UX Design is Not a One Man Show

UX Design is Not a One Man Show

UX Design is Not a One Man Show
UX Design is Not a One Man Show

In the last few months, I saw heaps of job vacancies with “UX” on their titles, both in Indonesia and abroad. Surely I am glad to see more and more companies are interested in UX and aware about potentials of UX to their businesses. However, I was astonished to find out how companies regard UX as the work of one person, not a team.

A vacancy would say “UX Web Designer”, where the potential candidate is expected to know the details of a web design process, such as “solid skills in Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, HTML, CSS and cross-browser compatibility” and “understanding of composition, colours, imagery, and typography”. The candidate is expected to have an experience in web deployment but will be required to do UX analysis, without further description what UX analysis is.

This vacancy shows that many companies or recruiters lack the knowledge about what UX is. It is only believed to be a nice-to-have, thus it comes in a package together with a web designer, like a bonus. Are you sure you want to give the burden of UX analysis to this web designer alone? Are you sure that you know what UX is?

Probably the most this web designer can do (apart from the actual web designing) is doing a heuristic usability evaluation on the UI (User Interface). If this person gets support from his/her colleagues then this person will invite non-expert users for doing a user test of the UI. If this person gets support from management then he/she will be able to report what findings from the UI analysis that may affect business decisions. But surely this is not about UX, as UX needs collaboration from different stakeholders (the management, the workers, the users).

Change the vacancy of the title into “UX Developer”, and you will find a list of what a web developer should do, such as PHP and JavaScript, and this person is expected to do UX analysis, too. The game is to add “UX” to any job vacancies, and you’ll find web designers or developers who add “UX” to their resumes applying to the vacancies. Does this solve the problem?

Another vacancy would say “UX Lead” or “UX Head”, where the potential candidate is expected to be a superhuman, from doing the actual job of a UX Designer “work closely with development teams, marketing, business operations and visual designers to translate high level business requirements into detailed user experience designs” to the jobs of a Visual Designer “create beautiful visuals, ranging from content layouts to icons and illustrations”, an Interaction Designer “develop detailed interaction, visual design and wireframe specifications that incorporate all technical, editorial, and usability specifications for new products, websites, mobile apps and kiosks” and a Copywriter “design effective marketing pages and email newsletters for our web and mobile products”.

It seems that the description of the job may have been copied from somewhere else, from what a UX designer is able to do, or even the list of what a UX team can do! If it is the job of a single UX Lead, then whom are this person leading? Developers? For sure a UX designer may have been a Visual Designer or an Interaction Designer or a Copywriter in the past, but it is just a part of his/her experience. Now that he/she is a leader, he/she should get supports from a team of people that work for UX.

[UX Designer and UI Developer, source]

I understand that companies are eager to enhance the UX of their products or services, but they don’t know where to start from. For sure they want to start from one person, because it is a rational decision both financially and strategically. However, by understanding what steps to take to design a good UX, companies can prevent from overwhelming a staff member to perform a one man show.

My suggestion is to start from existing staff. Train your marketing staff to translate what they know about customers into UX requirements. If you work with an agency for your advertising purpose, work with their Copywriter to get insights on what to display on your website. Train your Web Designers to understand customer characteristics from the marketing staff. Hire a web designer who knows Usability, not UX. Make sure the designers don’t fight with the developers.

Another suggestion is to hire an Interaction Designer. This person will work with marketing team to obtain customer characteristics. This person will work with visual designers to translate interaction sketch into a prototype. This person will work with developers to make sure the interaction is as designed. This person will do iterative user tests, or work with marketing team to measure customer behaviour while using the prototype.

Only then, if you have extra budget, you can hire a UX Leader/Director. This person will communicate with everyone involved in designing the UX of your products or services. This person will make sure that all communications stay smooth and effective. An important requirement is great communication skill, as this person should be able to communicate both with marketing team and developer team. They’re different!

To designers and developers, keep doing what you do as you like. You are still part of the UX stakeholders. Your affinity towards a good UX is more than enough to make a smooth collaboration among the UX stakeholders. Visual Designers can learn colours and shapes perception. Web Designers can learn heuristic usability evaluation. Developers can learn interaction techniques that are intuitive for users. Everyone can contribute to UX without adding “UX” to their job title.

The series of User Experience (UX) posts is brought to you by Qonita Shahab, a researcher in UX who used to work in IT. Her interest in music and photography helps her in designing interactive system prototypes. Since she started research in the field of persuasive technology, Qonita studied more about social psychology and the communal use of technology. Follow her on Twitter @uxqonita.

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