Become a UX Designer
In this Treehouse UX Techdegree review, I shall be talking through my journey into online learning and eventually taking a 4 months course on Treehouse.
Do you want to become a UX designer? This treehouse UX Techdegree review will help you to learn about the course.
Table of Contents
My motivation to enroll in Treehouse’s Techdegree?
In 2016, I had just graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, and after working in the product development field for a few years, I had decided to career shift into UX Design.
While attending a few networking events, a friend of mine sent me a flyer about the Treehouse Apprenticeship program. (Similar to this, but not exact) After looking into it, I saw that there was an opening for a UX Design Apprentice role at a local Boston company so I decided to apply.
My thoughts on the syllabus
Now coming to the syllabus in this Treehouse UX Techdegree review, you’ll get an overview below:
Project1: Redesign a T-shirt Website
I thought this initial project was really good. The course started out with an introduction to visual design foundations and explained basic design concepts and theories. Things such as using white space and color to guide the user’s attention, and how fonts are evaluated, serif vs sans serif.
The way the project template was broken down made it super easy to follow along and get started. The main goal with this project was to critique the current T-shirt website, so each section of the template had you evaluating different design aspects.
“How is color used? How are page elements aligned? What groupings do you notice? What is your first impression of the site?”
Each question directly linked to the concepts we had learnt earlier in the project so things felt very structured.
This project also introduced some other important UX concepts like creating user personas, journey mapping, and getting business goals / success metrics as inputs for your designs. They also had us evaluate a number of competitor sites and list out the pros and cons of each. Another design skill that is very important, being able to conduct competitive analysis.
Project2: Wireframing a T-Shirt Website
This second project continued off the first in that we now had to design the new site based on our critique. The videos in this section talked about the different levels of design fidelities, from sketches to pixel perfect mockups and the importance of each one.
For this project, we had to submit multiple versions iterations of various screens for our redesign. The idea here was to get us thinking past our initial idea and try out as many things as possible. Here they also introduced the concept of “Assumptions”, something you must always consider when there are unknowns around your design.
The first set of designs were hand drawn sketches which were then later converted to wireframes. I don’t remember exactly which design software was used in the videos, but the general concepts were transferable so it didn’t matter too much which one you decided to use. For each page, they listed out required page elements which made it easy to get started.
As part of each iteration, we were also told to explain our decisions behind our designs and what we were thinking with each. Finally, as a bonus you could convert your designs from web to mobile which was a good experience since mobile usage is so high.
Project3: Mockup a T-Shirt Website
This was the final part of the website redesign project so here we had to turn our wireframes into full color mockups. Again, having to articulate our overall design process to “stakeholders” was an important part of the project. The jump from wireframes to full mockups was a bit challenging for me since there were so many more considerations to take into account.
The project template did help here a bit since it asked for specific reasons behind choices like font and it made you fill out a brand personality chart and moodboard. That level of thinking helped me come at the design challenge from different angles and create a website that felt purposeful.
The final part was to put our designs into device mockups which made them look very professional and ready to present.
Project4: Research a Grocery App
This next section of the overall course was about UX Research. The videos introduced the stages of research, from planning to recruiting to executing. The idea around this project was to research and discover any pain points in the digital grocery shopping experience, with the idea of making an app.
The project template here was good. It started with asking your ‘Research Goals’ which is the most important thing to consider before getting any deeper into your research. Then it asks for your ‘Target Audience’ and how you’ll plan to recruit them. Finally it asks for your ‘key areas of inquiry’ and then the actual ‘Interview Questions’ you plan to ask.
After writing a discussion guide and actually finding the users, we then had to conduct 5 interviews.
I liked how the project template again was broken down and made it simple to know what to do at each step.
Project5: Prototype a Grocery App
Project 5 was to analyze the data from project 4 and decide on a problem to take on. The analysis part was taught in some of the corresponding videos and involved sticky notes, collecting common themes and trends. After deciding on a problem we had to sketch out designs for a solution.
