User Experience Design · Design

Are UX design bootcamps worthwhile?

Marina Mikeladze UX/UI Designer / Character Animator

April 25th, 2015

I am thinking of taking the UX class at Tradecraft or General Assembly. Does anyone know of them or has experience with them? Your feedback is much appreciated.

Dan Maccarone Co-Founder/CEO at Charming Robot

April 26th, 2015

Marina- I'd be careful about these longer UX classes. Depends on what you want to get out of them. I wrote the original curriculum for GA's UX intensive course and while I am sure it has changed since we wrote it, I know that the goal of the program changed from educating people about UX from a high-level to much more of a training program that churns out jr. level people. I've not had great experience with people who came out of that program and find it hard to accept that that is nearly enough time to learn any craft whether it be ux, design, development, etc. But if your goals are a general understanding of how it could fit into your current job or how you can better understand the world of UX and collaborate in your day-to-day environment, that could be good too. Happy to get more into this if you'd like, but definitely know what you want to get out of it first. It's a lot of money to spend to be honest.

Daniel Turner Available

April 26th, 2015

That's an interesting peek behind the curtain, Other Dan -- thanks. And that's really interesting to hear as a graduate of a two-year graduate program in UX, in that it dovetails with both my own impressions and the pushback that's forming against GA in the UX community. 

It does seem to be a quick overview, giving students an overview of the various and broad things that go into what's often called "UX", but it's kind of irritating how GA has become a bit of a mill: "Pay a lot for this brief course and we'll place you into positions at major companies". I see GA graduates immediately go into mid- to senior-level UX jobs at places like Google -- they have the buzzwords, and know how to do Process X or Methodology Y exactly as they've been taught, but there's simply no time in GA to teach the "why" behind any of these processes, or explain sociology or vision studies or how to connect things aside from exactly as been taught at GA.

Marina, what do you want to get out of all this? If you, like many GA students, are in, say, marketing, and hear there are lots of cool and well playing jobs in UX (not quite true), then GA does work well as a placement service, though that, I think, in the large damages UX as a profession and as having a pro-user impact.

If you want to know because you are concerned about making products better, or you have an intellectual curiosity, there are things you can do for free. Listen to the UIE Sparks podcast, in which really awesome people talk on UX topics and what they've done; start reading Boxes and Arrows or A List Apart web sites; if user research interests you, listen to Steve Portigal's Dollars to Donuts podcast; follow a lot of people I follow on Twitter and ask them questions. Read Erika Hall's "Just Enough Research" and Steve Blank's "Four Steps to the Epiphany" and Bill Buxton's "Sketching User Interfaces"; find local Code for America brigades and go to a meeting; find public-good hackathons and join a team and observe.

Daniel Turner Available

April 27th, 2015

We should all upvote these comments and see if it floats to the top of FD's list... .

Matt Kennedy Founder, Product Designer

April 27th, 2015

Marina -  I took the GA 12 week evening course.  There were some people in the class who were interested in getting jobs in UX and others who were interested in learning about UX from a more intellectual and/or entrepreneurial direction.  I was in the latter group.  I thought our instructor (Skot Karuth) did a great job representing both sides by seeking and being receptive to feedback from the class.  In general, I think things skewed toward the high road and less towards specific trade school instruction.  Perhaps that is a characteristic of the shorter classes.  I really enjoyed the class and felt that I got more out of it than I paid for - but I was not expecting a quid pro quo job offer out of it.    I will defer to the other commenters on how the GA program works as a job generator.  I tend to agree with them in general that you should seek "higher" education from a school and training from a job if you can - rather than the other way around.

David Fridley Founder at Synaccord

April 30th, 2015

You should consider this online class: I took it and recommend it and its FREE unless you go for a certificate. 

Andre Plaut Product Lead, Immersive Programs at General

May 1st, 2015

Hi Marina,

My name is Andre Plaut, I’m the Product Lead for our full-time programs at General Assembly, and I’ve been working on the UX Design Immersive program for the last 2.5 years. I think it’s important to clear some things up and give you as fair of an answer as possible.

First, I definitely appreciate Dan’s response to your question, but it will help you to have a few things clarified. Our curriculum has expanded greatly over the past couple of years and I want to make sure there is no confusion. While Dan did teach and create content for our UX part-time evening program, the program being discussed is our UX Design Immersive program, a full-time program with a different curriculum, and entirely different goals. The UX Design Immersive program has been built and developed with a network of instructors, all active UX practitioners, over the last 2.5 years.

Dan mentioned that the goal of our program has changed from educating people about UX to a training program that focuses on graduating junior-level people. The purpose of our part-time UX evening program continues to be educating people about UX and giving them additional tools in their professional tool belt. The sole purpose of the UX Design Immersive program, from the very moment we began working on it, was to help people transition their careers into UX design. Depending on our students’ backgrounds, we’ve seen them go into entry level UX positions at places like Conde Nast and Big Spaceship, and even senior level positions at start-ups like Reserve, and large corporations like IBM and American Express.

We do not claim that a 10 week full-time program can replace the several years it takes to truly learn the craft of UX design. This is what we believe: the best place to truly master UX design in the real world is on the job. It takes years of applying these skills in the real world to truly become an expert. Our program helps you start that lifelong journey. In fact, it has successfully achieved the goal of starting that journey for 90% of our graduates over the last 2 years within 90 days of their graduation.

