What happens in Chicago doesn't need to stay there - 3 takeaways from UX Certification course

May 29, 2018, 5:26 PM

At the turn of May Nitor designers Niko, Tommi and Ville took a trip to Chicago to complete their UX Certification by Nielsen Norman Group. They met with other like-minded people and came home with ideas to share.


The winds of change certainly were apparent when three of our designers set a course for the windy city of Chicago. The city is known as the center for user research in the US so there were plenty of courses on that particular area of expertise.

While we stayed in Chicago we did found it really useful to have an apartment from Airbnb instead of just going to a hotel. Luckily, below our apartment floor there was one of the best restaurants in the area. Although it blasted music every night – 5 AM fiesta anyone? Also when three designers crammed into the same apartment, discussions about the usability of challenging bathroom facets can be expected.

The courses of the conference covered quite a spectrum of different design skills to learn and enhance. Some of the courses were more useful than others but all in all the conference strengthened our concept of the role of design and how UX should be conducted for good results. Repetition is the key, of course!

One of the themes that was referenced in every course was Design Systems. That comes as no surprise though as Design Systems by essence is the connector of strategy and tactics, and the bridge between disciplines. Taking a course in Lean UX and Agile was interesting because it’s something we do in our day-to-day work.


"Communicate early, often and unpolished!"

One of the key things emphasised during the conference was the role of Lean UX in agile teams. In a nutshell this means that as designers we must communicate early, often and unpolished. Only this way we get enough iterations for the ideas, before we have spent too much effort and money. The more iterations, the more certain we can be about our design decisions.

The several rounds of iterations with multiple solutions also enables us to fail fast and opt out options, that we notice to be undesirable from a UX point of view or just infeasible, i.e. for technical reasons. Thus we should use rough prototypes for rapid iterative testing and evaluation, that happens few weeks before actual development sprints. This way we ensure the quality of our design in a more inexpensive manner and we, hopefully, confront only smaller usability issues when the implemented ideas are tested later.

All in all some key takeaways from the conference could be summarised as follows:

  1. Try to constantly find the "best" new ideas with rapid prototypes. Being lean doesn't mean that you need to be fast. It means you iterate and validate your proposed solution as efficiently as possible. So build your best hypothesis, test and iterate it. And don't forget paper prototypes! They reveal the real experiences effortlessly.
  2. Optimise your ideas by involving both users and developers in participatory design early enough. This helps to gain and share understanding of the intents of the interactions. It also reduces the amount of assumptions made about the design. You can ensure that you keep the quality high by including UX acceptance criteria in your design tasks, i.e. has the design gone through even rudimentary usability testing.
  3. UX shouldn’t only be serving development by feeding the backlog. Research also the future, so that you don't loose the big picture. Here a separate kanban research board can help to explore user problems and business opportunities. Instead of tasks you can use research questions on the board. i.e. what we don't know (backlog), what we think we know (in progress), what we know (done).

The week in Chicago further supported the idea of collaborative design. Meaning that digital service creation is a shared effort of multidisciplinary teams, where design systems and Lean and Agile ways of working make it more efficient, effective and actually more meaningful. And what is more, all of the designers got back home with their new and shiny UX certificate badges!




Ville Henriksson is Nitor's Service/UX Designer who likes to do the right things instead of doing things right. When he is not designing interfaces, experiences or service processes, Ville likes to explore mid-century modern Finnish design, internet auctions and thrift shops.