Kristoffer has been a graphic designer for six years, but after trying out a few UI projects, he realized he liked it better than his current work. Not wanting to quit his job, Kristoffer decided to enroll in Springboard’s part-time online UX Design program to upskill and pivot towards something he was more passionate about. Kristoffer tells us how he managed to squeeze the whole program into one month, how he balanced it with his other commitments, and his plans for the future. He also shares his screen to show us Springboard’s online learning platform!
What was your background before you decided to study UX design at Springboard?
I went to school to be a graphic designer, and I've done that in a professional capacity for about six years now. Through that, I've done UI projects at work, and that is really where I thought, "Oh, I want to pivot into that and stop doing graphic design." It led me to where I want to be, and pushed me into taking an online course to further flesh that out.
Are you studying part-time or full-time, and are you able to work as well? What's your setup for learning?
I'm finished with the course now, but when I did it, I did it part-time, but I really focused on it. Thankfully my job was flexible enough that I had extra PTO, so towards the end I was able to take a week off and just focus on the course.
Other than that, I would do a little bit after work and then more at night after dinner. Instead of watching TV, I would work on the course and take care of what I could that night and then move on the next day. It was really flexible for me.
How long did it take you in total to do the whole course?
It took me a month, but that was like a marathon run for me. I had committed to only doing it for a month, so I had it in my head that I needed to really focus. I work better that way because it is a monthly thing and you can go at your own pace. I could've easily mentally just stretched it out longer or just say "No, I'll get to it tomorrow."
Knowing that I only wanted to do it for a month helped force myself to just do it as quickly as I could and to get as much out of it as I could. If I stretched it out any longer, I feel like in my own learning I would have lost some of it because it would’ve just taken too long. By focusing on it for just one month, I was able to really take it all in and get what I needed out of it.
What made you decide that you needed to do a bootcamp rather than learn on your own through another online-type of resource?
I had a deep background in the visual design side of UI and UX, but I only had very tangential knowledge of the user persona creation, user testing, and wireframing. I hadn't really touched a ton of that. So when I was reading up on different courses, Springboard stuck out to me because I could learn all of the stuff that I either hadn't touched at all, or barely touched.
In terms of my timeline and keeping that in mind, I was thought, "Okay, well my final project is going to rely heavily on what I know already. So I know that if in the first two weeks I can get the first book done, then the last two weeks will be easy for me because I already know all of the programs that I need to complete the project.”
Did you look at a few other bootcamps as well as Springboard? What made you settle on an online bootcamp in particular?
We didn't have a ton of options out here in Las Vegas and I had to keep my job so I couldn't really go anywhere for three months to do an intensive course. So I knew I had to stay online. I did research quite a few, and they all sounded wonderful, but a lot of it was either not going to be fast enough, or it was more of "This is a three-month program." I needed something that I could basically do it as fast or slow as I wanted, and that's where Springboard came in handy.
What was the application process like when you were applying?
I think they open it up to everybody who is willing, but I think if you don't have much of a background in it, they will tell you that you’ll need to take your time on each course. For me, I remember I had to fill in an application saying why I wanted to do it, and if I did have any experience, what that was. I put my background in and I linked it to my LinkedIn account. Springboard basically looked at my resume and said, "Oh, okay. He's done this, this, and this. He's good to go."
What actual technologies and subjects does the UX design program cover?
It covered idea creation, minimum viable product, competitive analysis, user persona creation, wireframing, visual design, logo design, and color palettes.
Did they cover any front end programming languages? Did you cover HTML and CSS?
We didn't cover that. I have some knowledge of that just through my work experience, but Springboard didn't cover that in a classroom setting. I think the culmination of your projects would rely on high fidelity mockups, and then some interactive prototypes using invision or something like that, but no HTML was not really gone over. It was mentioned, so it wasn't like it was hidden, but we didn't go over it.
What was the actual learning experience like at Springboard? Did you watch recorded lectures or did you have one-on-one time with a mentor? How does that work?
It's a wonderful blending of both. You get a phone call with your mentor once a week and you can also email them. They're usually pretty open to email, and they're flexible on calls too. For the rest of the learning, it's a combination of PDFs and links that you read through and then go over.
There’s also Lynda.com videos and Skillshare videos, which you don't have to pay for because they are part of the course. Once you get through those, you've got some projects to work through. Each chapter has a project and then at the end you have a culmination of those learnings in a capstone.
How often were you meeting with your mentor? Since you wanted to do it in such a short time, was the mentor able to accommodate that?
Yes, he was very accommodating. I told him at the outset that I was planning to do this in one month. I knew it sounded crazy, but I had looked through the course and when I talked to him I just reinforced that "I'm going to need to do this only for one month,” and he was really flexible. We talked once a week at the beginning and then we talked maybe two extra times at the end because he knew I needed to get things done before a certain date.
Would you like to share your screen now and give me a little demo of what the learning portal looks like?
So here is my back end when I log in and then right here is all of the chapters. You read through all the information and this is your intro when you first sign up. Then as you go through, each of these activities would not be grayed out, and you would just click through to complete them. Once you're done it says completed.
Did you have a checklist where you could see which activity you've finished and which ones you still had left to do?
Yeah. I wrote down on a notepad what I knew I had left so I could extract stuff out. But when you're in the midst of going through the course, it defaults you back to basically where you left off. So it knows what you have completed and then it brings you to what's up next so that you don't have to scroll through every time.
Could you submit your projects or assignments through the portal? How did that work?
