Matthew Garvin

UX Research, Design, Strategy

Greetings Nerds!

Here is a blog I will write. The purpose of which is to serve as an opportunity to delve deeper into my journey mastering UX. I’ve started and stopped for a few years now. In fact, this very blog post is based off another blog I began on this exact topic in late 2016, which you can read here. (if you wish)

At the time I had all but graduated with my BA in Anthropology and was already thinking about next steps. I did audit the Human Computer Interaction specialization on Coursera from UC San Diego. However, I did not follow through with assembling a portfolio.

Later, I picked up on the UX micromasters program on EdX from University of Michigan. I audited the specialization and then went back to the beginning to earn the verified micromasters in lieu of applying to the university for a traditional masters degree. However, my father was diagnosed with dementia, and I put off my career aspirations to spend time with him.

I recently got organized to head down this path once again only to be informed that the EdX micromasters offering was being discontinued. However, I found a similar program being offered on Coursera right now from University of Minnesota. So I am beginning that program now, and preparing my application to University of Michigan for Fall ’19.

So what is UX Design? Chances are, if you’re reading this you already know. So let’s pretend you don’t. We’re going to be exploring this together. My undergraduate background is broad, hard-nosed, 4-field anthropology. I have always been much more of a generalist and hesitated on specializing, so I got a little insight into everything. What anthropology helps someone like me do is to bring to bear a wide range of knowledge and skills to specific problems.

Anthropology is uniquely suited to UX Design, because it is charged with being at the forefront of studying human beings at every layer and angle throughout all time and space. UI stands for user-interface, and UX stands for user experience. Generally speaking, these two will often be used interchangeably by those in the industry, at least according to some other blogs I have read. I am not sure just yet how comfortable I am with that because I think there is a clear difference to bear in mind.

A man using a cane to assist in walking is interfacing with a piece of technology. The handle where he holds it is the user-interface. The tip is the point at which he uses the cane, in concert with his feet to interface with the ground. If it is a poorly designed cane, uncomfortable to hold, too heavy, slippery on the bottom, these then reflect poorly on the overall user-experience.

Similarly when using a computer, you interface with the computer via the monitor, keyboard, mouse, and whatever other peripherals you use, such as a printer/scanner. These are hardware interfaces, but there are also software interfaces. What kind of operating system do you use? What kind of browser, programs, apps, etc.? All of these come with their own interfaces, and the goal of the UX researcher is to study people using these things and develop an analysis that enables the designer (often the same person) to refine the interface and improve the experience.

So that’s what I’ll be doing for my career. I think it sounds really cool. Whether I’m working with engineers to innovate more spacious interiors to automobiles or airplanes, designing more intuitive apps and websites, or helping crack the cultural algorithm that I believe is necessary to create a truly anthropomorphic A.I., this is bound to be an exciting journey.

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