In an increasingly digital world, user experience (UX) designers are finding themselves in demand and uniquely suited to making information systems more people-friendly. In 2015, CNN Money ranked user experience design #14 on a list of the top hundred “Best Jobs in America” for growth, pay and satisfying work.
Now, a new graduate certificate program offered by the University of Wisconsin-Madison will help learners—whether new to the field or already tech savvy—get training in this growing area. The program, nicknamed Mad UX, represents a collaboration between the university’s highly ranked Department of Computer Sciences and its iSchool, the School of Library and Information Studies.
The online program is now accepting applications and the first cohort will begin in fall 2017. Learners can complete the User Experience Design Capstone Certificate in just one year while also keeping their jobs or maintaining other responsibilities.
Associate professor Bilge Mutlu heads up the capstone program on the Computer Sciences side of the partnership. Mutlu, an expert on human-computer interaction, notes that his early academic training was in design, and Mad UX’s curriculum mirrors the design process.
Three courses focus broadly on user research and specifications; ideation, prototyping and building; and evaluation and refinement. Finally, a capstone project pushes learners to sharpen their professional skills, such as creating a portfolio and presenting to clients.
While peer universities have also created UX programs, what sets UW-Madison’s apart, says Mutlu, is its lower cost and the fact that students don’t need to relocate or give up their jobs to participate. While it is still a small, high-quality program, students can participate from anywhere.
User experience design impacts “any technology that touches end users,” says Mutlu, “whether they are experts like medical professionals using the interface of a hospital system, or novices, like the users of a smartphone app.”
“If you’re building software that touches end users, this allows you to think about the problems they’re facing and whether your solutions are addressing their problems,” he says.
Says Professor Kristin Eschenfelder of the iSchool, “Mad UX provides a solid grounding in user experience for those with no previous experience in the field, as well as helping current information systems professionals develop new skills. Students will have full access to UW-Madison’s resources, world-class instructors, and extensive alumni network.”