two advantages to this. First, our students get the information directly from the market leaders. Second, enable our students to meet with these key players. This introduction breaks the ice and allows the lecturers to treat the students as their own. Fortunately, following that, most of our lecturers have recruited one or more of the program’s participants. We could not ask for more…
- Hosting “Judges” from the market in the presentation sessions: During the final sessions of the course, two full sessions are held for presenting UX model concepts by the participants. The final project include 3-4 weeks of offline work in groups of three, and when the final project is presented, we invite key players in the market to take part. Here as well, we benefit twice simultaneously: the students get their feedback directly from the market, and we get firsthand feedback from the market leaders regarding the level of preparation of our graduates to real-life challenges they will face.