Interaction Design Foundation Reviews: Answers to frequently asked questions by members

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For as long as we’ve been running the Interaction Design Foundation, we’ve been asked many of the same questions: for example, “I know nothing about UX Design; can I still benefit from your courses?”, or, “Can I use my graphic design experience to become a UX Designer?”, and many more.

Rather than try to answer too many of these ourselves, we figured we should let our very own members do the talking. For years, we’ve been fortunate enough to have enjoyed tremendous popularity among our members, and many of them have been kind enough to write in-depth and empathetic reviews that pre-empt questions they know many potential students may have. Let’s get to it!

Is an online education really comparable to programs offered at prestigious universities?

Forbes Magazine ran a wonderful feature on our mission. In the first sentence, the author compares our courses to the calibre of those you would find at an Ivy League university:

“Imagine getting an Ivy League level education in UX, product design or human-computer interaction from the comfort of your home – anywhere in the world. What sounds like the offer from a spam email is actually the open-source education reality that Denmark’s Interaction Design Foundation has devoted the last decade to promoting.

Built over the foundation’s 10-year history, IDF’s library of design-focused courseware and textbooks includes contributions from faculty at the likes of Stanford, Harvard and MIT and researchers from IBM, Google and Apple and boasts over 16M readers to date.”

Read J Maureen Henderson’s full feature on the Interaction Design Foundation in Forbes Magazine.

Why should I choose IDF when there are so many different competitors offering similar courses?

Answered by Rhys Merritt:

“After looking into some courses like udemy, nngroup, and general assembly, we were a little put off by price and availability — then we found Interaction Design Foundation, and it seemed to answer all of our questions, and then some. Not only was it remote friendly, but we only paid £96 per year for full access to any course! It was our answer.”

Read Rhys’s full review of the Interaction Design Foundation.

We’ve tackled the question of how much money people should invest in their design education at some length in a UX Daily article titled “How to calculate the ROI of a design education”. Simply put, at as little as $10 a month, there’s no comparison between our offering and that of our competitors. We are first and foremost a non-profit educational institute. This is the direct opposite of commercial MOOC platforms that spike up their prices as the amount of material on their platforms increases.

We publish hundreds of textbooks and articles that are completely free to read. As we cover more and more of our costs, we cut down membership fees. Our fees are also subsidized for students from developing countries.

Are your UX courses suitable for beginners?

Matt Donnelly’s introduction to his review sounds straight out of an episode of Silicon Valley:

“I had just been hired as a copywriter and a content strategist for a small software-as-a-service (SaaS) startup in Boston. ‘This will be a piece of cake,’ I thought. ‘I’ve written blogs before. I’ve written snappy headlines. Been there, done that.’

My next-door neighbor in our open office plan was a young woman with thick, black-rimmed glasses. I met her minutes after I arrived for my first day of work.

Hi, nice to meet you. I’m the UX designer. I look forward to working with you.’

I paused. UX designer? I’d never heard of a UX designer.”

If you’re curious, there was a happy ending; read Matt’s full review to find out.

The Interaction Design Foundation has courses for everybody—and we mean absolutely everybody. Don’t know a thing about UX design? No problem; we’re here to get you started. Already built two beautiful digital products that are super successful? Great! Head to our courses for advanced students now and—for all you know—you might just get a brilliant idea for what your next project should be.

Are your courses useful for professionals already working in the industry?

Absolutely—yes! In fact, we ran a check through our member database, and over 65% of our members are, in fact, design professionals. Our emphasis on teaching through timeless concepts makes it very useful for professionals who need to adapt knowledge to different contexts.

Just have a look at Fernando Carreon’s story:

“I work as an Interaction Designer at one of the big companies at Silicon Valley and I have been here for a little bit less than a year. 15 years ago most of us at the Web business were Jacks of all trades, but you may know that to have a strong value as a professional you must specialize on whatever you must love. I always try to be informed about anything and Interaction Design is not an exception, so when I discovered The Interaction Design Foundation, I decided that I must give it a shot. I got access to tons of information and UX courses. It was better than having an exclusive Interaction Design or UX library. The way of learning kept me focused and engaged as I could interact with other Interaction Designers while taking those valuable courses.”

You can read Fernando’s full story here. It’s appropriately titled “Improving your career with Interaction Design Foundation”.

Can I build my own app after taking your courses?

The answer to that is yes, but there’s more to it than that. It’s understandable that in such a competitive industry you need to learn skills quickly, but it’s much more important to know exactly what you’re doing if you want to stand out.

