The Nielsen Norman Group, a leading voice in the user experience field, summarizes user experience in the following way: “‘User experience’ encompasses all aspects of the end-user's interaction with the company, its services, and its products.” They go on to elaborate this idea further by saying, “In order to achieve high-quality user experience in a company's offerings there must be a seamless merging of the services of multiple disciplines, including engineering, marketing, graphical and industrial design, and interface design.”

This graphic developed by Information Architects, Inc. does a great job of illustrating the wide spectrum of user experience.

Stepping back and looking at this broader definition of UX has been something I’ve been thinking about for a few months now. It began back in July when my wife, Beth, and a small team from her company, went to Los Angeles to do customer research (she works for a national outdoor retailer). The team was lead by Sarah, the Design Insights Manager, and their focus was to interview existing cycling customers to discover why and how they use the products they have purchased and to understand their attitudes toward the brand and the products they own. They visited customers in their homes and stopped by bike shops and collectives all to chat about bikes, gear, and the overall bike culture in LA.

When Beth returned home and recalled the many great conversations they had had I remember thinking what a great way to connect with your customers, learn more about how you can improve products, and hopefully strengthen the brand for that customer and future customers. She also told me that Sarah and her team have done similar “insights” trips focused on hiking customers. They hiked part of the Appalachian Trail and conducted interviews with hikers along the way. How cool is that?

I never even knew something like this existed! It makes sense that it would. It’s the followup you need to have with existing users to ensure that the experiences you’re creating keep improving. 

For me it’s encouraging to see this broader view of UX. Being a UX designer is proving to cast a wider net of possibilities than I originally thought.


As I mentioned two weeks ago I know there is a need for me to get UX specific training and because I’m not currently able to go down a more traditional path (eg. an HCDE degree) I’ve been seeking out other training programs.

One promising program that I’ve discovered is General Assembly’s part-time User Experience Design course. General Assembly is an educational institution with fourteen campuses across four continents who focuses on education in technology, business, and design. I’ve interacted with a few people at GA’s Seattle campus and I’ve been impressed so far. And, from what I’ve read about them online, others speak highly of GA as well. In fact, my company has a partnership with them and I believe some of my co-workers will be sharing their knowledge in future classes and/or workshops.

This past weekend General Assembly hosted a two-hour User Experience Research workshop and I attended to learn more about a closely related UX discipline and to get some sense of the vibe and environment of a part-time course at GA. I really enjoyed the workshop and thought the instructor, Parita Kapadia, did a great job of teaching the steps to creating a research plan and leading us through a workshop. For the workshop we broke into teams to develop a research plan for a hypothetical app – an on demand sushi app. The nameless app (though Sake-To-Me was proposed) would be an app where users could easily order fresh, on demand sushi to be delivered to the location of their choosing.

The areas of our research plan we were to focus on where defining our research objective, defining our audience, and creating a discussion guide (or at least the early stages of a discussion guide). I enjoyed working with my group as we designed our research plan. All members brought their unique perspective and knowledge base to our assigned tasks and I think we did a pretty good job developing our plan. Here’s what we came up with:



  • would the existing market use this app?

  • what are your top priorities? quality, time, presentation, etc...


PRIMARY: users of Postmates app (AmazonFresh users, peach [food delivery])
PRIMARY: people who frequent sushi restaurants
SECONDARY: restaurants, drivers
EXTREME: user using Postmates 5x a week, goes to sushi place 2-3x a week
EXPERT: sushi chef, works at sushi place / related sushi industry

What do you know:
- like to see sushi made in front of them
- users might be unable operate machinery
- spectrum of types of sushi - shiro’s to mashiko / traditional to rock’n’roll
- people order food from apps

What don’t you know:
- do people trust delivery of fish - will it be fresh/safe?
- do people like dine in or to go better?
- do users want to decide order at purchase or when truck arrives?

What are your assumptions:
- people use Postmates to order sushi (observed in the past)
- cold shipping exists so safe delivery can be done
- everyone loves sushi
- people don’t care about atmosphere - they care about quality of food


Warm Ups
- What’s your age? What do you do? What are some of your favorite apps?
- What are some of your favorite foods? How often do you eat out or get food delivered?
- What makes a dining experience great? What makes a dining experience bad?

Postmates / food delivery app Users
- How often do you use food delivery apps?
- Why do you use food delivery apps?
- Tell us about a bad experience getting food delivered.
- Tell us about a great experience getting food delivered.
- Have you ever ordered sushi on Postmates?