Let me find one that has a project. So when I got to this portion of the course, it was not grayed and then instead of "Submitted," the button said "Submit project." When you click that a little box comes up for a link and you just paste the link in there to where you have your project hosted. I used Google Docs for 99% of what I did.
What kind of programs did you use to actually build and create your projects?
For the initial parts where I was submitting ideas and chart based stuff, I did Google Docs and Google Sheets. Then as we got into the more visual side of things, I used Extensio and Balsamiq. Balsamiq was for wireframing, and Extensio lets you build user personas that look really nice. I can show you an example of that if you want.
Yeah, that would be cool if you can show me an example.
So Extensio lets you build something that’s a nice visual, quick overview of a persona that you create. They also have templates in there that I used, for example they let you do empathy maps.
This is my case study that I did for my final my capstone project. I used Illustrator to make my competitive analysis because I wanted it to be super simple. I don't like the way that normal spreadsheets tend to look even once you adjust for cell sizes. It was a fairly fast project.
What was your capstone project?
For my capstone I designed an app that allows users to catalog and keep track of items that they have in their home or apartment for insurance purposes. So in case of fire or water damage, or even robbery, you have a list of your items that you could submit to insurance for reimbursement checks.
Was that an original idea you came up with yourself?
Overall, when using the Springboard platform, how did you find it was different from using some of the free self-guided online resources that are out there?
For me it was that old feeling of when you pay for it, you feel like you need to get the value out of it. So if I was just looking at YouTube videos, I could go down a YouTube hole and end up not learning what I wanted to learn. I could just be clicking and then watching the next step in playlist. This guided me down what I know I needed to learn.
With YouTube or other online resources, I would feel like, "I don't like the way that they're teaching these so I'm just going to move on to something else," and eventually that did not work for me. So for Springboard it was a little bit of hand-holding. It gave me the steps I needed to take to fully do user experience research for a new project or a new feature and I liked that hand holding.
I also took online classes when I was in college because some of them were only offered online, and this was so much better than that.
How many hours per week did you find yourself spending on the Springboard curriculum?
Early on I broke it into two separate sets of two weeks. The first two weeks was the main lead up, which was everything up to the wireframing. It was the MVP persona, the competitive analysis, all of that. For those two weeks I probably spent around 10 to 12 hours a week on the course. The third week I was off work, so I was able to put in basically 30 to 40 hours. Then the final week I was back at work but most of my stuff was done. I was just refining my capstone project with input from my mentor and users that had tested it. So that week I probably put in maybe 12 to 15 hours.
How does Springboard help you or give you advice about how you can use this knowledge in your future career?
Throughout the course, they'll mention various Lynda courses, and explain how this will apply in an office setting. They'll say, “you're learning user research where you're having them test it in a room with you and cart sorting and stuff, but it’s not necessarily how everything will go.” Some companies are so large that you will never touch that aspect of it.
It's good for you to know it so that you can talk with those people and understand the data that they're giving you and how it influences what you do. Towards the end, they start explaining, "Here's how you set up a UX resume and here are the programs you need to know.” If you're going to focus more on UI and visual design, you'll want to know Photoshop and Sketch and Illustrator. If you know Sketch, you probably don't need Illustrator. Springboard does say, "Know the Adobe Suite, know Sketch and you'll be set in terms of visual." For the others, it's a lot of Word Docs or Google Docs; anything that you can have a full office suite of spreadsheets, PowerPoints and Word processing.
Did they offer any job placement help if you're wanting to find a job using your new skills?
I think they help you with links in terms of good search engines to use for this particular field. Your mentor can be pretty helpful in that regard too. Even if it isn't necessarily finding you a job, he can help look over your resume, look over your portfolio, make sure that you're hitting the things that need to be talked about.
What was your goal when you decided to go through this program? Were you planning to get a new job or did you want to upskill for your current job?
It was definitely to get a new job. I've been in the same job and the same skill set for about four years now and felt, "It's time for a switch." At the same time, I was realizing how much I enjoyed the UI side, because I had some freelance projects that I was working on that were UI focused. I thought, "This is so much more fun than what I'm doing right now.”
I wanted to pivot and move into a startup role. So I'm currently looking and interviewing, and this is already helping. It reinforces the fact that I do have experience in some of this stuff. Having the course behind that, people see, "Oh, okay he's serious about it."
So what are the types of roles that you're looking for that you would ideally like to get?
I would love to get a UI design role or a visual design role. I still love that aspect of it. I love playing in Photoshop, playing sketch, and doing interactive mockups. I enjoy all of those parts of it building buttons and figuring out how it should look for the end user. That's really where I've concentrated my search. I've had a few interviews for UX based stuff – less on the design side, more on the how it's going to flow side. It's been incredibly informing, but I can see I'd much rather go into UI visual.
What advice do you have for someone who is considering doing an online bootcamp like the one you did? Any tips you might have for staying motivated and engaged?
I think the first tip I have is if you feel like one of the course videos is going to a little too slow, usually somewhere in the settings on the video player there's a way to speed it up and that helps a lot. Because some of them had very intensive talking. It was deliberate talking. So I believed, "Okay, I can speed that up to one and a half times the speed and get done with this quicker,” and it would still be fast enough that I could get through it; but not too fast where I didn't get anything from it.
On top of that, I think you should know how long you want to be in the program, even if it's not a month, just know how long you want to be in it and make sure you work towards that. Don't let it become something that you let just fall off. Focus on it and do it, because even if you don't end up using it in your career, you will at some point. Even if you don't go into UX design immediately, you will use what you learn I think at some point.