I recently attended Nielsen Norman Group’s Usability Week in London. The five day course was packed with great insights and useful take-aways, much of which revolved around usability, a fundamental building block of our craft. Here’s a brief summary of the week.

Days 1-3: Interaction Design

The first three days focused around the principles, processes, and techniques of Human-Computer Interaction. It was exciting to taught by Bruce “Tog” Tognazzini, a UX pioneer who developed Apple’s – and the world’s – first standard human interface for personal computers. I first heard about Tog after reading his brilliant Apple Watch predictions article back in 2013.

The course alternated between lectures and workshops, covering a wide range of topics on HCI. Topics included:

  • Principles of interaction design
  • Information Theory
  • Fitts’s Law
  • Organisation structures
  • Increasing the power and visibility of HCI in an organisation
  • Gathering requirements
  • Interviewing clients
  • Shadowing workers
  • Design principles
  • Prototyping techniques
  • Usability testing

I found the workshops particularly useful; the class was divided into small groups and tasked with designing an application for casual pilots. It involved interviewing clients, writing user scenarios and testing prototypes with users to come up with a solution.

Day 4: Scaling User Interfaces

The Scaling UI seminar discussed design similarities and differences across platforms and analysed the usability of many popular responsive-design patterns. I’d have preferred more focus on smart watches and smart TVs rather than standard tablet/mobile/desktop which most of the day was focused on. However, the workshop exercises and usability testing videos we were useful – highlighting potential mistakes and misunderstandings users have when using mobile UI. Topics included:

  • Behavioral differences between devices: desktop, tablets, and phones
  • Cross-platform and platform-specific principles
  • Designing for a continuous experience across multiple devices
  • Scaling interaction techniques for different devices, while maximising consistency
  • Dealing with desktop features that don’t work well on other devices
  • Information architecture
  • Prioritising content
  • Responsive-design patterns and their usability

Day 5: The Human Mind and Usability

On the fifth and final day, we examined the psychological, social, and behavioural influences on how people take in information, process it, and retrieve it later. Using psychology as a foundation, we looked at a number of methods for using these concepts to overcome design problems and understand how users think. Topics covered included:

  • Human abilities and limitations
  • Attention
  • Visual perception
  • Memory and knowledge
  • Strategies for information retrieval
  • Mental models for predicting interactions and outcomes
  • Problem solving and decision making
  • Social psychology
  • Emotion-driven behaviour

UX Certification

I passed five exams the following week (one for each day of the course) to earn my Nielsen Norman Group User Experience Certification 🙂


It was a fantastic week. The seminars and workshops were informative and entertaining – I learnt lots and met some great people along the way. With over 1,000 slides and 16 pages of notes – I look forward to implementing what I’ve learnt in my work.