An Introduction to User Experience Design with Kendra Cunningham

From children’s lunch boxes to online learning platforms for educators, user-centered design informs the products and services we engage with everyday. Kendra Cunningham, ISKME’s User Experience Designer, works on improving the user experience of ISKME’s OER Commons platform and its hubs.

We were fortunate to catch up with Kendra for an informative discussion about user experience design and its importance in education.


What got you interested in design?

My passion for design began with my personalized Hello Kitty lunchbox at the age of twelve. I was fascinated with the geometric shape, vibrant color, clean lines, smooth latches, and various food and drink compartments that fit together perfectly. My lunchbox obsession led me to look at the world through a creative lens, contemplating the work that goes into creating different products and services.


What exactly is User Experience (UX)?

User experience is, very simply, how a user experiences a product. Everything has a user experience, whether you notice or not. In fact, it’s the very good user experiences that you won’t notice at all. If a product has a bad user experience, then it is less usable and therefore less valuable. To design for usability, a designer must think about the user first; this is called user-centered design.


Can you give an example of a bad user experience?

I’d say this picture sums it up pretty well: A good user experience vs. a bad user experience.




What does a “day in the life” of Kendra Cunningham look like at ISKME?

We recently made improvements to the search function on OER Commons. Our first idea was to create a robust drop down menu where users could select from any criteria they wanted. However, when we tested this with our users, we found it wasn’t the ideal solution. After testing various prototypes we came up with a simplified dropdown menu and added a search button so users can select multiple criteria. We also moved our search bar to enable users to search by keyword and drop down combined. Much more usable.

As designer Frank Chimero has said, “Designing for screens is about managing change.” As we all change, so must the products we interact with.


Can you describe the work you do creating OER Commons’ microsites and hubs?

We give states and organizations the ability to build their own OER Commons, complete with their own customized content management and authoring tools, groups, and a quality review system. For example, Minnesota OER Commons Hub contains tools and resources for educators and subject matter experts in Minnesota to collaboratively evaluate, share and develop Open Educational Resources for public education, K-12, and higher education.


What is the importance of design in education?

ISKME’s mission is to help teachers, so the more usable and intuitive our designs, the more effective they will be in aiding teachers. Design isn’t just about something being beautiful; it’s also about improving workflow. Good design will not only help teachers find a resource or publish a lesson plan, but will also help teachers do those things faster and more efficiently.

User experience design is an integral part of ISKME’s work, whether online, such as our OER Commons,  and in our face- to- face events and trainings, like the Big Ideas Fest and Action Collabs.


What is your favorite part about working with ISKME as a User Experience Designer?

ISKME works with a lot of interesting people and organizations. There’s always new projects and partnerships so it’s rarely dull around here. It’s a great place to be a designer because I’m always making new and different products.


Image Credit: © 2015 kkstudio All Rights Reserved.


Kendra is a graphic and interaction designer for ISKME. She received her Master’s degree from University of Michigan’s iSchool specializing in Human Computer Interaction and Preservation of Information. She has previously worked as a Drupal Developer, Archival Assistant, Digital Librarian, and Web Designer. As a result, she has an extensive hat rack. The hats she particularly enjoys wearing are her designing, prototyping, and user testing hats. She received her undergraduate degree from New York University in Communications.

May 11, 2015