Bloc Design Bootcamp – Week 1

The very general flow of the Bloc Design curriculum is fundamentals and then moving into the intensive. The first few weeks I’ll be lightly touching on UX and design, then moving into the more intensive learning of UX, design and front end development as I build projects. I’m currently in the 72-week pace at  12-15 hours a week. My plan is to stick to this pace for the first month and see how much I can realistically commit to.

Week 1 – Design Process

The first day or so of this week was simply figuring it all out. How the roadmap works, how to submit things, how to prepare for my mentor calls, etc. This week was also a mental reset for me. Our second check point of the program was on the Design Process which was a completely new and exciting way to think of designing a product.

Design Process: Discovery, strategy, information architecture, visual design, development, launch.

I spent one night trying to read as much as I could about this “Design Process” and how design thinking can be implemented. I ordered Change by Design to read and hope to have it finished by next week. (Review to come.)

Week 1 – Discovery

Main checkpoints covered this week: User research, surveys, SWOT analysis, user stories, and personas. I administered my first survey on wearables, and currently working on recapping my findings into an analysis.

Mentorship is Where It Is At

The most rewarding piece of this week was meeting with my mentor and having that single resource reviewing and providing feedback on my work. This is a topic I plan on elaborating on in the future.

Recap: 7 check points done // 2 still need revisions

The Bloc Product Design Bootcamp Curriculum

Bloc Design Bootcamp Roadmap

When looking at design programs I wanted something that would future proof me as much as possible. I realize that isn’t completely possible but as an example, many 4-year undergrad programs are teaching outdated curriculums and not able to respond as quickly to the tech market as students need. In contrast, the Bloc program has a “roadmap” aka curriculum that they are always updating to prepare students for the latest technology or portfolio prep.

Breakdown of the Bloc Design Curriculum

The future proofing doesn’t stop at Bloc with their curriculum updates, it is also included in what they are teaching. I looked at MANY UX and Frontend development bootcamp programs (springboard, Thinkful, designLab, General Assembly, etc.) and none of them compared with the spectrum of subjects Bloc teaches. The Product Design bootcamp includes UX, design, and frontend skills. Knowing my personality, I wanted to know a little bit of everything about UX  and as a topic or “checkpoint” interests me within Bloc’s roadmap then I dig deeper. Unfortunately, as I make this switch to UX designer – I don’t know what I don’t know and I LOVE that Bloc presents you with everything from UX research, wireframing, and using Github to build amazing products that solve user problems.

You can find more details on the program here.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, I went with Bloc because of their curriculum, 1 on 1 mentor time, and the virtual learning. I’m not in a place that I can quit my job and sign up for a 12-week immersive program, and I don’t think that is for me either. My goal is to add skills to my current marketing and analytics skills, I believe the best way to do that is by layering on bootcamp instead of going cold turkey on my current career.

If you are looking reviews or curriculums from other UX bootcamps, check out UX Mastery.

Choosing a Coding Bootcamp

Last fall, I started putting more effort towards learning front-end development (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript) using online resources like free Code Camp and Udemy. I had dabbled in web design and development over the years. Starting in high school, I helped develop our high school’s website in the late 90’s, built custom Blogger themes for my personal blog in high school to college, and have the functional skills to get WordPress themes or plugins to do what I need from them. As a digital marketer, I have also learned website structure for more advanced SEO and tagging events for analytics.

After a month or so of putting in 20 hours of work a week in the evenings, I was hooked. I loved the gratification of building things and problem-solving. One of the biggest down falls I felt from my online learning journey was the learning silo I lived in. Yes, there are some forums and Udemy does a great job of providing project feedback but in the end, I was learning from pre-recorded seminars and not interacting with others. At this point of my coding journey, I started looking at coding boot camps as a potential solution.

Researching Code Schools

My research for code schools looked like this:

Read Course Report. Deep dive each of the top 5 coding schools in Denver and online.

Look for 3rd party information like reviews, videos, blogs, and users with Twitter accounts that say they are attending.

Repeat.

