Interaction Design Foundation Review — Is it for you?

Every few years, a few ‘fad’ terms grips the imagination of people and it seems to be the ‘in-thing’. And while it’s easy to dismiss many of them as things that will fade away in time and we would look back and say ‘Really? That was a thing?” (I am looking at you, Influencer Marketing!), some of them stay and become the new mainstream.

They are the ideas whose time has come — ideas that move out of an academic and professional niche and become a way of life.

These can happen due to technology changes — Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) concepts are almost a century old but with cloud computing costs crashing, anyone can get into it now, leading to a virtuous loop of innovation that further lowers entry barriers.

It can also happen due to the increasing need to be able to understand how we humans are or should be responding to the rapid technology changes.

Which is where the other ‘fad’ term comes in — the topic of this blog — Design Thinking (and more generally Interaction Design).

Again, Interaction Design is as old as a discipline as AI and ML, only this too is an idea whose time has come.

As technology becomes our main companion (and increasingly the primary way that we meet our flesh and blood companions), Its important to understand how our hardwired Stone Age evolution, respond to the Brave New World of screens and algorithms. All vying for a slice of our attention.

Design thinking is a part of a large diverse field that involves concepts of psychology, neurology, human computer interaction, gamification, accessibility etc.

They are generally covered under the umbrella term of Interaction Design (the term I’ll be using for the rest of the article).

Academic terminology apart, for me, personally, it is understanding what it is to be human in the face of changes.

No matter what you are working in, If there ever was a time to understand it, that time is now

A bit about myself — I am an entrepreneur with a background in scaling businesses as diverse as Telecom and Hospitality in digital Martech (Marketing Technology). As part of my business, I dabble in Digital Marketing, Data analytics, Technology and UX. But If i have to say what i really love to do — its solving problems.

And being a problem solver at heart — knowing how and why designs work is a crucial aspect of success.

You may have the best technology and the most finely tuned algorithm in the world but its pretty much useless if people dont or cant use it!

And this is where my quest to know about Interaction Design came in

Before I discovered Interaction Design Foundation, I did specific UX courses from Udemy and a certification in Gamification from University of Pennsylvania among other short courses. They were learning experiences but left me figuring out for more. Clearly, there were basic principles that drive all of the disciplines — something that connects UX, Gamification and other terms that I kept encountering. But it was difficult to get into the depth of it all, with scattered articles and terms across the web — like Neuroscience, Usability, Gestalt, Human Computer Interaction etc.

In other words, like Einstein, I was left wanting to know the ‘Theory of Everything’ — A consolidated guide which can teach me everything that is there to know about why we behave the way we do when faced with design choices.

What is it that we do, that makes some apps million dollar companies while most others fade into oblivion.

Thats where IDF (Interaction Design Foundation) came in for me. Its an age of distraction with more information out there than we can read in our lifetime. So, getting a one-stop place which brings in the right structured content, a enjoyable learning experience while bringing in credibility (its helmed by Dan Norman, Clayton Christensen and other luminaries of Design community after all) is a combination that is almost a dream come true. It’s something i wish i had for other disciplines that have come to define modern marketing and technology disciplines.

First off, Is IDF for you?

Well, if you are a designer (aspiring or experienced), its a no-brainer. I have introduced my design team to the multiple courses and they have loved it and I have seen them bringing in concepts to their designs learned from IDF. It’s already enriched their skills and it shows in the work and the conversations.

But what about if you are in marketing, sales, technology, software development or just a curious high-school student figuring out a career? To you, my answer is an even more emphatic yes!

Today, its a cross-discipline world out there (as it always should be) —and while you may be specializing in any particular field, knowing about how your final customer will react to your offerings, is an edge that all of us would want to have.

Imagine creating an e-commerce website or app which the final user just doesn’t enjoy using — and this, sadly, we know happens more often than not.

Now imagine the marketing, technology and development guys sitting in one room talking about user experience and how to improve it, based on solid foundational principles. Wouldn’t we all be better for it?

As an example, I am doing different types of courses at the same time — which deals with the multiple hats I wear. Sample these from the verticals of Marketing, Technology, Neuroscience and UX.

Variety and Depth in content help you to tailor the courses as per your need, bringing in flexibility that you need as a professional picking up skills.

And variety and the depth of the content is just one of the many things that I love about IDF. And its not only the courses, IDF also features a ton of content through its knowledge centre. The sheer depth, variety and the credibility of authors behind the literature available is probably enough reason in itself to be on IDF.

If you have legends like Don Norman giving you content, why go anywhere else?

Some of the other reasons to love IDF are the Career pathways (you can choose tailored pathways as per your end goal), humour in content, the subtle gamification of itself (get different certifications depending on how well you finish the course), the meetup and the active community that you find on the discussion forums

And if certifications are something you like along with the learning ( I must admit, I do as well), because of the credibility that IDF brings in with the people behind it, the certificates actually hold value (IDF collaborates with universities like Stanford and companies like SAP)

A couple of recent certificates to my name :)

And the best thing? You pay one fee to learn it all!

Yup, unlike many other credible e-learning forums, you don’t pay per course. You give one flat fee and you can do all the courses and at your own pace. Its like a buffet system of courses which makes it affordable for everyone.

At the same time, having been on IDF for about a year, there are a few things though that I wish they would improve upon— Some of the the courses can get a bit uneven and sometimes a bit repetitive (though probably inevitable with many courses derived from one another) and the order of courses tailored for you may not seem intuitive at times. Also their corporate certifications need to go some way to be in the league Google, Facebook and Amazon. But hey, every platform has its quirks.

And considering its a non-profit focusing on this incredible content for everyone, these are absolutely minor quirks compared to the advantages.

So, has IDF changed me for the better?

Short answer — yes.

One - in bettering the output that me and my team have done.

But, increasingly, something that I learnt in the courses or the literature has helped us land a crucial client - since we came out as someone who knew what we were talking about (we did!)

As a technologist passionate about understanding why a user will want to use what I create, IDF is my go-to resource today. And no matter what field you are from, i would definitely recommend you give it a spin.

You will use what you learn there, somewhere and you’ll better for it.

You will know what I am saying, especially if you have ever been inspired by Steve Job’s iconic commencement speech at Stanford, especially by these lines

“Of course, it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards

So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

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