by Sheldon Kreger
As our world becomes more and more interconnected through the internet, web developers are in high demand. Business – both small and large – rely on the web for communication with their customers and within their companies. However, these powerful tools are very numerous and can become very complicated. That's why Ashish Jain of Bangalore, India decided to study usability and become a Certified Usability Analyst.
"I started my career as a web designer back in 2005. I used to get assignments, I used to think how it should look and what should be there as the content and design. It was more of designing for the stakeholder and the designer rather than the user. I used to include features which I liked and what the stakeholder wanted to see. I used to use colors and layout that suited my style."
But Ashish started asking questions to himself in his design work. "Where should I place this button? " – "How should I set up the site menu to make things easy to find?" Soon he found himself talking regularly with usability experts. It was these early conversations which opened the door to HFI's training courses.
"The people with the formal training thought about things differently. Sure, I could see when something looked good, but I didn't understand why. There was a lot of terminology they used which started to clear things up for me."
With these experiences, Ashish changed his perspective and realized the importance of the end user in his designs.
"Now, being a UX designer, I understand it is not just about me and the stakeholder, it is about the person who will use the design. The person who uses it will increase the revenue of the website. In all, my whole thinking process has changed. I understand now what the process should be and how to approach a particular assignment."
Throughout his career, Ashish has worked on a large variety of projects. He has worked on large development teams for large corporations, he has spearheaded web startup companies, and has consulted with web developers on usability issues in their work.
Often, there is a disconnect between the needs of an organization and the ability of an end user to complete a task. With a systematic approach, these issues can be overcome. Ashish gives an example where the needs of the end user were overlooked. This lead to inaccurate and incomplete data for the stakeholder.
"I once worked on a project for a client who dealt with government documents for road certification. We had to design electronic forms for truck drivers who had no background in computers. There was no way to teach them the user interface or make them computer literate."
"So, we did a lot of interviews and research about the paper forms. We found there were many errors in the paperwork. Many sections were filled with nonsensical answers, and often the questions didn't make sense in the first place. So our electronic implementation simplified the forms and now things are faster and easier for the truck drivers who fill them out. And, of course, the information is more accurate for the agency."
As a skilled web designer working on a variety of projects, Ashish met many great minds. Any internet professional knows that learning on the job is a mandatory skill on any significant project. However, Ashish emphasizes the importance of formal training and certification in his career.
"By speaking with usability professionals I met on my projects, I began to understand the importance not only of usability issues, but also the importance of being able to use this knowledge effectively. I saw the importance of measuring the return on investment to keeping my work going, and I wanted to learn how to measure my performance. I wanted to have experiences beyond simply watching lectures and reading books. It truly is a unique experience to spend dedicated time learning from UX experts during the training courses."
After earning his CUA, Ashish reflects on how his work has changed.
"With the certification, it's clear to my co-workers and employers that I have developed a certain level of expertise. I am dedicated to usability as a practice, not just as a hobby or simple interest. That gives me credibility and gives me the opportunity to do UX work regularly."
"In addition, I am able to propose systematic and routine methods to be used on all of my projects. I can explain why the extra work early on is worthwhile in the long run."
"There are a lot of companys or agents in the market who just want to have the wire frames done and they want an expert to do this job. Being certified will definitely help in winning the confidence of such agents."