Jennifer Arlington writes:

“The key thing to note here is that in an industry filled with ‘quick-fixes’, these courses are fighting the de-intellectualization of design.

That’s not to say you won’t learn practical skills, but the emphasis is on maintaining relevance in a world so fast-paced that softwares become obsolete in the time it takes to learn them. You learn timeless concepts based on fundamental principles, infinitely adaptable to different contexts.”

Jennifer has a very informative review of the Interaction Design Foundation; it’s a great introduction to our teaching methodology.

If I’m studying UX at university, will I still benefit from becoming a member?

Not only is the answer to that question yes, but we even have a discounted “Student” membership especially for that, too. In our constantly changing world, there’s nothing more important than supplementing your classroom learning when you come home. You might be super inspired by your professor, but without a properly organized library of material, you’ll find it very difficult to remain intellectually stimulated outside of the classroom.

“I am a graduate student in HCI and UX design. During this frantic and frenetic ‘season’ of my life, all I can think about is how much I can learn now, in order to feel confident at work, after I graduate. This is where IDF has been most helpful. If you don’t have time for using the foundation’s website for networking, for reading randomly the research articles, then you can really focus on your weak points through their courses. IDF’s courses filled a lot of the gaps in my graduate education, and they are specialized by topics that are narrow enough for you to feel like a specialist, once you complete them.

The courses range from Affordances, to UI Patterns, to Design Thinking, to Ajax— anywhere up to about 30 courses running at any given time, and they range from beginner to advanced. What is special about the courses at IDF is that they are comprehensive, well-founded in research, and very thorough. They make you think. And it is hard to go through more than a paragraph without having to take a thinking break, just to digest the material and incorporate it deep into the personal knowledge storage. Then, all this knowledge is immediately applicable in my courses, providing a competitive edge, and making it an all-around satisfying experience.”

Read Vera’s full review of the Interaction Design Foundation here; this one’s written specifically for students enrolled in HCI and UX courses at university.

Is it true that there are real human beings working as course instructors to help you learn and grade your work?

IDF Design League fellow Paolo Sammicheli writes:

“The thing that I appreciated most is that for many lessons you got exercises to do that are not the typical multi-choice tests. You've to write the answers in plain English and then the trainer will review it providing feedbacks and suggestion. That's really valuable for the students, especially for those who are not English native speakers like me: It helps also in practicing the English language while staying at home.

Many trainings are self-paced so you can find the time even in busy schedules to follow the class and read the material. This is perfect for workers, especially for those who commute every day.”

Read Paolo’s review of our user experience courses here.

Having dedicated course instructors is one of the things that makes us stand out way above the rest. Mentors, coaches, teachers, call them what you will, there’s simply no alternative to learning from experts who’ve been there and done that. “Peer-reviewing” is popular on many MOOC platforms, but it is at best a mediocre alternative to no grading at all. Compared to that, our courses ask you to write verbal answers that get graded by real teachers.

Are the course certificates awarded by the Interaction Design Foundation worth anything?

Industry recognition is an extremely shaky territory; everyone claims to offer it, and thus the importance of authentic signifiers of knowledge gets diluted. Many designers and developers working in the biggest startups today never went to formal universities. As work experience and technical proficiency become more and more important, self-taught professionals can compete and fare better than college graduates.

To get your foot in the door, it’s invaluable to have proof of your knowledge (unless you’re starting your own company, of course). Read Dimitrios’s experience of moving to Berlin and struggling to find a job:

“I realized that specially for the German market, educational background functions like proof of knowledge (something that is not valid for the Greek market, where proof lies within the end product). Therefore, I often had various questions like ‘Where did you learn user research?’, ‘When did you learn about mobile design?’, ‘Where did you learn about responsive design?’, etc., where most of them would be answered: ‘From my university studies, 10 years ago.’

As you understand, the UX field was nearly non-existent 10 years ago, same with responsive design and most technologies used today. And even though you may have worked with them for the last 5+ years, your proof of knowledge still remains outdated.”

You can read Dimitrios’s full account of the importance of certification in design here.

Is there genuinely a sense of being a part of an active community when you join the IDF?

Chhavi Shrivastava begins by saying she’s no good at reviews but she can tell a great story:

“Around two years back, for sometime I had been lingering around the discussions in the IDF community, still in that learning user-interface-is-a-part-of-user-experience phase of a newbie designer.

