Meet faculty member Jeff Stern. Jeff uses research and design-driven processes to collaboratively build innovative products and strategies that encourage users to learn and discover. Currently, he is a Product Manager at Club OS and an instructor in our UX Design Certificate Program. He has previously worked at Girls Who Code, University of Michigan, and Google.
How did you get into UX Design?
I was fortunate and first learned about UX as an undergrad, and interned as part of a user research team at Google. I got my Masters at the University of Michigan School of Information in Ann Arbor- where I conducted on learning platforms, or LMS systems both designing research and doing usability testing. I then went on to lead the Product Management and Design team at Girls Who Code and now Club OS, a technology start-up located in Center City.
What motivates you to want to teach in adult education?
I took a continuing education course at the New School in New York and realized how important this type of learning environment is for adults. I love to teach, and look forward to helping students who want to pivot out of their current career.
What is one of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?
I did a project with Khan Academy and I got to combine the work I was doing with Girls Who Code on Pixar’s campus; we had a tight timeline but we were able to test this educational product with the students who would use it. It was very serendipitous teaching high school students and getting the chance to do usability testing with them - this testing actually made its way into the final product and the students got to experience the research phase.
What’s the first thing people need to know about the research phase?
That it’s important to get feedback at all stages of a project. Students will learn how to speak to the humans using the products, and how to do different types of user research - this might be field observations, or a focus groups - and when each method is appropriate.
What are the biggest pain points for students? Or, where do students stumble and how do you help them?
Communicating results to key stakeholders is an art in itself. No matter how thoughtful your research or how insightful your findings, if you can’t effectively communicate them to decision-makers. We’ll spend time in class evaluating examples of research presentations and working on our own for a final presentation.
What’s the most important thing you want your students to leave with?
Empathy. I hope all students leave with strategies to develop empathy any user. Designers can fall into the fallacy that all users think and act like them, and research is a key way to expand your viewpoint. I’ve built products for middle and high school girls, a user group I’ve never been part of. But by developing deep empathy, I’ve been able to better understand the values and needs of this population.
What often surprises people about research?
Research doesn’t always have to take forever! Clients are often hesitant to invest a lot of a project’s resources into user research. For many, ‘research’ still connotes undertones of academia and ivory towers with questionable day-to-day value. But that’s not true! There are so many rapid, low-cost research methods that can be used to get meaningful product feedback. We’ll discuss how to demonstrate the value of user research in environments that still don’t see it.
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