The new User Experience and User Research UX/UR training Academy kicked off on the 9th September 2019 and included four whole weeks of specialised UX/UR training, while simultaneously working and getting mentored on an actual internal project. The Academy welcomed five graduates and one placement student, the Academy’s goal was to prepare us for our roles within the company and to make sure that the transition from University into the workplace went as smooth as possible.

The basic plan for the four weeks was:

  • Week 1 – UX/UR theory and workshops run by Kainos employees.
  • Week 2 – Start of the internal project and our project research week.
  • Week 3 – Our Design week for the internal project.
  • Week 4 – Prototyping our designs and our final presentation in front of CEO.

Read on to find out what we got up to in our time on the Academy, and what we took away with us.

Week 1

The first week was more of an introduction into Kainos itself for many of us as well as an opportunity to meet some amazing members of our team. We had a different workshop on each of the days that was run by an expert in that specific field. This was our time to ask questions and take everything in!

On Monday we were introduced to Kainos’ Josephine Farr (service design consultant) and Chris Sisk (design consultant) who were lovely enough to organise the Design Academy for us this year. We heard all about their previous projects, as well as what we should expect when we eventually join our own project.

‘Agile ways of thinking’ was next up and we were taken through an exercise that would help us get into the Agile mindset, after that, it was onto User Centred design. This was vital as it is one of the core elements in UX design and needs to be included in everything we do.

Tuesday was all about Service Design and User Research. This session was mainly led by Jo and focused on teaching us the basics of what user research is, what it is used for and what methods are used to carry it out. Then afterwards we took part in a service design task where we left the office and conducted some field research to help us.

Wednesday was our UX day led by Chris, where we picked up the main aspects of User Experience Design, along with the process that UX designers use on projects. We were able to get involved in this workshop by finding an app that could use some improvements, printing off screenshots of each page and then conducting a tear down. From this tear down we were then tasked with coming up with our own ideas for a similar app using a stressful but very effective technique called ‘Crazy 8s!’ (you fold a piece of paper into 8 sections and then you have 8 minutes to come up with 8 ideas). When we had an idea, we brought them to a tutorial on some design software so we could bring it to life digitally.

Thursday was our Accessibility / Inclusive Design and Content Design day. This was broken up into the first half of the day being dedicated to Inclusive design as this session was lead by Cat Bliss and the second half of the day was dedicated to Content Design with a session run by Gavin Wray. In the Inclusive Design session we learnt about what makes a design ‘accessible’ for everyone, as well as what accessibility needs some people may have. This was really interesting as all of our university courses only briefly covered this fascinating topic so we were very new to it.

As for the content design session, Gavin taught us all about the importance of having the content fit for your target audience because if the users didn’t fully understand the information, then your whole service was made obsolete. In both of these sessions there was also an interactive element as we were able to complete tasks after each talk.

Friday was the day when our Head of Design Paul Batterham came to the office and presented us with our internal training project brief! This was a very nerve-racking day for all of us as it was the start of our 3 week mission to create prototypes for a site that we would have to present back to our CEO Brendan Mooney. At around 1pm Paul sat down with us and informed us that our project was to re-imagine the current Kainos Staff Ideas site! They currently already had a staff ideas site and it was up to us to come up with some usability feedback and improvements. We then huddled together and created a plan for each day as well as the three weeks to keep us on track for the final presentation. This wasn’t going to be easy – but we knew we could do it!

Week 2

This was the start of our own internal project that we had to complete ourselves (with the guidance and mentorship of senior staff of course). This was the last week that we would all be in the same office as for the last two weeks the graduates based in the London office would be working from there. That meant that we had to really make the most of us all being together for the research portion of the project.

As it was our research week, we really needed to get as much information as we could from the users. This meant we created a survey for the whole company as well as trying to interview as many people as we could. By the end of the week we had completed:

  • Exploration of the brief .
  • Tear down of the current site.
  • Competitive analysis.
  • User Journey and Stakeholder mapping.
  • Surveys and Interviews.
  • Thematic Analysis.
  • Personas and Empathy maps.
  • Detailed plan for the next week.

Week 3

At this point and for the first time in this project we were working as two teams in two different offices (London and Birmingham). This was a challenge but we had come up with a plan. Both teams came up with ideas and designs for the employee side of the website on Monday, then for the rest of the week the London team would then carry on with the employee facing site, and the Birmingham team would tackle the back -end site (the side that the review panel would see when reviewing and approving ideas). By the end of the week we had both come up with detailed paper prototypes that had been fully usability tested and approved by key stakeholders.

Week 4

The last week consisted of us scrambling around trying to turn out paper prototypes into digital designs. For this we used Sketch and then linked the screens up with InVision. We had done all the research and testing for the designs and now it was time to trust in all the work we had done. We needed to present to Brendan Mooney, our CEO, the stakeholders and the other designers on the Friday. In order for both offices to present we had to do it remotely, meaning that we needed to know exactly what slides to each read as well as do plenty of practice interviews to keep it under 30 minutes.

The presentation day came, we all worked together as one big team to deliver our website to pitch – it was a big success! Both Brendan and other designers said how impressed they were with not only our website but also our public speaking, this really meant a lot to all of us as we didn’t know what they expected of us and it meant a lot to know we did well!

Overall the UX/UR Design Academy was a huge success! This was evident from all of us going from not knowing each other and having little knowledge of the industry to being able to work remotely and create an industry standard viable product by the end of the three weeks.

It was an incredible experience and we should all be so proud of ourselves, however, we couldn’t have done with without the amazing UX team here at Kainos. I would like to say a special thank you to Kainos – especially to Josephine Farr, Chris Sisk, Paul Batterham, Nick Harewood, Dan Berry and everyone else who helped us along our journey!

Want to be a part of our next Academy? Check out Graduate roles at Kainos, currently open around the UK.