I did this for hours upon hours. Course Report is helpful but I feel like the programs that do a good job pushing their current students to review them are the ones that are top ranked. All the video interviews or discussions on Course Report are also wonderful but again – I felt like they were practiced scripts. The two best resources I found were 1. networking to find actual people that had attended, are attending, have hired graduates or are mentors, 2. Harass the schools. Some are really canned in their responses. They host mostly pre-recorded webinars and their contact doesn’t know much about the field.

In the end, I was torn between a prestigious code school, Turing, and one of the first online code schools, Bloc. Turing is local to Denver and I know several graduates and teachers. Their non-profit structure seems legit and they have a great reputation in the market. Bloc had one of the best advisor programs I dealt with for online options (the offline versions like Turing or HackReactor were far superior to the online versions.) I never felt pushed and they were happy to introduce me to actual mentors or students instead of feeling like everything was behind a black curtain for online learning.

Choosing Bloc for Coding Boot Camp

In the end, I decided on Bloc because of the online platform with a flexible schedule. Depending on what type of “track” you are attending there are different paces you can pick from. You can go full time or down to 10-15 hours a week. Due to being online, the platform is very flexible other than scheduled meetings with your mentor. Most traditional immersive boot camps require you to basically live and breathe coding for 12 weeks to 6 months. As a mom to a young child this simply wasn’t feasible for me unless we hired a full-time nanny (again not feasible.)

A change in course

This is where things got interesting for me.

I originally was looking at the Software Engineering or the Web Development courses. I researched these options A TON. I contacted recruiters, software engineering friends, etc. I finally was on the call Bloc and the advisor asked if I had looked at their design course. My jaw dropped and I was dumb founded.

Let’s Rewind for a Moment

One thing I failed to mention before now is that I originally went to school for Graphic Design and hated it. It was too fluffy. I couldn’t imagine pushing pixels to create something that my client or boss requested. Often these requests had no reason besides a “gut feeling.” It seemed boring and a waste. I left design school and went into sales/marketing, never looking back other than knowing how to use Adobe products better than most.

I never looked at Bloc’s design course for that reason. Little did I know it was more about USER DESIGN. The concepts of strategy, user research, planning, testing, and front-end development.

After my call with that advisor, I literally had to take a break for a day to absorb the conversation and my thoughts swirling about it. A simple call with an advisor somehow felt like someone had shifted my career plates that have always been slightly off the groove and snapped them into place.

I could reignite my passion for creating things with my background in marketing, analytics, and usability testing? Sign me up!

Then I Received an Amazing Job Offer

I wasn’t looking for a job but an old friend ended up looking for me in a perfect position of managing marketing, design, and brand for Bike Law – a network of independent bicycle lawyers. (I’ve worked around the bike industry most of my life and a bike nut.) I wasn’t really sure how I would balance throwing myself head first into a design boot camp while starting a new job. I ultimately decided to take several classes with Treehouse while I settled into the new position for about 7 months. All of this brings us to today and when I have signed back up with Bloc Design Boot Camp. Starting in September you’ll find me at my computer every night as I get through an intensive few months!

Goals for Boot Camp

In a future post, I plan on setting my intentions (now posted here) but I think my two overarching goals for the next 12 months are 1. A balance between family, work, and school. Each will have their own place that will push and pull at different times, but I need to find happiness in that and feel fortunate that I have the opportunity to continue my education. 2. Trust the process. This won’t be easy and I need to trust that if I put the work in the results will follow.

In closing, I haven’t found a ton of documentation on Design Boot Camps so I will be trying to update weekly on what I’m working on and the outcomes. Let me know if you have specific questions I should cover!

 

Beginning Bloc Design Bootcamp

setting intentions - treehouse front end tech degree

A simple exercise of setting my intentions for the next year with the Bloc Design Bootcamp.

Macro Goals

  • Keeping a balance between family, work, and school. Each will have their own place that will push and pull at different times, but I need to find happiness in that and feel fortunate that I have the opportunity to continue my education.
  • Trust the process. This won’t be easy and I need to trust that if I put the work in the results will follow.

