User Experience: The Beginner's Guide

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How this course will help your career

User experience, or UX, has been a buzzword since about 2005. Chances are, you’ve heard of the term, or even have it on your portfolio. But your understanding of what the term “user experience” means might be wrong—or, more accurately, insufficient.

“[User experience] is used by people to say ‘I’m a user experience designer, I design websites’, or ‘I design apps.’ And they have no clue as to what they’re doing, and they think the experience is that simple device, the website, or the app, or who knows what. No! It’s everything—it’s the way you experience the world, it’s the way you experience your life, it’s the way you experience the service. Or, yeah, an app or a computer system. But it’s a system that’s everything.”
Don Norman, pioneer and inventor of the term “user experience”1

Most people fail to see the whole picture of “user experience.” And when you can’t see the forest for the trees, you’re missing a lot of factors that help to create an optimal user experience. That’s why having a comprehensive understanding of the entire umbrella of “user experience” is critical, backed with solid theory—especially since customer intelligence agency Walker predicts that experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 20202.

Through this course, you will gain a thorough understanding of the various design principles that come together to create a user’s experience of using a product or service. Through this, you’ll learn how to design a product or service properly, one that will avoid any design pitfalls that blight your competitors’ offerings.

What you will learn

  • Areas of study categorized under the umbrella of “user experience”
  • The separately conceived yet converging design principles established over the last four decades
  • Some of the psychology underlying these principles
  • Key concepts within the subject
  • A number of the cognitive processes underlying human-computer interaction
  • The role of visual perception in the viewing experience
  • Examples of good and bad design to help you avoid common mistakes
  • The importance of usability over aesthetics

Who should take this course

This is a beginner-level course suitable for newcomers and experienced practitioners alike:

  • UX designers looking to boost their work experience with evidence-based theoretical knowledge
  • Project managers who want to build user-centered products that stand out from the competition
  • Software engineers interested in understanding important design concepts such as usability and human-computer interaction
  • Entrepreneurs who want to gain a deep understanding of “user experience” in order to ship the best products
  • Marketers looking to gain a holistic view of what constitutes a user’s experience with a product or brand
  • Newcomers to design who are considering making a switch to UX design

Courses in the Interaction Design Foundation are designed to contain comprehensive, evidence-based content, while ensuring that the learning curve is never too steep. All participants will have the opportunity to share ideas, seek help with tests, and enjoy the social aspects afforded by our open and friendly forum.

Learn and work with a global team of designers

When you take part in this course, you will join a global multidisciplinary team working on the course and the exercises at the same time as you. You will work together to improve your skills and understanding. Your course group will be made up of an incredibly diverse group of professionals, all of whom have the same objective—to become successful designers. It’s your chance to learn, grow, and network with your peers across the planet.

1 Don Norman: The term “UX”, YouTube

2 Customers 2020, Walker

Gain an industry-trusted UX Course Certificate

You earn a verifiable and industry-trusted Course Certificate once you complete the course. You can highlight them on your resume, CV, LinkedIn profile or your website.

Course Certificate

Our courses and Course Certificates are trusted by these industry leaders, who have taken up company memberships with the IDF:

Centure, Adobe, GE, IBM, Philips and SAP

Lessons in this course

  • Lessons become available at a schedule of one lesson per week.
  • Lessons remain open for you forever and have no deadlines.
  • There is no time limit to finish a course.
  • You have permanent access to your course material, answers, and classmates for the entire duration of your membership.
  • Estimated time to complete: 18 hours 12 mins spread over 10 weeks.

Lesson 0: Welcome and Introduction

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 31 mins.

  • 0.1: A Beginner's Guide to User Experience (2 mins)
  • 0.2: An introduction to IDF courses (4 mins)
  • 0.3: Let our community help you (1 min)
  • 0.4: Meet your peers online in our discussion forums (6 mins)
  • 0.5: Meet and learn from design professionals in your area (1 min)
  • 0.6: Gain Timeless Knowledge Through IDF Courses (10 mins)
  • 0.7: How to earn your Course Certificate (4 mins)
  • 0.8: Mandatory lessons vs. Optional lessons (2 mins)
  • 0.9: A mix between video-based and text-based lesson content (2 mins)

Lesson 1: User Experience: An Introduction and Key Concepts

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 3 hours 39 mins.

