My experience completing the Google UX Design Certificate
I started the Google UX Design Certificate program in December 2022, after I found out I was being laid off from my role as a technical writer in the EdTech industry. With an end date in five months, I quickly decided it was the perfect opportunity to enroll in a program outside of work to upskill in a new field, and then embark on my job search feeling prepared for an exciting new role.
Why I decided to do the Google UX Design Certificate program
I chose the Google UX Design Certificate program for a few reasons – the growing field of UX excites me, I trust Google, and because this program focuses on building a portfolio and has a low upfront investment. I had heard about this certificate about a year prior from a friend. The idea started brewing in me that I might want to pivot from technical writing to UX writing, and this program sounded like the perfect way to get my foot in the door. Being laid off was then the catalyst to put this idea into motion.
User experience, or UX, appeals to me as an emerging field. Companies are realizing how much good user experience is worth, especially in websites and digital products, so more and more companies are hiring people devoted solely to UX. In the program, Google quotes Lightcast 2022 US job postings, saying there are approximately “138,000+ job openings in UX design” with a “$112,000+ median US salary for UX design.” These exciting statistics, combined with the opportunity to stay in the tech industry, really sparked my interest. Coming from a writing background, I started the program with an interest in UX writing, although I kept my mind open to a potential future in UX design, too.
I like that the program is geared toward employment by focusing on projects for a UX design portfolio. I also like that the courses are self-paced, meaning I could fit studying around my full-time job. I trust Google because they’re such a well-known company and because I had previously taken a short Google Technical Writing course a year prior, which was really well done. The length of the program fit well with my personal timeline of being out of a job in five months as well. The program is well reviewed on Coursera and seems to be liked more broadly across the internet, too. Lastly, the biggest selling point for me was the price. It’s really reasonable and, because it’s paid through a monthly subscription model, I appreciated having the option to cancel my subscription if I decided UX wasn’t for me.
Overview of the Google UX Design Certificate program
The Google UX Design Certificate is a foundational program designed to give beginners a full understanding of the field of UX design. Google sums up their certificate in the following way: “You’ll learn in-demand skills that will have you job-ready in less than 6 months. No degree or experience required.” Google also notes that the program is aimed at job titles such as UX designer, UI designer, and interaction designer.
How much does it cost?
The Google UX Design Certificate falls under Coursera’s professional certificate monthly subscription, which in June 2023 costs US$39 per month. So the total cost of the program varies depending on how long you take to complete it. (Note: Rates for other countries may vary, and you can apply for financial aid through Coursera.)
How many courses are there?
The certificate consists of the following seven courses:
Foundations of User Experience Design
Start the UX Design Process: Empathize, Define, and Ideate
Build Wireframes and Low-Fidelity Prototypes
Conduct UX Research and Test Early Concepts
Create High-Fidelity Designs and Prototypes in Figma
Responsive Web Design in Adobe XD
Design a User Experience for Social Good & Prepare for Jobs
These courses build upon one another, so should be taken in order. The first is a foundational theory course, and then the next four teach the process of UX design while guiding you through the first hands-on project. The sixth and seventh courses cover the last two hands-on projects, which means they’re longer and move at a faster pace than the first five courses.
What will you have to do?
To earn the certificate, you’ll have to complete all seven courses with a passing score of at least 80%. You’ll also have to complete the three projects, which are incorporated into the seven courses.
What will you learn?
The certificate program begins by defining UX design and different UX roles in the industry. The courses then cover the following steps of UX design: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.
In the empathize phase, the program goes quite in depth about the field of UX research and how to conduct user research for each project. In the prototype and test phases, the program introduces two common UX design tools, Figma and Adobe XD. It also covers accessibility in UX design throughout all the courses.
By the end of the program, you’ll know how to take a user experience problem through the full process of UX design, creating a researched, tested design by the end.
Does it cater to different learning styles?
The variety of learning activities impressed me. Information is mainly presented in videos with an instructor speaking through the material. Video transcripts are always provided, and videos are almost always accompanied by a reading activity, which reiterates material in a new way, adds more detail, and often includes links to additional resources.