Sushi Restaurant Goers
- How often do you go get sushi?
- How often do you order sushi to go?
- Tell us about your favorite sushi place.
- What is important to you in sushi?
- Do you prefer traditional vs. avant-garde atmosphere?


As I said, I enjoyed the workshop but I think my biggest takeaway was the realization that I (mostly) know this stuff.  At my job I’ve been able to observe and collaborate on projects and therefore learn most of what was taught at the workshop. I know I’m not ready or qualified to be a UX Researcher but I am excited that I’m already developing the foundation of the knowledge and skills needed to be a UX Designer. I know there is much more to learn. I’m looking forward to future classes/workshops at General Assembly as a part of my UX training.

I know I also need to start doing hands-on work where I can practice what I’ve learned.


Education. On two levels it's necessary for me. In addition to working toward a career in UX design I feel it is important to finish an undergraduate degree. I also know that in order to move into a lifelong, valuable, and enriching career in UX I need to get focused training in UX design.

Initially, I had hoped accomplishing these two tasks could be done at the same time. Perhaps in a program like Human Centered Design & Engineering at the University of Washington, but this program is geared toward traditional students and not very suitable for working professionals. I feared that I had missed the boat by not studying something similar while at school and that a program like HCDE would be necessary to get into UX. Talking to a few UX professionals, they reassured me that this wasn’t the only way. (I’ll talk more about this in an upcoming posts.)

So because I can’t quit my job and go back to school full time I have to focus on each task individually.

Today I’d like to talk about first completing my undergraduate degree and in the coming weeks I’ll talk about specific UX training/education.

Late last year I had my eye on completing my degree at the University of Washington and I was looking at Business Administration degree. A few things were driving me toward this degree like in-state tuition, evening classes, and the fact that I have about one and a half years of business type course completed. On the other side of the coin though there were some downsides to this plan; the evening classes are only offered at a campus that is an hour and a half bus commute away and, probably more importantly, I really wasn’t excited about the subject matter. Yes, I think a degree is very important but I also have to weigh my time and money into the equation as well as the usefulness of my degree in the career as a UX designer.

A few months ago I widened my search for schools and found Washington State University’s Online Bachelor's Degrees program. At WSU I would have in-state tuition; I would be able to take courses around my work schedule; and I would be more excited about the coursework I’d need to take to complete my degree.

So, I’ll be pursuing a Social Sciences degree with an emphasis in Administrative Studies, Communication, and Psychology. I’m excited about this degree as I’ll be able to tailor my coursework (particularly in the the communication and psychology emphases) in a way that I hope will contribute to my goal of UX design. For example, in one communication course I’ll be learning content creation and evaluation in several mediums that I hope will aid my design and reporting skills. Additionally several of the psychology courses will help me to design, conduct, and report on research studies which are a key part of the work I hope to one day do, of course, with a focus on user experience.

Courses start in the fall and I have high hopes for my education at WSU.


Realizing what you want to do, at least for me, has been a long, drawn out process. But over the past year and a half I have realized the answer to this somewhat daunting question.

I want to be a UX Designer.

At the beginning of my college career my path seemed clear. I was to spend five years at Kansas State University studying Interior Architecture & Product Design and then start practicing. Around the halfway point in my studies that path started to become unclear. I was realizing that architecture wasn’t the career path for me. From that point until recently I have struggled to pinpoint where my knowledge, talents, and passions would take me.

I have always had a passion for creating great experiences for people. This has been evident in much of my work since leaving school. Working at my community church striving to exude hospitality and inclusion has shown me how creating great experiences fosters growth and meaningful relationships. Assisting customers at The Apple Store with their technical questions and problems has shown me how great experiences create lifelong customers. And, most recently, working at a user experience research and design firm (in downtown Seattle, WA) has shown me how creating great user experiences leads to enriching lives.

My most recent work managing usability labs and the technology needs of my colleagues has brought clarity to my career path. I want to be a user experience designer. Seeing the day to day work of a UX designer and getting to collaborate on several projects has helped tremendously with that once daunting question. I know with the right education and training in conjunction with my talents and passions I can excel in a UX career.

As I pursue the goal of becoming a UX Designer I’ll be documenting my steps along the way.

Step one: a ux pursuit.


The more I dig into user experience the broader the scope of a UX designer has become. See this post for a little more context.