  • 1.1: The Subject of User Experience (22 mins)
  • 1.2: What Is Usability? (18 mins)
  • 1.3: What the #$%@ is UX Design? (8 mins)
  • 1.4: Interactive Experience (5 mins)
  • 1.5: The Principle of 'Visibility' (9 mins)
  • 1.6: The Principle of 'Findability' (8 mins)
  • 1.7: The Principle of 'Learnability' (14 mins)
  • 1.8: Following the Information Scent (14 mins)
  • 1.9: Affordances (6 mins)
  • 1.10: Mapping (7 mins)
  • 1.11: Constraints (6 mins)
  • 1.12: Feedback (14 mins)
  • 1.13: Hick's Law (9 mins)
  • 1.14: Fitts's Law (8 mins)
  • 1.15: A Summary of UX Concepts (1 hour 5 mins)
  • 1.16: User Experience - Marc's introduction to User Experience and Experience Design (1 min)
  • 1.17: Design Principles (5 mins)

Lesson 2: User Interface Design Guidelines

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 3 hours 42 mins.

  • 2.1: Shneiderman’s Eight Golden Rules Will Help You Design Better Interfaces (14 mins)
  • 2.2: User Interface Design Guidelines: 10 Rules of Thumb (15 mins)
  • 2.3: Principle of Consistency and Standards in User Interface Design (14 mins)
  • 2.4: Visibility of System Status (8 mins)
  • 2.5: Match System to Real-World (7 mins)
  • 2.6: User Control and Freedom (7 mins)
  • 2.7: Error Prevention (6 mins)
  • 2.8: Recognition Vs. Recall (6 mins)
  • 2.9: Flexibility and Efficiency of Use (7 mins)
  • 2.10: Aesthetic and Minimalist Design (7 mins)
  • 2.11: Aesthetic and Minimalist Design - More Needed Than Ever (6 mins)
  • 2.12: Offer Informative Feedback (6 mins)
  • 2.13: Help and Documentation (6 mins)
  • 2.14: 'Permit Easy Reversal of Actions' (7 mins)
  • 2.15: Provide Informative Feedback (7 mins)
  • 2.16: Reduce Short-Term Memory Load (6 mins)
  • 2.17: Support Internal Locus of Control (9 mins)
  • 2.18: The Psychological Basis for UI Design Rules (1 hour 15 mins)
  • 2.19: The Ten User Experience Design Principles A La Wordpress (1 min)
  • 2.20: Designing the User Experience (1 min)
  • 2.21: UI Design Failures (5 mins)

Lesson 3: The Gestalt Principles of Perceptual Organisation

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 2 hours 11 mins.

  • 3.1: A Valuable List of Gestalt Principles (5 mins)
  • 3.2: 'Law of Pragnanz' (9 mins)
  • 3.3: Applying the Laws (7 mins)
  • 3.4: 'Law of Similarity' (7 mins)
  • 3.5: 'Law of Proximity' (8 mins)
  • 3.6: Law of Familiarity/Meaningfulness (10 mins)
  • 3.7: 'Law of Common Fate' (2 mins)
  • 3.8: 'New' Grouping Laws (6 mins)
  • 3.9: Gestalt Principles: 'New' Grouping Laws (9 mins)
  • 3.10: The Law Of Element Connectedness (7 mins)
  • 3.11: 'Law of Synchrony' (6 mins)
  • 3.12: 'Law of Common Region' and The Origin of The Gestalt Laws (18 mins)
  • 3.13: Figure/Ground Organisation (9 mins)
  • 3.14: 'Figure/Ground': Gestalt Psychology (8 mins)
  • 3.15: Figure/Ground Organisation: An example of Figure/Ground (6 mins)
  • 3.16: Design Considerations (7 mins)
  • 3.17: Gestalt Principles in Practice (6 mins)

Lesson 4: Visual Perception and Colour Vision

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 3 hours 23 mins.

