Userability Podcast #2: Transitioning to IxD and Usability

Brian Christiansen

February 5th, 2009


Duration: 11m 30s | 6 MB
Recorded: January, 2009
Brian Christiansen, UIE Podcast Producer
[ Subscribe to our podcast via Use iTunes to subscribe to UIE's RSS feed. ←This link will launch the iTunes application.]
[ Subscribe with other podcast applications.]
[ Direct Link to MP3 File ]

We’re back again this week with more savvy and silliness from the world of Userability. But first we’d like to thank you for making our first show such a success, we’ve had a ton of downloads. Have you told your friends about the show yet?

This week the guys spoke with Jon Hartmann of Morgantown, West Virginia. Jon asked Jared and Robert,

I’m a web developer (programming), not a web designer (graphics), but I love analytics and designing user interfaces. How do I make the career jump from coding to interface design and usability?

Tune in to find out if Jared and Robert can help Jon make the jump. As a free bonus, you’ll also learn where to find coffee in West Virginia.

We’re always looking for guests to stump Jared and Robert. Send us an email at with your burning design-related questions.

What’s your two cents on the advice Robert and Jared gave today? Let us know in the comments!

11 Responses to “Userability Podcast #2: Transitioning to IxD and Usability”

  1. Mike Says:

    Here’s the simple answer:

    read some books (both usability, interaction design, maybe even graphic design) on it to get the mojo, About Face from cooper is a good start, read articles / blogs, ixda discussions, learn what deliverables are being used. You might even want to check out the lecture notes on UI Design from one of MIT’s engineering classes ( available for free on MIT opencourseware ).

    Don’t be in a job that pigeonholes you in a “developer only role”, where designs actually rule all things UI, be in a job that gives you flexibility where you can be the developer and have an opportunity to tackle the UI design on your own… slowly build up a portfolio of UI designs, practice sketching, wireframes, high fidelity mockups of your UIs before you go to code… add good ones to your portfolio as time goes on.

    Job interview as pure ixda role:

    They will want to see your portfolio, they will want to know how you’ve understood the users goals, and UI problems, and how you solved them through examples of your work. They will probably challenge you with a design question (some kind of brief case study).

    You will explain your experience as an engineer, but your transition into ixda through your hybrid role a the first job I described above. You will tell them you have a leg-up on many pure-bred designers who have no tech experience and may not understand developer constraints as well as you do.

    You will smile, and be confident, use firm hand-shakes (don’t injure the person). Don’t be afraid to say how you’d research a problem if you can’t give a solution / answer to one of their questions.

  2. Mike Says:

    Almost forgot, try some open source stuff. Scour sourceforge, look for projects looking for intraction designers… better yet… just join one and submit mockups to them.. play around outside of work.

  3. JeremySkelly Says:

    My best advice is to show passion for users, and throw yourself at learning as much as you can however you can. The passion will get you into the conversation, and the learning will give you some credibility so that you can stay there.

    ex-Developer, current IxD

  4. uxRefresh» Usability, Information Architecture, User-Centered Design Says:

    […] just listened to their second podcast where they give advice to a web developer wanting to jump into interface design and usability. […]

  5. Vance Says:

    While this podcast was entertaining, I was hoping to hear more actionable advice, because I’m in the same situation as Jon.

    I’m a Software Engineer looking to transition into a UE Design role. I’m a bit further along in my transition than Jon is (my time is split 50% UE design, 50% implementation now), but was hoping to get more concrete steps from this than I got. Instead, there was a lot of unrelated joking and the hosts talking about their own careers (which, although interesting, didn’t really help the subject).

    I’d preferred to have heard more about specific books, courses, websites, other blogs, professional organizations, certifications, training, etc. that established IxD/Usability professionals have found helpful in starting their careers.

    I’m not trying to be a complete downer here, I genuinely enjoy this website and follow it actively. I am just disappointed with this particular podcast.

    @Mike – Thank you for all of the excellent advice. I’ve already started poking through the online MIT materials, and found a few gems. Great stuff!

  6. Says:

    To those considering, or on, this career transition I simply can not recommend highly enough Alan Cooper’s book The Inmates Are Running the Asylum:

    Alan has forded the waters between engineering and UI / Interaction Design and his book is, in a sense, a pioneers guide to all who would follow.

    There are great actors who are poor improvisationists, and great improvisationists who are poor actors. Great mechanics who are not great drivers. You get the idea. I think of this transition as like changing from a percussion instrument to a melodic one. Each contributes to the music, but to the change from playing one to the other requires a total shift in focus, mind set, and thought process. Maybe even facets of personality.

    A career is like a country. Live in one long enough and certain habits form. You may not like emigrating unless you’re able to assimilate in the a culture. This is no small undertaking. But there is a shortage of people who can do both very well.

  7. Jukkasoft blog « Says:

    […] Userability Podcast #2: Transitioning to IxD and Usability » UIE … […]

  8. Benjamin Ho Says:

    A pretty good podcast, and I’m sure Jon got more information aside from the joking on the air. 🙂
    To help Vance’s situation, I suggest some schooling/courses to go along with what developers like him are learning about in their day to day activities. Attending conferences also help. There’s also certification courses you can take that will further your IxD or Usability education.

    It’s not that difficult once you take the plunge into some of the resources in books and the Interwebs. And then, actually apply that knowledge.

  9. natasha’s corner » Blog Archive » Making the switch from developer to designer Says:

    […] Hoekman, Jr. addressed the question of making a career move from developer to designer on their Userability podcast. I listened to it with great interest, having made this move myself not too long ago. Jared and […]

  10. Jon Hartmann Says:


    Nice to know I’m not the only one trying to make the leap!

    Thanks to everyone for the suggestions; I think my real problem is location at the moment. While West Virginia is not quite as devoid of technology and progress as our joking would indicate (there are 3 book stores and about a dozen coffee shops in town, and an actual Starbucks *gasp*), it is really a small area as far as web companies go. I work for one of like 3 places that do web design in the state, and the others are too distant to look into. Moving is becoming my only option.

  11. Perumal Allimuthu Says:

    All, is there any certification for UI Designer or Web designer?

Add a Comment