Last year I chaired at debate at the annual UXPA (the professional body for the UX industry) conference on UX certification.
Ralf Molich and the German UXPA had put together a scheme to certify practitioners. Earlier this year they launched as the International Usability and UX Qualification Board (UXQB).
During the debate I had to be impartial. A year on I’d like to share my views.
My background is academic. I have a MSc in Human Communication and Computing so can be said to have a professional qualification in UX.
In my 12 years as a professional I have seen both good and bad UX work undertaken. I’ve rescued a few projects undertaken by inexperienced UXers. Did my MSc help? Not nearly as much as 12 years of doing the job.
If those inexperienced UXers had a UXQB certification would they have made the same mistakes? Almost certainly.
The problem UX is facing is a lack of experienced professionals.
The number of job openings for mid-weight and senior staff is really high – asking for candidates with 3 to 5 years of experience. There were very few of us practicing UX 5 years ago. These jobs are being filled by junior staff because they are the only applicants. Junior staff don’t always have the experience to do the job well.
Certification from the UXQB and the week of training that goes alongside is not the answer to skills gap.
I’ve met graduates from UK General Assembly UX course and have been impressed. Similarly Jared Spool’s Unicorn Institute shows promise. Both of these courses are designed to get you started not to certify you as a professional.
There is a need for experienced UXers not certified UXers.
Passing the driving test does not make you a good driver. Driving experience makes you a good driver.
Professionals in other fields have a period of training on the job. Learning from experience practitioners whilst working on practical, real work. If you have an in-expreinced UX team they need to learn on the job from experienced professionals.
To help I’m offering two things.
A service for businesses and organisations to help mentor their digital teams, to pass skills over whilst doing the job.
I’m also offering to mentor junior UXers or those new to the UX field.
If you are an experienced UXer your profession needs you. Offer to mentor those new to UX, share your knowledge and experience. We owe it to the next generation or we risk UX being nothing more than a certificate on the wall.
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