Other learning activities include interactive plugins, practice quizzes (which are graded but can be retaken an unlimited number of times), and required hands-on activities (also called “practice quizzes”), where you have to select a “Completed” button to pledge on the honor system that you did the activity. There are also optional discussion prompts, where you can see and interact with answers from other students, plus graded quizzes, reference glossaries at the end of each section, and hands-on graded challenges with peer review checks.
How many people have taken the program?
According to Google and Coursera, more than 785,000 people have enrolled in the program, although this doesn’t mean that the same number have actually completed the certificate.
How long will it take?
By following Google’s recommended timeline, you should be able to complete the certificate in less than six months if you spend 5–10 hours a week studying. I studied for approximately 8–10 hours a week and finished in 3.5 months, so it largely depends on your personal pace of learning and your prior knowledge of the field.
Who teaches the program?
People who work in various UX roles at Google teach the program. There’s a different instructor (who presents the video content) for each of the seven courses, and I liked them all. They’re all animated, speak clearly, and provide examples of what they’re teaching. And even though they’re pre-recorded, I found the videos to still feel very authentic.
Does it guarantee a job?
Earning the Google UX Design Certificate does not guarantee that you’ll get a job. This doesn’t surprise me because, in my experience, I’ve never expected a job guarantee from online learning, or any other type of learning. But since there are other programs in the industry that guarantee jobs, I think this is an important thing to be clear about.
And while there’s no job guarantee, the program sets you up with three projects and case studies to add to your portfolio in order to prove your knowledge and skills in the field. You’re also provided with a resume builder tool, interview preparation tools, and access to a job board of employers connected by the Google Career Certificates Employer Consortium.
My advice on completing the Google UX Design Certificate program
As someone who recently earned the certificate and is now applying to jobs, I have some hot-off-the-press advice to share with anyone thinking about taking the Google UX Design Certificate program.
1. Complete all the courses
I’d recommend doing all seven courses and completing all elements. The courses have varying paces (e.g. I completed the first course much faster than the last course, which includes the third and longest project), but each one includes important information.
I’d also recommend taking your time, especially with the projects, because they’re your proof of UX design knowledge to show employers. The certificate just shows that you completed the training, so it means nothing without work samples to back it up. Your portfolio should be your real source of pride, so make sure you’re moving through the program at a pace that allows you to create your best work. I suggest doing all elements of the courses and fully involving yourself in the learning because a lot of thought and instructional design went into building the program. For example, when I chose to participate in an optional discussion prompt, I was able to better remember and process the material by reiterating what I just learned.
2. Build case studies as you go
To set yourself up for success, I highly recommend building case studies for each project as you go. I built my first case study while doing the project because I was prompted by the course to fill in a Google Slides case study template at each step. For the second project, I wasn’t reminded to fill in the template, so I did the project and figured I’d complete the case study later. But the projects are lengthy, and when I decided to add the project to my portfolio it felt difficult and time consuming to do the case study all at once at the end. I wished I’d done it piecemeal along the way. You can do this by simply taking photos of your paper wireframes, taking screenshots of your digital work, and writing up short explanations of each step as you go.
3. Slow down and take breaks
Since this is a UX design program aimed at beginners, if you’re indeed new to UX design, I’d recommend slowing down and taking breaks along the way. It’s a slow process learning a completely new field, so reward yourself for all of your progress as you go!
While someone who is experienced in the field might complete the program quickly, if you’re a beginner, it will most likely take you 3–6 months. So don’t rush it, and don’t feel bad if it takes longer than the estimated six months. The best thing you can do is go at a pace that’s productive for you.
4. Polish your portfolio
After completing the program and earning your certificate (congrats!), I’d recommend taking a good bit of time to improve and polish your portfolio and then consider your next steps. This program is just a foundation into UX design, so it’s likely you’ll have to do more to get a job, if that’s your goal.
Some next steps, besides polishing your portfolio, might include the following job search preparation:
Preparing a resume and cover letter, and doing interview prep.
Taking additional online courses in an adjacent field, such as UX research or UX writing.
Taking more in-depth UX design courses, such as visual design, motion design, and interaction design.
Networking with others in the field to make connections and continue to learn.