Detailed Goals

  • 20 hours per week spent on bloc
  • Work ahead when possible. I’m currently on the longest track possible at 15 hours per week. I hope to spend September getting in a groove so that I can dedicate more hours per week to move at a faster pace BUT always going back to my #1 goal of family / work / school balance.
  • Finish in 1 year
  • Directly apply user research, design, and front-end development to my day job with Bike Law. This is the most in the weeds goal but the one I hope to think through more as I get into the program to see how I can directly use new education to apply to my work.

 

UX Resources for Beginners in 2017

UX Resources for Beginners 2017

It has been a fun ride over the past 10 years watching the UX practice evolve and develop. The practice is widely accepted and used by small businesses to full departments in Fortune 500 companies. As the industry grows so do the resources and possible places to learn about User Experience and all of the sub-specialities that make it up. Below is a curated list of my go to UX resources for beginners as of May 2017.


What is User Experience & Why Does It Matter

There are 3 main resources I point true beginners towards

1. Start with this video from UX Mastery

2. Getting Started in UX – an ebook from UX Mastery

3. Making the World a Better Place Through User Experience


UX Blogs and Newsletters You Should Be Signed Up For

I’ve tried hundreds of UX blogs and newsletters over the years. Here are my top 5, because after 5 it becomes white noise.

  1. Intercom.io Newsletter / Blog – I personally subscribe to Intercoms newsletter and enjoy the read every week. They are setting a very high standard for SaaS businesses to deliver exceptional content.
  2. Smashing Mag – UX – Great content focused more on the design than tech side of UX.
  3. “UX” tag on Medium – check it once a week (around Wednesday or Thursday). This typically pulls in anything I may have missed and it allows me to stay engaged through commenting and liking articles.
  4. 52 Weeks of UX – Originally a blog and now a project for anyone to reference. I try to read a week as often as possible, maybe once every 1-2 weeks. I’ve read through this project about 2-3 times now and it’s always a good reminder of why we are doing this or sparks a new idea or project.
  5. The Futur – A YouTube channel dedicated to the future of online education for creative entrepreneurs.

What resources for beginners do you recommend? Let me know in the comment section below!

DJI Spark – The Drone That User Experience Built

DJI Spark Drone

As a UX professional and content creator that passionately tries to create every single day, I have a vast supply of equipment at my fingertips. Cameras of all levels and types, computers, drones, gimbals, and the list goes on. Most of these products are out of necessity. 4k, steadier shots, larger memory – you get the point.

Rarely, do I pick up a new product and think to myself – this product is going to change how I create content because it was focused on the user. I can say with excitement, the new DJI Spark drone that was launched today was built on user experience – solving problems (!) and not features jammed in a terrible experience.

Meet the DJI Spark

This is the drone that everyone is going to want, and it will become the new selfie stick of 2017.

  • MSRP of $500 or $700 with accessories
  • Small as your cell phone
  • Easy to use with hand motion, your cell phone or remote control
  • Advanced “Intelligent Flight Modes” making flying easy for everyone

Finally, a drone that can pack in my bag and that I’m comfortable using around my family.

Finally, a drone that is jam packed with the latest software without requiring a $1300 price tag

Finally, a drone I can happily recommend to friends without a disclaimer.

Finally, a drone with affordable accessories ($50 battery) that are readily available when the drone ships (June 15th.)

DJI Spark Drone

The Drone That User Experience Built

As I mentioned, it is pretty rare these days that I get wowed by a gadget’s UX design. Thanks to Apple setting a UX benchmark with the original iPhone, people expect user interfaces to simply work. It isn’t that often these days that a product takes it up a level where people say, “Why didn’t they think of that earlier?”

The DJI Spark does just that.

It flies from your hand without the need for a remote. Basic commands with your hands. Intelligent flying so you can use this as the ultimate selfie camera. The size. The price. Colors (colors will matter to the general population.) The new Quickshots flight modes,  Rocket – straight up looking down, Droning – up and away focusing on you, Circle – object in the center, Helix – droning and circle combined with the Spark flying up and away in a circle. I can’t wait to see what this does to people’s Instagram feeds!

Will the Hype Be Real?

Only time will tell if this little Spark meets the demand. How easy will it be to use? What will real life battery look like? What will footage look like for the majority of amateur users?

I look forward to testing out the DJI Spark and reporting back on the product design, User Interface and how you can add a drone into your daily content creation.