User experience (UX) is a relatively new profession that has become an integral part of web development since the 1990s. It is often coupled with user interface (UI), UX being the broader view of how a customer engages with a given product or service. UI refers to the aesthetics, design, and functionality of that experience. Combined, UX/UI designers accompany customers throughout their relationship with an organization from both a marketing perspective and a technological one.
As this requires business know-how and technical skill, it’s an excellent opportunity for multidisciplinary professionals to capitalize on their diverse abilities. One of the best ways to move one’s career in the direction of UX is to pursue online education and certification, typically in the form of bootcamps or massive open online courses (MOOCs).
These MOOCs are a solid option for the highly self-motivated types due to their low price, easy online access, and self-paced syllabi. It’s common for aspiring UX designers to be working professionals already, typically involved in marketing or front-end development. These online UX design courses are specifically crafted to fit working professionals’ busy schedules and budgets, preparing them for a horizontal move in their professional path towards designing user experiences from start to finish.
Are you interested in augmenting your skills in design thinking? Do you have the drive and discipline to complete these courses in your free time? Are you interested in integrating technical web development skills within your day-to-day job responsibilities? If so, let’s look at the best options available for UX design coursework.
The UX Design Course Catalog
There are countless online courses for individuals interested in refining their technical skills. It can be pretty intimidating to sift through which prospective employers see courses as reputable and valuable. This short guide will outline some solid starting points for the prospective UX student, outlining which courses to check out, how much they cost, and where you can find them:
Coursera is an online education platform that works with leading colleges, universities, and even a few professional organizations like Google. Many UX courses are available on Coursera, which are entirely free. Coursera often monetizes these courses through a small certification fee, which is optional. Time commitment varies from course to course, with an average of 10 hours/week for 6-8 weeks. If you’re starting in UX design, there are many comprehensive courses from the California Institute of the Arts on UI/UX Design. Suppose you’re looking for something shorter and more straightforward to dip your toes in the subject. In that case, the Georgia Institute of TechnTechnology’soduction to User Experience Design course is a great option. The University of Minnesota has a User Interface Design explicitly marketed for folks with a little more experience than the more advanced students.
As one of the originators of the MOOC format at MIT, EdX is explicitly designed for delivering free coursework in a vast range of technical subjects. Like Coursera, these courses are all free unless you’re going to get certified. Certifications will include having your work graded by professors, and EdX is a highly reputable name from the perspective of hiring managers. Courses tend to average out around an 8-12 week commitment (investing 5-10 hours per week). For folks just getting started, this Introduction to User Experience course from HEC Montreal will lay out the basics in just four weeks. For professionals looking to invest in a future in UX, this MicroMicroMaster’sram in Design Thinking from NYU will significantly boost your professional skills and qualifications.
SuperHi is a more technology-focused online course platform specializing in developing basic web design capabilities. The pricing model is slightly different, charging either a fixed price per course or an annual membership fee for access to all courses on the site ($360/year). To get you started, SuperHi has an Intro to User Experience Design course aiming to impart the basics of designing experiences from a hands-on and tech-forward perspective. This course is also quite affordable, at just $150.
Like Coursera, Udemy is a broader-spectrum online learning platform with a truly impressive variety of coursework available for the curious to explore. Course offerings are usually a combination of 5-15 hours of video lessons accompanied by extensive readings and assignments. Udemy charges a fixed rate per course taken, and certification is included in each course with the enrollment fee. Courses are often discounted, so it’s keeping an eye on courses you are interested in to see what the lowest pricing might be. User Experience Design Fundamentals is a good starting point for students looking to start with just the basics. For professionals in need of a more comprehensive program, User Experience (UX): The Ultimate Guide to Usability and UX is worth a look.
Skillshare is a slightly different approach to the MOOC format, where professionals share their skills with other professionals. The community revolves around creative competencies, which include coursework in design thinking. This is an excellent match for aspiring UX designers with more technical than creative skills. If this sounds up your alley, you can try it out for free with a course like an Intro to UX: Fundamentals of Usability. After the free trial, subscriptions range from $15 to $32 each month, access to all Skillshare coursework. Skillshare courses tend to be short, sweet, and professional. Brevity is the soul of wit!
The Interaction Design Foundation is a unique and exciting option to wrap up this list on, as it’s based entirely on the fields of UX and UI. As a result of this high degree of specialization, there are tons of highly specialized and topic-specific courses within the broader context of user design. How to Create a UX Portfolio is a great starting point for beginners looking to build a portfolio before applying for some gigs. Both beginners and seasoned professionals will find exciting concepts to explore, such as Human Computer Interaction (HCI) or Gestalt Psychology and Web Design: The Ultimate Guide. The price is right at a low $16 each month to access every course in the catalog. Bonus Suggestion: Adobe XD Tutorials
While this isn’tisn’tOC or a classroom, Adobe XD provides very comprehensive tutorials about getting started as a UX designer leveraging the Adobe XD software suite. This Adobe offering is crafted explicitly for UX/UI designers and will most likely be a key part of your workflow if you’re interested in a career in UX. All of the tutorial videos are free, and Adobe XD is a tool you can use for $10/month. If you’re hesitant to enroll in a course, you could get started here on your own and see how you like the work.
Online UX Design Courses
For many aspiring UX professionals, the price of a university program can be pretty daunting. On the other hand, these online open courses are extremely affordable alternatives that can offer the same potential if you have the motivation to see them through. As they are typically provided by well-established universities, with completion accompanied by certification to show prospective employers, the practical use of these programs is relatively high.
The opportunity to gain experience, build a portfolio, and attain professional certifications vastly outweigh the relatively low cost of both time and course fees. So far, so good, right? So what’s the catch? Well, the absolute advantage is a double-edged sword. These programs are designed for professionals with jobs, families, and busy lives. As a result, they are deliberately flexible. No one will chase you to complete an assignment or force you to sit through a lecture. Instead, all lectures are available to sit down and listen to them whenever you are available. All assignments are due whenever you can get them done.
While this flexibility is a distinct advantage of the format, completion rates for MOOCs are much lower than more established (re: expensive) university programs. The people who benefit most will be the ones with the most drive to see it through to the end. If you are already the self-motivated type, the MOOC approach will be an excellent entryway to a career in user experience and design thinking.
The First Step
The best starting point is something free (or close to it) to get the ball rolling. Introduction to User Experience from MIT’s catalog is a great place to try this out without any cost. If you are more of a hands-on type who enjoys using software tools, go ahead and download Adobe XD, pull up those tutorials, and start creating mock-ups of your favorite websites. If you’d prefer a more intensive program, bootcamps and professional certifications are the way to go. Whichever path you choose, the key to capturing the most possible value is simply perseverance. The best course is (of course) the one you finish, so the question now is, where is the starting line?