Certified Usability Analyst (CUA) and HCI related courses in India: A Comparative

In India User Experience / Usability / Human Computer Interaction (HCI) related courses are conducted especially for professionals. These courses are tailored to cover the User Centered Design (UCD) process in a short-term – 10 – 15 days. They are mostly attended by professionals who cannot afford a duration of 2 years or more. They are mostly conducted in Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune where there are IT / design related companies.

The main courses that I know and which I have attended are:

  1. HCI – Spring / Summer Course – 10-14 day course at IIT Bombay
    Conducted by Prof. Anirudha Joshi, Interaction Design, Industrial Design Center, IITB
  2. Certified Usability Course(CUA) – 10 day course
    Conducted by HFI – Human Factors International

To start off with  – HCI course conducted by Prof. Anirudha Joshi. I attended this course in March 2009. There were around 25 participants from all over India including a few from Dubai, Bangladesh and Switzerland. When I attended the cost of the fee was Rs. 28000(Early Bird fee). This fee gets higher as the course date gets nearer. There is a lot of demand for this course mostly because it’s conducted by Prof. Anirudha Joshi. He is a professor of Interaction Design at IDC. He is one of the renowned Prof in Interaction Design in India right now. His research interests mostly focus on mobile applications and its implication on rural or illiterate users.
I personally feel Prof. Anirudha is a very articulate and animated speaker. He maintains the energy level throughout the day. The workshop is a hands-on approach to understand the process of Contextual Design. Several techniques are discussed in the span of 10 days- Contextual Inquiry, Transcribing the interviews, Interpretation of interviews, Creating affinity diagrams, Card sorting, Prototyping, User testing etc. I feel the 14 day period(including weekends) is very less to understand UCD but still its the best that you can get in India.

The 10 day CUA certification track from HFI is conducted in Mumbai, Bangalore and recently they have also started in Chennai. This course is also a 10 day – excluding weekends. This course is majorly divided into 4 parts
1. User-Centered analysis and Conceptual design
2. The science and art of effective web and application design
3. Practical Usability Testing
4. Putting research into practice
When I attended the course in Bangalore, the UCA was conducted by Sarit – Sarit is an ex-NIDian, an excellent speaker, he maintains the pace throughout. I feel of all the 4 parts I found UCA much useful than others. The second part is mostly about the skeleton and surface aspects of design – the layouts, gestalt’s law, icons, color themes etc. One who is new to visual design might find it useful. The third part  - PUT is also very useful for someone who is keen in User Testing techniques, I found this also very useful. The last part PRP however was just about how to keep yourself updated by reading books, research papers, journals, blogs related to interaction design. Personally I did not enjoy this part much.
Overall I would say HFI course is good. HFI is extremely industry oriented and they teach you several techniques (actually a lot of them). I don’t know whether one would actually get time / budget to perform these techniques in a live project. But in any case, the good thing is – they show you all the options. It’s now your call to select whichever techniques that suit your project’s bandwidth. BUT I strongly feel the course is very costly for a country like India. First of all we have very less design oriented companies in India and how many of them would sponsor their employees to attend the course. There would be very-very few who are self-sponsored.  Rs.72,000 for a 10 day course + Rs.8000(approx) for the CUA fee. Which makes it Rs.80,000 for a 10 day course. Is it worth it?? Well, it’s a tough question. I guess since HFI the only organisation that conducts the exam and certifies you, they use this factor in their favor. HFI must seriously revise their fee structure for India at least.

About the CUA exam. It’s a computer based test, open-book(yes, you can refer to the material that they have given you or any other material during the test). As far as I can remember it has 100 questions – multiple choice. Only one out of the 4-5 options will be correct. The exam duration is 3 hours(That’s a plenty of time, you wont need so much time to answer). The passing percentage is 70. So you need to get at least 70 questions correct from 100. Well the exam software is a bit tipsy-turvy. Coming from a user experience giant like HFI, it’s actually funny. There are 4 sections in the exam –  UCA, science and art, PUT and PRP. While answering a particular section, you can move  forward / backward i.e. answer a question, flag a question that you want to answer later, go back and correct the answered question etc. But once you COMMIT a particular section and move to the next one, you can’t come back to the previous section. Why? – ask HFI. I find no reason why a candidate cannot move between sections. If he feels he has enough time left he can review the answers in the end. But the software doesn’t allow you to. Yeah… It’s funny. Also once you finish the exam, The last screen has the score – whether you cleared the exam or not, how much marks you got in each section etc. I remember there was this “Congratulations Syed” screen with my total marks and individual marks of section written. There was also an OK button in the bottom –  which i pressed. And when I came out of the cubicle and asked for my marks sheet. The person who was conducting the exam told me that – I was not supposed to press the OK button. I was actually supposed to call them and they would take the screen-shot of the screen and print the screen shot for me. I asked them – Is there any other way I can get my marks sheet, She said no. Now that made me think – If there is no way to retrieve a candidate’s marks or answer sheet – If I want to scrutinize how much a past CUA scored – I have no way to do it? I hope HFI is listening and act on this right away.