  • 4.1: Understanding Human Vision (11 mins)
  • 4.2: The Fovea and Design (3 mins)
  • 4.3: Anatomy and Function of the Eye (3 mins)
  • 4.4: Colour Vision (10 mins)
  • 4.5: Vision and Design: Using Colour (14 mins)
  • 4.6: Theories of Human Colour Perception (8 mins)
  • 4.7: Colour Blindness (12 mins)
  • 4.8: Photoreceptors fovea (19 mins)
  • 4.9: Object Perception (13 mins)
  • 4.10: Visual Perception: Vision and Design (16 mins)
  • 4.11: Vision and Design: Using Images (9 mins)
  • 4.12: Context and other influences (22 mins)
  • 4.13: Vision and Attention (13 mins)
  • 4.14: Vanishing Head Illusion (6 mins)
  • 4.15: Vision and Design (9 mins)
  • 4.16: Visual Perception: Icon Design (12 mins)
  • 4.17: 25 Excellent Websites Using Bold Vibrant Colours (5 mins)
  • 4.18: Color Vision 1: Color Basics (15 mins)
  • 4.19: Visual Design: Positive and Negative Experience (5 mins)

Lesson 5: Usability Considerations

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 3 hours 14 mins.

  • 5.1: Simply Simplify (5 mins)
  • 5.2: Simplicity in Design (7 mins)
  • 5.3: Simplify Task Structure (3 mins)
  • 5.4: Simplify Navigation (8 mins)
  • 5.5: Consistency (9 mins)
  • 5.6: Avoid 'Tech-Speak' and Negative Affect (9 mins)
  • 5.7: Don Norman: The Three Ways That Good Design Makes You Happy (18 mins)
  • 5.8: User Experience - Marc's Advice on Designing with Experience in Mind (11 mins)
  • 5.9: User Experience - Marc's Main Guidelines and Ethical Considerations (7 mins)
  • 5.10: External Cognition (8 mins)
  • 5.11: 'Chunking' (3 mins)
  • 5.12: Drawing Users' Attention (9 mins)
  • 5.13: Banner Blindness (8 mins)
  • 5.14: Serial Position Effect (3 mins)
  • 5.15: Customization Tools (7 mins)
  • 5.16: Shortcuts and Memory (6 mins)
  • 5.17: Retain Goal-Relevant Information (7 mins)
  • 5.18: Security (8 mins)
  • 5.19: Preventing Errors (6 mins)
  • 5.20: Protect the Areas at Most Risk (5 mins)
  • 5.21: Slow Loading Text: Designing Interfaces (10 mins)
  • 5.22: Slow Loading Images: Designing Interfaces (7 mins)
  • 5.23: Important Superficial Decisions (4 mins)
  • 5.24: Context of Use (6 mins)
  • 5.25: Focus On Users (6 mins)
  • 5.26: Usability Considerations (5 mins)
  • 5.27: Using Sound (2 mins)
  • 5.28: Why Does User Experience Matter? (1 min)
  • 5.29: The Value of Experience Design (1 min)
  • 5.30: The UX Design Process (1 min)
  • 5.31: Discussion Exercise (5 mins)

Lesson 6: User Error: Who is to blame?

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 1 hour 10 mins.

  • 6.1: British Midlands Flight 92 (5 mins)
  • 6.2: Who is to blame? (14 mins)
  • 6.3: The USS Vincennes (11 mins)
  • 6.4: The Air Inter Flight 148 Crash (8 mins)
  • 6.5: The Space Shuttle Columbia (7 mins)
  • 6.6: The Herald of Free Enterprise (2 mins)
  • 6.7: The Three Mile Island Nuclear Disaster (7 mins)
  • 6.8: Air France Flight 447 (9 mins)
  • 6.9: User Errors: What went Wrong? (6 mins)

Lesson 7: Usability Testing and Evaluation

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 2 hours 39 mins.

  • 7.1: Usability Evaluation (51 mins)
  • 7.2: Recommended reading (1 min)
  • 7.3: The Importance of Usability Testing (6 mins)
  • 7.4: 15 methods for ensuring user acceptance and business success (1 hour 39 mins)
  • 7.5: A-Z Guide to Optimization (1 min)
  • 7.6: The movement toward mobile devices (1 min)

Lesson 8: Inspection Methods: Practice and Application

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 41 mins.

  • 8.1: Heuristic Evaluation: Usability Inspection Methods (11 mins)
  • 8.2: Cognitive Walkthrough: Usability Inspection Methods (10 mins)
  • 8.3: User Experience - Future directions of User Experience and Experience Design (7 mins)
  • 8.4: When to use Which UX Methods (1 min)
  • 8.5: Customer Journey Maps - Walking a Mile in Your Customer’s Shoes (4 mins)
  • 8.6: Quick Start Guide to UX Design (1 min)
  • 8.7: Is it time to Rethink your Website? (1 min)
  • 8.8: Carrying Out a Heuristic Evaluation of a Product (6 mins)

Lesson 9: Usability Testing: Practical Application

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 1 hour 17 mins.

