If you are looking for a simple way to deepen or broaden your design skills across service design and design thinking, UX, and UI, then I would highly recommend the Interaction Design Foundation courses.
They would also be great for anyone who wants to know more about design thinking, UX, and UI for personal or professional interest.
I did my first IDF course in late 2018 and have now done four courses covering design thinking, UX, UI, and information visualisation. All of the courses are helping me become a better service designer by more deeply understanding the design process and learning new techniques, which I am using every day. There are plenty of downloadable templates too, so I have been able to build up a collection of templates that can guide me on different design projects.
The courses are also enabling me to work more effectively with UX/UI designers now that I understand more of their world and the way they work.
The Design Thinking course takes you through the human-centred design process. It gives an overview of the end-to-end process, and then goes through each of the empathise, define, ideate, prototype, test stages, covering the principles and the methods and techniques for each. I have been a service designer for about four years, so much of it was not new but it was a useful refresher on the methods for each stage, and when and why to use them. I found the session on alternatives to brainstorming really useful, and am now running more effective workshops not only for ideation, but also customer journey mapping.
In the UX course, I learnt more about the business benefits and the return on investment, of UX, as well as how to design experiences that satisfy emotional as well as functional needs for users. These principles are important for all designers, not just UX designers. And learning about benefits to be able to sell the value of design is very useful.
In some respects, I found the UI Design Patterns course even more helpful as it taught me about visual hierarchy, visual design principles, what users are typically trying to achieve on websites, as well as common design patterns. I am only partway through this course, so am looking forward to learning more…. I have been applying the principles to designing powerpoint presentations, which is working well, and i have had some really good feedback on my presentations.
I did the Information Visualisation course mostly for general interest. I have always been interested in how to present information in a way that is easily understood by viewers, and even better, is scannable so a user can understand and get meaning from a visualisation, even if they only skim it. Like all the courses, it gave a good framework for how to design a good visualisation, and questions at the end of each lesson that made you apply what you had learnt in a practical scenario. Some of the software mentioned is possibly a bit dated, but the principles about how humans ‘see’ information are still relevant.
The good news is the courses are very cost-effective. The IDF is a not-for-profit foundation and the price is $14 per month in Australia (about US$10) for unlimited courses. It is also credible. Don Norman, the UX pioneer and author of The Design of Everyday Things, sits on their advisory board.
The courses are online so you can do them at your own pace. Each course has about 8 lessons, and each lesson takes about 2 hours. I do them on Saturday mornings with the dog and a coffee!