Asking for feedback on your portfolio from someone in a similar role that you’re aiming for can be a really helpful step, too.
Would I recommend the Google UX Design Certificate program?
I’d recommend the Google UX Design Certificate to anyone completely new to the realm of UX. It’s also good for those who like self-paced, asynchronous learning, have several months to complete the full certificate, and are interested in working for a big tech company like Google.
What I liked
I learned a lot in this program! Google and Coursera have partnered in creating a really well-done program. And all for quite a low price, too. The monthly rate and the flexibility of being able to cancel my subscription sold me on this certificate. There are other UX design programs out there (some of which have a job guarantee at the end), which cost a few thousand dollars. I wasn’t ready to spend that much money on a new field, especially because I didn’t know if I’d like it.
I really like online courses for several reasons: the self-paced timeline, the flexibility of learning, and the low gatekeeping of a new subject. All of this is true for this program as well. Two bonuses to this program are that you get a free nine-month Adobe XD subscription included in the monthly rate and that interaction with other students is built into the coursework. In every other online course I’ve taken, I’ve felt on my own, since it’s all independent work. But with this program, discussion prompts and peer reviews enable you to interact with other students taking the certificate.
Peer reviews are incorporated into each step of the three hands-on projects, so every time you’re required to submit work, it gets graded by another student enrolled in the course. While these peer reviews are usually quick and often don’t provide the most meaningful feedback, I still enjoyed this interaction. I didn’t feel alone in taking the courses, and while they were very low stakes, the peer reviews were still enough of a push to motivate me to submit my work and do a good job because I knew there was a real person looking at it.
I liked using Coursera as well. It was easy to use and was a great hosting platform for this program. I really enjoyed the wide variety of learning activities and how engaging they were, and I appreciated that Google put the time into widening the accessibility of the program with great subtitles, instructors who spoke clearly and slowly, transcripts for each video, and interesting readings. I felt guided and supported through the whole program, too. Templates are attached to each activity, and examples are provided directly after each activity too, making the program very clear and easy to follow for anyone new to UX.
What I didn’t like
The biggest thing I didn’t like about the certificate is how it solely focuses on Google’s own UX design process. I’m sure the UX design method used at Google is similar to other organizations, but I think it’s important to understand that the method they teach is only used at Google. I don’t think Google is transparent enough about this in the program. At the end, the last course discusses different types of career styles (i.e. full-time permanent vs. freelance), but that’s more of a high-level job discussion, not about UX design methods. So the program is primarily designed to train students for UX designer roles at Google or other similar big tech companies.
For my personal goals, I also disliked that there wasn’t any time spent on UX writing, especially when compared with UX research, which was given a lot of attention. Certainly there are UX designers whose tasks include UX writing, so I think everyone taking this program could benefit from that addition to the coursework.
Lastly, I didn’t find the time in the last course devoted to job searching and career readiness helpful. I had decided at this point that I wanted to pursue UX writing rather than design, so while the specific UX design interview prep wasn’t relevant to me, most of the information is aimed at people who have never applied for jobs. I’m sure this section is helpful for some, but as someone who has already worked in the tech industry for several years, the tips on applying for jobs, writing a resume, and interviewing felt very basic.
My next steps
Upon completing the Google UX Design Certificate, I have decided to pursue UX writing over UX design. After earning my certificate, I started learning more about UX writing to complement what I had learned in the certificate. I designed and completed a UX writing case study – redesigning a website’s information architecture to improve user experience – to add to my portfolio and show off those skills. I am now looking for my next job in UX writing, content design, or a technical writing role with an overlap in UX.
Going forward, I’ll certainly continue to use online learning to uplevel in my career journey. Most careers, especially in tech – and even more so in an emerging field like UX design – consistently change and evolve, requiring a constant upleveling of skills. In my opinion, the flexibility, cost, and ease of use of online learning can’t be beat. I’ll keep finding new courses and certificates to continue my learning.
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Christy Umberger is currently based in Fort Collins, Colorado. Christy has worked in the EdTech industry for the past five years, holding Technical Writer positions at A Cloud Guru and Pluralsight. Connect with Christy on LinkedIn.
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