  • 9.1: Practical Issues: User-Centred Design (8 mins)
  • 9.2: What are the user's needs? (14 mins)
  • 9.3: What are the alternative designs? (10 mins)
  • 9.4: How do I choose an alternative design? (8 mins)
  • 9.5: Integrating UCD and Other Life-Cycle Models (28 mins)
  • 9.6: Usability Testing (1 min)
  • 9.7: Are you a UX Statistic? (1 min)
  • 9.8: A Guide to UX Careers (1 min)
  • 9.9: How to become a User Experience Designer (1 min)
  • 9.10: Discussion Forum (5 mins)

Lesson 10: Course Certificate, Final Networking, and Course Wrap-up

To be scheduled.

  • 10.1: Course Evaluation (1 min)

How others have benefited

Veena Sankaranarayanan

Veena Sankaranarayanan, Australia

“I learnt a good deal from various lesson items and design examples. I also appreciate how repeating key topics helped me memorise them and kept me well involved. Thank you.”

Evgeni Manov

Evgeni Manov, Bulgaria

“The quality of information provided surprised me!! Good job IDF!! Keep moving forward!”

Donato Colatorti

Donato Colatorti, Italy

“I'm very happy to have concluded this course. I learnt lot of interesting things... so thank you!”

How to advance your career with IDF courses

  1. Attend lessons at your own pace

    Each week throughout the course, you get access to a new lesson, but you can move through the lessons at your own pace. This means you can learn before you leave for work, or in between breaks — in as little as 15 minutes per day.

  2. Network online and offline

    Network with your fellow course-takers online, through discussion forums inside lessons. You can also connect with your peers offline via IDF’s Local Groups. Local Groups connect you with other designers around your city who share the same passion in UX design as you.

  3. Advance your career

    Get a verifiable and industry-trusted Course Certificate once you’ve scored at least 70% on a course. Highlight your Course Certificates on your résumé, your LinkedIn profile, or your website to showcase your newly mastered skills.

Start advancing your career now

Become a member to take “User Experience: The Beginner's Guide”. Take any other IDF UX courses at no additional cost. Take a concrete step forward in your career path today.

Frequently asked questions

I missed the enrollment date and now the course is closed. Will I have any opportunity to take the course in the future?

Don't worry if you missed the course. We will re-run it shortly. One of the reasons we continually open and close courses is to be able to control the classroom size.

Networking is a large part of our value proposition, so we want just the right number of people inside the courses. That is also why we display the "XX % percent booked" on our course icons.

We’ll re-schedule the course and make it available for sign-up on in only about a week (or perhaps a little bit longer). The actual start date of the course will be a few weeks after sign-ups begin too. We’ve found that this is the best way to maximize flexibility and convenience for everyone, especially you as you put your course program together.

Can I take more than one course at a time?
Yes, you can take all the courses you would like. For example, if there are 30 active courses, you can enroll in all 30 courses at the same time and move from one to the other as you please.

There are no further charges once you’ve paid for your membership.

Please note: If you have a student membership, you can take a maximum of two courses at the same time. As a student, you can thus still take all the courses you would like – free of extra charges – just as long as you finish them (or drop them) so that you don’t have more than three ongoing courses at the same time.
Do I have to be online at an exact time to study?

No. You can set your own study schedule. There are no "live sessions" or "webinars" since our members are from all timezones around the world. We are a truly global community – with members in every single corner of the world.

Thus, once you are enrolled, you can take all the time you want to complete a given course. Every "classroom" in each course will never close, so you’ll have permanent access to your classmates and your course material (as well as your own answers).

Will I receive a Course Certificate?

Yes. Every time you complete a course, you get an industry-recognized Course Certificate. There is no limit to how many Course Certificates you can earn during your membership. You will also receive a 3-step guide on how to include your Course Certificate on LinkedIn and in your résumé/CV.

You can see an example of a Course Certificate at the bottom of the Course Catalogue.