This part of the course allowed for a lot of creativity in coming up with an idea which I liked. The process was similar to the first section of the course, going from sketches, to wireframes, but ending at a prototype instead of a full mockup.
Project6: Testing a Grocery App
Videos in this section taught about ‘Usability testing” and the best practices for that. Here we wrote our research plan, discussion guide and began user testing. Using the clickable prototype from project 5, users were asked to step through a series of steps as I observed and took notes.After that, notes were again analyzed and iterations made to the design.
This project really taught me how quick the iterative cycle of research and design could happen.
Project7: Designing a Task Flow
At this point in the course, we had gone through the whole UX Design process generally so this project was additional practice encompassing everything learned to date. The templates for this were similar to prior where they list out what is needed, but since the overall problem statement was confusing, it wasn’t as easy for me to follow along.
Project8: Testing a Flow
This project was just testing the prototypes and workflows we designed in the previous project. Again, just additional practice in speaking with users, being able to actively listen to them and observe.
Project9: Mockup and Present a Task Flow
This project was to iterate on our research findings and then turn those designs into final mockups to then present to stakeholders. This was good practice in putting together a slidedeck with results, design rationale and other support material.
It did feel weird going straight to final mockups after a single round of testing but from a course syllabus standpoint I understand.
Project10: Capstone: UX Design Portfolio
This project was collecting all of your design projects and putting them into a case study format for a design portfolio. I thought this was pretty helpful since it outline how case study are generally laid out. Having all the information essessentialy already in the form of ‘project submissions’ made it very easy.
My portfolio can be found here: https://kendojo.myportfolio.com/, with some of the case studies from above available for viewing.
Also Read: My experience with Designlab’s UX Academy
How was my project experience: Treehouse UX Techdegree Review
I thought the projects were pretty good. The spacing between them was a good cadence. 1 week of videos to introduce the new design concept, then 1 week to put that concept to practice.
My only con with the projects was that sometimes things felt too rushed. Like only limiting design iterations to one. This course felt like 3 big projects that each scratched the surface of ‘Design’ once whereas I think I would’ve preferred 1 big project that got 3x deeper into ‘Design’.
My thoughts on course pricing
Now coming to the course pricing in this Treehouse UX Techdegree review, I can’t speak about the course pricing since I was enrolled through a sponsor company and did not have to pay anything.
My thoughts on course timeline
I thought the timeline of the course was reasonable. The course estimate is 3 months I believe, and I was able to complete it in 4, while working a separate job full time. The majority of the course I did complete in 3 months, however, I took my time on the last portfolio project.
What I liked about Treehouse(Pros):
Every nice site, videos, and community. The slack channel where you can ask questions is really comforting. Being able to network with others in the same boat as you, ask for design critique, and seeing how others have approached a problem was interesting.
The project templates were well formatted and made it easy to follow along.
What I didn’t liked about Treehouse(Cons):
When I was doing the Treehouse ux techdegree, I know it was the first of second time Treehouse was offering the course so there were some issues around that. I could tell they were still in that transition phase from offering more than just Software Engineering Tech degrees.
The projects also could use more polish too. For example, I remember being introduced to ‘Design Systems’ in a video and expecting to work with one on the next project, but being disappointed.
Conclusion: Do I recommend it to others?
I would recommend Treehouse to others. When I took it, I know it was in its early stages and it was still very insightful and helpful.
After meeting the team working on it through slack while I was enrolled, I’m sure it’s only better now.
UX design is ever-evolving, so there’s definitely more to learn and added in the course now. UX design goes beyond what we already know to be both creative and analytical. Numerous additional disciplines, including psychology, technology, graphic design, and sociology, are included in the field.
I love making things, and making things better.
I have always loved creating things, so I studied Mechanical Engineering in order to better understand the physical world and allow me more options in my endeavors.