Final Word. Prof.Anirudha Joshi’s Course is optimal in terms of cost, participant-expertise and knowledge shared. However the certificate that you get is a “Participatory Certificate” – Which certifies that you were physically present during the 10 day period in IITB. The HFI course and CUA exam is good, very industry oriented BUT very costly. If you are sponsoring yourself – think again. But they give you a Certified Usability Analyst – that is exam based. How much value it holds in the industry – Well, ask the Industry.

Fawaz

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About syedfawaz2002

I am Syed Fawaz Ahmed. I am currently pursuing post graduation in New Media Design at National Institute of Design, Gandhinagar, Gujarat. Engineer by profession, Artist at heart. I have done my Engineering in Information Science in M.S.Ramaiah Institute of Technology You can reach me at syedfawaz2002@gmail.com
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24 Responses to Certified Usability Analyst (CUA) and HCI related courses in India: A Comparative

  1. Palak says:

    Hey, I’m a Computer Science undergrad.
    I’m planning to pursue HCI ahead if possible. I’d like to ask whether there is any room for undergrads for such courses. I’d like to prepare myself better.
    Please help.

  2. If you would like to pursue HCI in future, I would suggest you to do a full time masters course than a short term course. You can apply for NID for New Media Design or Information and Interface Design or Design for Digital Experience. Also at IDC, you can try for Interaction Design. These are 2 year courses. There are a few private colleges too who offer similar courses but I dont know much about them.

    If you want to attend HFI or Anirudha Joshi’s course – I think they will surely take you in. There should not be a problem because of you being in undergrad.

    Hope this helps

    Fawaz

    • Palak says:

      Well, I’ve looked at quite a few Masters courses offered in the states for this,particularly. But i’m still trying to get a better idea before I taking such a decision.
      Are there any other resources that might be of some help in concretizing the idea of this field?

  3. Prachi says:

    Hi,

    I really have a very big doubt with the course. I actually want to do it, but since I’m an engineer fresher 2012 from Mumbai,India in the field of information Technology, I want to know if it’s worth it doing the course right now, or should i get some experience with my job first. Please help me ASAP.

    Regards,
    Prachi M.

    • Hi Prachi,

      You could do it even if you are fresher. When I did it I had experience of 2 years but I was new to Usability and UI field, so it doesn’t matter.
      If you have funds to do the same, it will be a nice experience. You will enjoy the course and you will have an edge compared to your peers. In a job interview, the CUA certificate will be advantageous but not decisive.

      If you are serious about career in HCI then I would suggest a full time course in NID or IID, at IITB. 2 years but worth every day. A masters course will be decisive for job.

      Hope it helps.

      Fawaz

      • Prachi says:

        Thank you so much for your help.
        I will definitely take up the 10 days course in Mumbai, not sure though about the masters course. haven’t thought about it.

  4. Tanvi P says:

    Hi,
    I am working as an online promotional executive since past 6 month. I am an Engineering 2012 passout from IT field. I was thinking of doing this course this year. Is it favorable to do it now?

    Also, how to get enrolled for this course? Can you provide the website link?

    Thanks a ton!

  5. sangeeta says:

    Hi Fawaz,
    I am a senior technical writer who uses a lot usability related modules in my daily work. I have been thinking about getting into UX. Do you think NID, offers special placement for mature candidates like myself. Do let me know. Thanks.
    Sangeeta

    • Hi Sangeeta,

      Glad to know about your experience and interest.
      When you say “I have been thinking about getting into UX”, Do you mean you want to learn UX or teach UX.

      CASE 1a – You want to LEARN UX FULL TIME
      For a full time PG course, the age limit is 30 years (33 for reserved categories). You need to have a bachelors degree. You need to appear for the NID entrance exam (usually in the first week of Jan). When you clear the exam, you will be called for Studio Test and Interview. If you clear these, then you are IN. More
      Courses related to UI/UX: Information and Interface Design (NID Blr), Design for Digital Experience (NID Blr), New Media Design (NID Gandhinagar)

      CASE 1b – You want to LEARN UX in SHORT TERM COURSES
      NID organizes Industry Programmes at regular intervals. They are usually 3-5 days of duration. They will be very brief, but hands-on. You will learn a lot and will surely have fun. These programmes are called INDUSTRY PROGRAMMES AND PROJECTS (IP&P). You can find the schedule of the coming workshops here.
      More about IP&P

      CASE 2 – You want to TEACH UX at NID
      You can either apply for a permanent position or can apply for a visiting faculty. In either cases you need to get in touch with the center head or respective co-ordinator of the courses. Center head of NID Blr is Dr. Baral and NID Gandhinagar is Akhil Succena.