I have answered questions in a lesson; when will they be marked/graded?
We do the marking/grading in so-called "sprints," where we sit down and do all the marking/grading in one go. Your answers will be graded approximately two weeks after you submit your work. 
We do this because it is much more efficient than doing one little step every day. It's part of our lean/agile work philosophy, and that approach to efficiency is one of the factors that keeps our membership prices so incredibly low.
We are doing it to save you money and as part of our mission to lower the cost of high-quality design education.
I have updated my name, but my course certificate is not updated — how can I change it?
Once you update your name, the certificate will be updated automatically in the next 48 hours. 
I have started the course/lesson later than the specified date, are my answers still going to be marked?

We will be marking answers for as long as there are active members. Therefore, even if you are the only person taking a lesson at that particular time, your answers will still be marked.

How are courses graded?

Open-ended questions are graded by our experts and course instructors - not by machines.

That's one of the reasons why our Course Certificates are credible and recognized by industry leaders.

I started a course after the official start date; for how long will I have access to the course materials?

Regardless of when you have enrolled on a course, you will have access to the course materials for the entire duration of your membership. So, if you pay for a one-year membership, you will have access for one year, renewing your membership for a second year means you will have access for two years, and so on.

New lessons are starting before I have had the chance to complete all aspects of the previous lesson(s); am I going to be locked out of these unfinished lessons?

No, you will not be locked out of any lesson or course. You will have access to all course materials throughout your membership, so there is no pressure to keep at the same pace as the specified lesson release dates.

All we recommend is that you try to stick to the same schedule as other participants. The reason is they may have moved on to other lessons, thereby meaning you could miss out on the social aspects of the course(s). However, we anticipate that there will be a constant flow of participants working through different lessons and courses, so overall you are unlikely to miss out. We will also be running all courses again — so there really is no rush.

Are course certificates awarded on a specific date?

No; you can generate your certificate as soon as you attain at least 70% of the total course points.

When will I receive my Course Certificate?

Course certificates will be given to participants when they have scored more than 70% or more of the total course points. For example, if a course contains ten lessons each with ten questions, you will receive a course certificate when the instructor has awarded you at least 70 points (70% of the total course points).

There is no specified time that certificates will be awarded — instead, they are given to participants as and when they have answered all questions, even if this is long after the official end date.

How do I add my Course Certificate to my LinkedIn profile?

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to add your IDF course(s) to your LinkedIn profile:

  1. Log in to your LinkedIn account, then go to your profile.
  2. On the right, in the Add profile section dropdown, choose Background and then select the + next to Licenses & Certifications.

  3. In the following fields add:
    • Name – Course name
    • Issuing organization – The Interaction Design Foundation
    • Check the field “This credential does not expire”
    • Issue date - Input the date written on your certificate (e.g., May 2019)
    • Credential ID – Your membership ID number (it's written on your certificate)
    • Credential URL: Input the certificate URL provided on your course page

  4. Click on the save button.

Congratulate yourself!
You’ve made a great accomplishment by earning your course certificate, and now the world knows about it!

How do I add the IDF Membership Certificate to my LinkedIn Profile?

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to add your IDF membership certificate to your LinkedIn profile:

  1. Log in to your LinkedIn account, then go to your profile.
  2. On the right, in the Add profile section dropdown, choose Background and then select the + next to Licenses & Certifications.

  3. In the following fields add:
    • Name – Membership Certificate
    • Issuing organization – The Interaction Design Foundation
    • Check the field “This credential does not expire”
    • Issue date - Input the date when you joined our community (e.g., May 2019)
    • Credential ID – Your membership ID number (it's written on your certificate)
    • Credential URL: Input the certificate URL provided on your profile page
  4. Click on the save button.

It is as simple as that. Now, anyone who visits your profile can see your certificate!

How much will I have to pay for the courses?

As a member, you can take as many courses as you want with no additional costs. This means you only have to pay our membership fee to take an unlimited number of courses. There will be no further charges on top of the membership fee, no matter how many courses you decide to take.

Do you provide mostly beginners' or more advanced courses?

We provide courses for all levels of mastery and accross the full spectrum. If you’re new to design, you can start from our beginner courses and progress all the way up to our advanced ones. If you’re an established designer, on the other hand, you will find some of our lower-level courses provide a good refresher—and the advanced ones, a bit of a challenge.

How long does it take to complete a course?

Once enrolled in a course, you will gain access to a new lesson each week, which you are free to complete without any deadlines and no end date, either.