Transforming UX training

Fitting a sixteen-week user experience course into a four-day bootcamp is somewhat akin to fitting the ocean into a paper cup. Magicians make such promises and we show up to see the seemingly impossible feat, hoping to be amazed, and walk away in awe.
Twenty-six of us did walk away in awe by the end of Cooper’s UX Bootcamp held March 26-29 in Columbus, Ohio. Career changers, designers, businessmen, project managers, and educators from startups, agencies, big corporations, and colleges spent four days learning key UX skills and competing in teams to design a mobile app for the American Red Cross of Greater Columbus’ ClubRED volunteers. Though our intentions for attending were practical and valid in their own right, we gained more than we ever imagined, learning how to collaborate, communicate, and truly connect to create meaningful and successful products. 7021266643_72aa0c8ff5_c.png
Photo courtesy of Paul J. Hart
Despite the competitive framework, early on someone ventured, “If we work together, we’ll find out more than if we split up and conceal our findings. I want the Red Cross to have a really hard time choosing among our final pitches. If you’re up for doing this together, raise your hand.” Many raised both hands!
The large group collaborated on stakeholder interviews, personas development, and experience activity targets. Through the process, we became more than colleagues; we became friends. We understood where our teammates were coming from and how to play to each others strengths. The products we came up with were by-products of our investments in each other’s growth.
In an informal conversation, ClubRED representatives expressed the need to motivate young adults to participate and donate. Rather than assume what motivates young adults, we asked directly in research interviews with ClubRED volunteers. Soon, we realized we were asking the wrong question; motivation was not the issue, it was the limited opportunities to help — if sorting and lifting boxes of emergencies supplies wasn’t for them, how else could they pitch in?
Our group’s interviewer said, “I used to think research was hard and not worth the effort, but after five minutes in there [with the ClubRED members], I’m having a change of heart. That was really easy…and humbling. Our company should do this more often.”
Conducting guerrilla research enabled us to understand the perspectives of diverse stakeholders and respectfully align everyone’s interests. We didn’t just practice UX skills, we learned to believe — in the process of finding out rather than assuming, in our ability to develop something that makes a difference, and in the benefits of remaining humble and inclusive throughout the process.
Even so, the group split into competitive teams, each focusing on an unique approach for the product. Wrangling everything into a story, or a scenario of use, was our first task, but that was easier said than done. Sharing our independent storyboards was like reading The Lorax out loud and with every page turn, someone calling out, “What does that have to do with Green Eggs and Ham?!” We had too many storylines and were lost in the quantity and roughness of our storyboards. 7022046861_e15e3aa04d_c.pngPhoto courtesy of Paul J. Hart
Over lunch, we devised a plan: put everything on the wall and organize the story by beginning, middle, and end moments of an event. We collectively oohed and aahed as we stepped back from the wall and saw the big picture of our narrative emerge. It was all there all along, we just needed a way to see it. 7024952441_79ce417898_c.png
Photo courtesy of Paul J. Hart
We then quickly streamlined the scenario, identified signature interactions, and delegated production responsibilities. Though we were designing a practical ClubRed Connect product, we really sculpted a delightful experience for ClubRED members. We learned to tell stories that connected core values and stories that matter.
Just before presenting, I could see the wonder and awe on everyone’s faces. We were proud of our ideas and eager to share them. We came expecting to witness magic and instead became magicians. 7028291693_0dbd5b462b_c.png
Photo courtesy of Paul J. Hart
We left the bootcamp with new friendships, hope for making a difference, and strategies to sculpt delightful experiences. The UX Bootcamp isn’t just training, it is a transformative experience.
A big thank you to our teachers: Kendra Shimmell, Teresa Brazen, and Brian Stone!

Amber Howard

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