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What is Object-Oriented UX?

Designer Sophia Prater calls herself “the evangelist of object-oriented UX.” Here, she explains what that means—and why she loves sharing her methodology with students By Elizabeth Nelson

Sophia Prater is a designer, mentor, consultant, coach, and teacher. Since 2013, she’s been the driving force behind “object-oriented UX,” calling herself an “evangelist” for the methodology, and offering workshops and certifications in it. This summer, she offered a free online workshop to Touro Graduate School of Technology students, and here, she talks about what object-oriented UX means, what she hopes to teach her students, and the defining experience that changed her thinking about UX.

TechSpec: How would you describe object-oriented UX?
Sophia Prater:In a nutshell, object-oriented UX is all about respecting the fact that humans think in objects. Imagine entering an environment—any kind of environment, like a coffee shop or something—where you walk in and you can’t tell what the things are. We create digital environments like this all the time because while designing in pixels, we’re not beholden to the laws of physics. So [in object-oriented UX], we create environments where you can tell what the things are, how the things relate to each other, how they define themselves in context of each other, and what we can do to them. Can I editthis thing, can I not edit this thing? Can I share this thing? Can I move this thing? Object-oriented UX is all about how the human brain works and what we look for when we enter an environment, and bringing that into the digital space, so that our user can walk into this digital environment and say, “Oh this is what I expect in this world, and I understand how I can interact with these objects.”

TS: What professional experiences helped you grow as a UX designer?

SP: The one that comes to mind right offthe bat is the one that completely changed my thinking about UX. It was In 2012, when I was working at as a UX designer. We were the only news outlet that made it a responsive design in 2012, so it was a really big deal, and I really didn’t want to mess it up. And this is really when I started thinking modularly and about systems instead of pages. I realized I had to think about the machine as a whole and create a really elegant, simple system that wasn’t going to break on election night. And we were successful with that.

TS: What excites you most about teaching, and what do you bring to your workshops?

SP: I love teaching. But the process that I teach is hard. Nobody that goes through my certification course is ever going to say that it’s easy.I’m teaching how to break down complexity, which by nature is hard. And so I get people saying “Is this going to be too advanced for me?” “Am I going to be able to do this?” “I’m completely new to UX.” All I can say is, I have a psychologist in my cohort now, I have somebody that has been working in customer service, and I also have director-level people in the certification course. It’s hard for everyone...but they can succeed. I loveteaching students and people who are new, because there’s less to unlearn. They have a little bit more of an open mind about process.

TS: Do you have any tips for beginners in the field?

SP: We have a lot of designers that come out of a bootcamp program, and they get hired into UX roles within complex industries, they get really thrown into the deep end ... One of my favorite testimonials from somebody, she’d been in the field maybe a year. She came out of my workshop and she said to me, “I feel like I can tackle any level of complexity now.”

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