      Hope that helps
      Fawaz

  6. Shravani says:

    Hi,
    I have done graduation in Product design.I wanted to ask whether i could take the 10days course on interaction design.Would it be beneficial for me..?

    • Hi Shravani,

      The course will be beneficial for you (a product designer) to understand a few fundamental concepts like user research, contextual inquiry, affinity diagrams, mental models, user personas. But beyond the design phase- phases like user testing, conducting usability test are mostly oriented towards user interface design rather than product design. But you can use some of the techniques and tweak them for your purpose.

      in short: Yes, it will be beneficial for you.

      Hope that helps
      Fawaz

      • Shravani says:

        Thank you for the reply.I am very much interested in Interaction design and so I am interested in doing this course.1 more query,would it be worth spending so much fees? means would it help me if i plan to do anything in interaction design in future? And do you take up this in pune? Actually am currently staying in Pune.

  7. Shravani,

    When you ask “would it be worth…?”
    Worth might mean ROI – you invest time and money and you expect that you would get a better paying job and a better post.
    Worth might mean learning – you learn something new. which you would enjoy and can apply this knowledge in anytime in future.

    Ask yourself what is worth to you?
    In the first case – none of these courses assure you jobs
    I would suggest you rely upon the second case and have a great learning time.

    I dont take these courses anywhere. HFI and IDC IITB conducts them. I have just given a comparative between the two.

    Fawaz

  8. Pravin says:

    Hi Fawaz,

    this very much useful piece of information which answer’s all my question, I am UI, UX expertise work as Sr consultant, got 12 years experience, I have no academic background (10+2)
    have done BCA (correspondent) just show some company that I am a qualified for high level position, now moving forward I am looking for some good certification courses on UX usability design, but was confuse about which is best one. can suggest some best options in mumbai. Or part-time college where I can certified to be qualified person in design industry.

    Thanks a lot for all your above information, will be soon planning to join Mumbai IIT HCI workshop by Anirudha Joshi’s.

    Pravin Prajapati (Mumbai)

  9. ShwetaC says:

    Hi Fawaz,

    After going through above comments and replies, i find that you can give me some right suggestions.

    My name is Shweta, I am working as a Sr. Web Designer, since 5.5 years, I am graduate and a diploma holder in 2d and 3d animations.Throughout my job as a web designer i have gather training on my own. I have Heard of HFI courses and inquired them too. I find it very costly. But i want to have a certification backup for a growth in my career and want to learn professional techniques too. Do you suggest me to invest into HFI CUA course, will that be an advantage for my job. I am planning to do this course on self investments, so is it really a value for money?

    I am mostly confused between CUA and IDC. Please suggest.
    Thanks in advance.

    regards,
    Shweta

    • Hi Shwetha,

      I see most of the web and graphic designers(having experience) want to move to usability. I am not sure about the reasons – maybe UI/UX offers better pay, or the graphic designers want to become “usability” professionals rather than just stay “render monkeys”.

      I have a huge respect for both the fields, Usability and Aesthetics. If you are good at graphics and designing, I would suggest to stick to it and improve your skills (rather than jump into usability just to be a part of the UI/UX cult)

      But if you are sure you want to get into usability,
      try to get into a company which encourages design practices and has a good design team.
      The design team-lead is a very crucial factor you need to consider. Look at his/her background, his work, his on-going projects. Also try to see the support the company gives to the design team and how much their work is valuated.

      I have seen many places where there is a UX team just to approve “pre-approved” designs. Stay away from such companies and from team-leads who do not have a good vision about the team.

      Honestly, I dont have any idea about the hiring trends in the UI/UX industry.
      But I can say about myself – I would prefer to hire a person who has worked on at least 1 project(by applying the principles of HCI), than a person who has attended a 10 day classroom training.