Making the decision to invest in any intensive learning experience, be it a bootcamp or college, is a big deal. We want you to be as confident and committed to your decision is possible. I would definitely recommend talking to as many people as you can, getting opinions like mine and Dan’s, talking to alumni of different programs, and making a decision based on all of the information you’ve been given. Feel free to reach out to me directly, or to our admissions teams if you have any more questions. 


May 1st, 2015

Andre, I hope you don't see this as an attack but as an opportunity to make things better. I've been invited to 3 graduation events in the last year.

The first time, I gave honest feedback about the portfolios and project, and highlighted how the majority of those design projects given to students were done in a vacuum (lack of client, fuzzy goals...) and the resulting work was bland an uninspiring. I've been told my feedback would be taken into consideration.

Fast forward a year, I've walked in a room where 30 students were all presenting the same solution to the same fake problems. Poor designs conceived in an environment that fosters poor design practices. I can go into GREAT detail about this if you want me to.

Bottom line, you need to take a very hard look at what you're doing with that program and correct it because it's not working. It might be working from a very short term perspective but you're not doing yourself any favor. I've spoken to other design leaders in the field and GA is quickly becoming a red flag when screening resumes in the Bay Area (it is for me).

I was truly excited about GA and what it tried to represent but somewhere along the way you guys lost it. I hope your program becomes what I thought it could grow into.

Dan Maccarone Co-Founder/CEO at Charming Robot

May 1st, 2015

Luca - that was really well put and those red flags exist in more than just the Bay Area Andre- don't get me wrong. It gives me no pleasure to dis GA. I really had high hopes for the program and my issues with it aren't just from when I was teaching it. My ego has no role in this conversation. The points Lica makes are spot on and ring true in every city I've visited recently for work where I've spoke to if folks about this: NYC, SF, Boston, LA and London. In terms of user research, I would call that a pattern and I think Luca S solution-oriented idea is probably right. It's not about slinging mud, it's about making the product you are delivering more valuable to everyone. In this case the product is the education and the value is for both the students and potential employers. That doesn't seem unreasonable. Look, none of us are perfect. Nor is the work we do. We are all constantly evolving everything we work on to be smarter and better all the time. I have no stake in giving this feedback - good or bad - other than making sure the industry i work in and love isn't diluted or treated with the respect it deserves. It took is a long time to earn a rightful place at the table and it's for good reason. If there's a way to help people get into ux for the right reasons and with the right lessons, I can't think of a single person who would be against it.

Mike Atherton LeanUX, Product, and Content Strategy consultant, instructor, keynote speaker

May 1st, 2015

I want to stick up for the UX Design Immersive (full-time, 10 week) program too. I taught 4 consecutive cohorts in London last year, and I'm immensely proud of the work we did and the quality of the student work. Our employment rate was fantastic and I have several personal testimonials from hiring managers thrilled with the graduates they recruited as UX juniors. Yes, they're still pretty green - but 'hire the attitude, train the skill', right?

UXDi is undoubtedly a work in progress, and iteration isn't always easy when the train keeps rolling. For better or worse, GA rely on their instruction and support staff to create and deliver the detailed material and overall student experience, so YMMV between territories (and cohorts). Class sizes in London were also small (less than 15 in my cohorts), which undoubtedly helped in delivering better quality instruction and feedback.

To Luca's point about fake clients and projects - yes, the course uses 3 'fake' projects as training exercises, to introduce skills like user research, prototyping, IA, usability testing, competitive analysis, and visual design. There's likely still scope for improvement here, but it would be neither prudent nor wise to let students loose with real client passengers while they're still learning to drive. The final project however, is a real client with a real problem. In my experience, clients have consistently been blown away by the professionalism, courtesy, and sheer creative problem-solving talent of the students. As have I.

I'll admit I too was skeptical when I started at GA, but if the aim of UXDi is to create workplace-ready UX juniors with the appropriate mindset and some hands-on experience, then I can point you to several London hiring managers who'll tell you that it works.

Dan Maccarone Co-Founder/CEO at Charming Robot

April 27th, 2015

Daniel- It's actually great to hear another UX person say what you're saying about the GA course. Because I see the same thing happen - people getting placed in these positions at big companies or as the ONLY UX resource at a startup, where the new company is putting its faith in someone who's barely scratched the surface of experience design. One of the reasons I didn't teach a second session of the immersive class was that they told us we couldn't fail people and we had to "certify" them that they were now UX professionals, whatever the hell that even means. Not that my name means anything, but I still don't want it attached to a piece of paper telling a company that someone is qualified for a job they clearly aren't. This is probably a topic for another thread, but if there truly is a movement to push back against places like GA about this type of training and job placement, please let me know where it is because I will be happy to do whatever I can to help. If I can be slightly self-serving, can I also throw in as a resource for understanding all sides of the product process, my own podcast: Story in a Bottle , where I talk to UXers, but also founders, VCs, marketers, etc about their experiences creating and growing products. It's more of a well-rounded approach than UX specific (though the episode with Matt Lee who has lead research for XBox, Amazon, Zappos and now is very UX geek out). Thanks! d