UI Iteration Done Right

I have been doing the Codecademy Code Year courses for the past three months and during that time Codecademy has done some really wonderful tweaks and changes to their UI. This post is a review of what I’ve seen as far as the changes to the user experience doing the courses and not about the actual course content (although I may say a bit about that at the end).

When I first started playing around with Codecademy it was in-between Christmas and New Year’s when I was doing an intensive week of getting better with JavaScript, something I’ve been working on for about six months now (and as an aside, it’s working, I’m getting better). The UI was inventive, with an area to code, a console to see outputs and the instructions to the left. There were some clunky bits to it, but overall it seemed to work well. But over the course of the last three  months, the team at Codecademy has improved the UI and the experience of actually working through the exercises in so many little ways I cannot even list them all here. They have improved the way the console tracks the changes you’ve made, the way you move from lesson to lesson, the global navigation at the very top of the page, and more. Each week there are changes and tweaks, the interface is continually evolving. No change has ever been so large that I am thrown off or trying to find things, but they all feel intuitive and improve the experience. This is doing iterative design the right way. The product is improving. There are times when I start a lesson and it isn’t until I am part way through that I even notice the change, but it has made it easier to complete my tasks. Plus they are mind readers as well; there are changes I thought would improve the experience and all of them have been made over the course of the last three months.

I am learning about product iteration as I also learn JavaScript. Now each week when I log in to do the latest, I am taking a moment to examine the interface to look for improvements and changes. Good job Codecademy team, you have done well with the improving your interface, which is no easy feat, and I congratulate you.

A small side note about the content. I have done every single JavaScript exercise and some have been better than others, but I do have to say I am learning and the addition of the forum a few months back improved the experience immensely because you could ask questions and get help when stuck. Codecademy is moving on to HTML next week and I’ve already gone through the first lesson to see what they are doing, I am less impressed with the content and how they are teaching it. Since this is an area I don’t really need help with, I won’t be doing this section, but I do hope they improve the lessons.