      Hope that helps

      Fawaz

  10. Apurv Ray says:

    Hi Fawaz ,
    this is a pretty good overview of the two courses from HFI and IIT. I already have a Bachelors in UX Design from Symbiosis Institute of Design and then I followed it up with a Masters in Design Strategy from Politecnico di Milano. I want to work oversees and hence I wanted additional certification which will improve my resume. HFI currently offers two courses CUA and CXA … do you have any idea about the difference between the two. Also I was thinking of giving the exam directly without attending the course, since I already have completed some UX education. What do you think … ?

    • Hi Apurv,

      I think around in 2010, HFI launched a course called PET – Persuation, Emotion and Trust which concentrated on the motivational and emotional factors that enhance user experience. It was conducted as a separate course and people who did their CUA were asked to “upgrade” themselves by taking up this course. Later HFI came up with Designing for BIG – where it deals with introducing the User-Centric approach at the strategic level in corporate projects, thereby you affect the development ecosystem right from the top, rather than the cosmetic “lipstick” approach.
      I do not know when the courses “The PET Architect and Support Institutionalization of a Mature UX Practice” came.

      I guess HFI thought to club all this into one and call it “CXA – Certified User Experience Analyst”. The name is quite interesting CXA – sounds more advanced and the X gives it a Xtra edge. The ones who are “just CUA” feel compelled to upgrade themselves for the Xtra edge.

      At a overseas level, I dont know what is the reputation of the CUA/CXA certification. Someone from the industry might be able to help you.
      Almost all people who take up CUA/CXA want to “improve the resume”, whether they actually learn something or not. They are interested more in the certification than in learning itself.

      When i attended the exam, answers to most of the questions confined to the materials given by them. If you just want to take up the exam – you will not have access to their material, nor will it be a OPEN BOOK test for you. You have have to rely everything on your memory and experience. You will be given 2 attempts to clear the exam. If you fail twice, then your money is wasted.
      So what is the other option? HFI gives you a solution – Pay them some more money, they will give you cutting-edge training, eye-opening material, participatory certificates and amazing lunch too :). Then you could use the material to solve the exam. Sure shot way to gain the Xtra edge.

      Hope that helps
      Fawaz

  11. Prachi says:

    Hi Fawaz,
    I am a Graduate ( B.sc Animation & Multimedia) from BIT, Mesra. I have 3+ yrs of industry experience in Mobile App & Website Designing, as i want to grow my career in UI/UX both my confusion is whether i go for NID ( PGDPD) or HFI or any other certification to enhance my work & exposure? please help me out..

    • Hi Prachi,

      If you are interested in further studies + you do not have any financial obligations + you are under 30 years of age (I think that is the age limit these days, but pls visit http://www.nid.edu for eligibility criteria) – I would strongly suggest you to join NID (New Media Design / Information and Interface Design / Design for Digital Experience) or Interaction Design (from IDC, IITB).

      HFI, Design Incubator etc etc give you certificates but you will not get as much exposure as NID / IDC might be able to give you.

      Being a part of the industry now, I would prefer to hire a NIDian or a IDCian than a certificate holder.

      Fawaz

  12. Shantanu says:

    Hi Fawaz,

    I am working as a Project Lead and have more than eight years of experience in technical writing and an intermediate experience in Usability. I want to move into full time UX role and have done 3-4 projects in my company. The analysis portion have been a cake walk for me, such as creation of Stakeholder Questionnaires, Personas, Scenarios, Contextual Interviews, Information Architecture. But, I am struggling a bit in the wire framing part, which I’ll learn with maturity. I have some doubts:

    1. Will the HFI Certification be adding into my portfolio and should I go for the same?
    2. If I move into an UX Role outside my company, will my current designation of lead won’t be of any help or do I need to start from the scratch in UX (an entry level position) ?
    3. I do not have a professional degree in design to support my credentials as a UX guy. Is it feasible for someone who is from non-design background to even to get his portfolio considered by the prospective employers?
    4. Does Technical Writing and UX have some kind of overlapping, bearing in mind that both the profiles require research and cater to the end-audiences’ needs and is it easy for a Technical Writer to Transition into UX?
    5. Are companies having two types of profiles: UX Designer and UX Analyst? UX Analyst does the Analysis portion (Stakeholder Interviews, Competitor Analysis, Personas, Scenarios, Contextual Interviews, and Information Architecture) and the UX Designer takes comes into the business from the Wireframing part.

    Please throw some light on the above pointers as your advise will help me a lot.

    Thanks a Lot.

    Regards,
    Shantanu

  13. Hi Prachi,

    You should also look at a brand new program (ux.vedaiit.com) that bridges the much needed gap between a 10 day program and a 2 year M.Des program. I have been a design hiring manager for the past 8 years, and this program has been created to build effective design thinkers that can hit the ground running, that I would hire myself in the industry.

    Satyam

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