UX Team of One: We Never Need to Feel Alone

by Jared M. Spool

It’s tough being the UX Team of One. We’re a solitary user experience person in a sea of co-workers who aren’t sure what delivering a great user experience is all about.

We’ve talked to folks about what it’s like to be a UX Team of One in their organization. We heard some fantastic tips for building UX awareness and capability when we’re in that situation. Here’s what we learned:

Discovering hidden champions inside our organization

When we feel supported and appreciated every day, we do better work. Having a highly-placed champion to support our work is key to having those feelings.

Often, our best champions are hidden from us inside our organization. We won’t find them in our group or directly in our management chain-of-command. Yet, these champions find that their key objectives are highly influenced by the user experience of our products and services.

Our champion could be the head of sales, who is losing sales because our product’s UX isn’t as good as it could be. Or they could be the head of support, whose team deals with hundreds or thousands of UX-related support problems every day. Or even the person in charge of development, who is frustrated their team wastes effort re-coding work that doesn’t meet our user’s needs.

When these individuals see how our design work can improve their objectives, they become our supporters. That can help us corral other resources from within the organization.

Reframing our design outputs as human-centered UX outcomes

It’s common for an organization’s leadership to state goals and objectives in terms of business needs. “We need to increase new subscriptions by 10% this year.”

We can get others on the program when we reframe this objective in terms of human-centered UX outcomes. These outcome statements answer the key question: “If we do a fantastic job improving our objective, how does that improve the lives of our users?”

Our business objective, when restated into a human-centered UX outcome, can look like this: “When we do a fantastic job improving the experience of signing up, 20,000 new subscribers will get delicious meals delivered to their homes, saving them the time and expense of planning a few dinners every month.”

Saying the outcome out loud reminds everyone why we all are working on this project. A great user experience isn’t just the responsibility of the solitary UX person. It’s the responsibility of everyone working to improve the product or service. We’re not alone.

Celebrate those that want to design with us

It’s not unusual for a developer, a product manager, or even an executive in our organization to suggest a design idea. Instead of pushing back and suggesting that design is the solitary purview of our own job, we can celebrate their efforts.

Because they may not have the training and experience to do good UX work, it’s likely their work won’t be up to the quality we would’ve produced. However, if we encourage their efforts, we can help them grow their skills. And that could take work off of our plate.

Just last week, we heard from a UX-team-of-one practitioner who regularly sits down with anyone in their organization who is interested in contributing to their product’s designs. The UX person collaborates with a developer or product manager who shows interest in flexing their own design muscle. They co-design the work, while they share the tips and experience they’ve learned over their career.

The end result is their co-collaborators are picking up basic design skills. Those collaborators get a glimpse into how much effort it takes to make a great user experience. That glimpse gives them respect and increases their understanding of design’s value.

Growing our community means we grow our support

While we may be the organization’s official solitary UX person, everyone else we work with is trying hard to deliver well-designed products and services. By increasing the visibility of our work, we’re promoting the value of good design.

When others show interest in learning from our experience, it creates a feeling of community. From there, we can build the case to no longer be the organization’s solitary UX person.

Because, in reality, we never were. Everyone else was right there with us, supporting everything we did.

About the Author

Jared M. Spool is a co-founder of Center Centre and the founder of UIE. In 2016, with Dr. Leslie Jensen-Inman, he opened Center Centre, a new design school in Chattanooga, TN to create the next generation of industry-ready UX Designers. They created a revolutionary approach to vocational training, infusing Jared’s decades of UX experience with Leslie’s mastery of experience-based learning methodologies.

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