In just one of my lingering sessions, I saw a message on a group chat asking if someone is up to do the ACM CHI 2016 design challenge together. Within hours we had connected. Turned out she too was a novice in design too and was venturing out with this. Armed with the user experience courses of IDF, we, living across the world to each other (she pursuing her PhD from University of California, Santa Barbara and I, Bachelor’s of Design, IIT Guwahati, India) and enrolled in full-time academic courses, decided to complete this in less than 15 days. What followed were days when we worked at odd hours, scrounged IDF for user experience courses and used excessive amounts of Google Drive and Hangouts.”

That’s an inspiring story if there ever was one. Read Chhavi’s review of Interaction Design Foundation here.

Who are the people behind the Interaction Design Foundation’s mission?

The people behind this mammoth project are notoriously publicity averse, with almost no interviews or public appearances available. Instead, they choose to focus on the task of achieving their over-ambitious goals. In this core77 review of the Interaction Design Foundation’s open-access design textbooks, the founder and editor gives a glimpse into what keeps the team motivated to do what they do:

"If we give away free knowledge and free educational resources on how to design technology and things, then we can create a better world, both aesthetically and in regards to productivity," noted Editor in Chief Mads Soegaard in an interview with Core77. Soegaard founded the Interaction Design Foundation and heads it up with his wife, Rikke Dam. They brought together writers from universities like MIT and Cambridge and companies like Yahoo and IBM to contribute their writings to the foundation (Core77's own Don Norman serves on the board, too).”
Read the whole Interaction Design Foundation review on core77.com here.

Can non-members benefit from the Interaction Design Foundation?

Answered by Hai Ho:

IDF’s open-sourced literature, used by institutions like MIT and the University of Cambridge, are rich in information on topics ranging from gamification to social design.

Their cornerstone publication, The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction, is currently in its second iteration and is actually a compilation of work written by Ivy League professors, expert designers, and bestselling authors such as Don Norman.If you’re short on time (like many of us are) or simply looking for a lighter read than an encyclopedia, browse through UX Daily, a hub for countless of great articles on topics surrounding user experience design.

The best part about the books and articles? They’re completely free to read — no membership required.

You can read Hai Ho’s full review of the Interaction Design Foundation here.

Our model of open access publishing offers an alternative to academics and professionals wanting to share their work. Traditional journals and academic publishers work on outdated models of paywalls that benefit no one. At the cost of forgoing some royalties, authors publishing with us have the satisfaction of knowing that their work will have a massive impact on the world and will be read by hundreds of thousands of students.

The benefit to our readers is obvious - without any monetary investment they get access to the latest cutting edge research in user experience and design. Ultimately the net benefit of free information is invaluable, and our readers have enough content to literally never stop learning.

What kind of effort does creating an organization like the Interaction Design Foundation involve?

The Interaction Design Foundation is the outcome of 14 years of blood, sweat and tears. The open access ideology was never allowed to get in the way of quality. The unique value proposition is what attracted the very first people who championed the cause, because they truly believed in it. Going against all odds, the organization has managed to overcome tough challenges because of the superhuman effort involved in ensuring quality.

Robyn Collinge from the Usabilla team writes:

Founders Mads Soegaard and Rikke Dam don’t take gathering their information lightly. The pair flew to Germany and spent several days recording world-renowned, Marc Hassenzahl, in order to create a free textbook on User Experience. They also spent time at Cambridge University with a film crew persuading a museum to let them film after hours, in order to create some impressive resources on Visual Representation.

Their global community now reaches 471 local groups in 84 countries, prompting users all over the world to frequently host meetups where both members and non-members alike can get together to discuss quality design. As Soegaard describes it, “The IDF is a global movement to advocate great design and what great design can do for humankind. Nothing less.

You can read the rest of Robyn’s review of the Interaction Design Foundation on the Usabilla blog.

Why is an education in Interaction Design the need of the hour?

The real world is rapidly changing because of the digital interfaces all around us. With more and more complex ideas being tackled, designers need to undergo intensive learning to build truly great digital products.

Our attempt to focus on timeless design concepts rather than context specific information makes it ideally suited for an already experienced design professional looking to expand their skillset and make a career change.

Sergio Haruo writes:

I have worked mostly with print design and now I want to work with digital product design. One of the reasons I find interaction design so interesting is that analyzes design and human behavior, subjects that I am highly interested. Another reason is that digital products can be updated as we better understand the necessities from users and results can be measured easier than print design, giving a great feel that your work had an actual impact on the product.

You can read Sergio’s full review of the Interaction Design Foundation on the UX Blog.

References

Hero Image: Author/Copyright holder: Sebastien Wiertz. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY 2.0


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