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4 steps to build an awesome UX team

4 steps to build an awesome UX team

Jennifer DeRome  |  August 18, 2015

As organizations begin to appreciate the value of user experience research, the need for a dedicated UX team is growing. But if UX is a relatively new concept in your company, building your UX team can be a little intimidating. Not to worry. We’ve got a few tips to help you get started building—or growing—an awesome UX team.

Step 1: Promote a UX-friendly environment

A UX team will need the support of the entire company to be successful, so before you do anything, take a look at your company’s environment. Do you have UX advocates sprinkled throughout the organization, or is the UX love concentrated within specific groups or individuals? If you find that UX tends to live in just one area of the building, so to speak, then it’s time to start mingling with other teams. Even if you can’t physically sit with cross-functional teams, start getting other teams excited about UX by involving them in meetings, sharing results, and asking for feedback.

[clickToTweet tweet="Build advocacy within your organization by empowering everyone in the company to take ownership for UX." quote="Build advocacy within your organization by empowering everyone in the company to take ownership for UX."]

Step 2: Hire the right people

Hiring great people is a no-brainer, but finding great people that are right for the job will take some effort. UX folks are a special breed, and that means you’ll probably need to search a bit longer to find the right fit. When you’re putting together your team, focus on individuals who share your organization’s passion for creating a great UX. People who can work well in cross-functional teams, and are open to feedback make great candidates. You’ll also want varying degrees of experience on your UX team. While some expertise is ideal, you don’t want to load your team with high-level pros in each discipline without balancing them out with junior-level support. Individuals with more varied experience will help keep everyone connected and moving in the right direction. This will help prevent the siloing that can happen when teams get too focused on a specific role or objective. Having dedicated resources for each aspect of UX will help your team focus on what they’re great at while still understanding their relationship with the rest of the team and process. Your finished team should look something like this:

  • UX team lead - Responsible for the entire team and delivering great user experiences. This person should have extensive UX experience and be well versed in best practices, and comfortable championing the UX mission throughout the entire organization.
  • UX designer - Responsible for researching and designing the overall user experience, including conducting user testing, prototyping, field research and combing through analytics.
  • UI designer - Responsible for making sure the user can interact with and understand the product as intuitively as possible through the design and layout of visual elements.
  • Content strategist - Content is just as important as the visual design. This person makes sure the words a user reads are clear, easy to understand, and in line with your brand.
  • Developer - Responsible for bringing all your team’s great ideas to life with code.

And while it’s important to have a team with diverse skills, be careful of assigning too many responsibilities to one individual. For example, Craig Morrison cautions that hiring a designer to handle both UI and UX is a mistake. He notes that combining the two disciplines waters down the focus of two crucial elements of the user experience. Find individuals with knowledge and experience with a variety of areas related to UX, but try to avoid combining responsibilities

Step 3: Set the right goals

Once you have your team assembled, it’s a good idea to establish some goals. And since great UX is centered around the user, your UX team must be as well. That means the team’s goals should be focused not just on achieving an objective, but how their work really makes an impact on users. To do this, your team needs to have empathy for users. Remind your team of the cardinal rule of UX: you are not your user. Continually develop and practice empathy by putting your team in the shoes of users—and have them interact with real users during user testing—and design to fit their needs.

Empathy is the way we connect with one another, it is the platform for emotion. - Aarron Walter

Failure is also an important goal. Yes, you heard right. As you’re learning about your users and iterating the experience to best solve their problems, your team will fail. And that’s a good thing. Make failure an achievement, not something to be ashamed of. Your team can’t build a better product if it doesn’t fail. Each failure gets you closer to what you’re all working for: a delightful user experience.

Step 4: Test everything, then test again

We can’t mention UX without talking about user testing, and for good reason. The whole reason a UX team exists is to provide a great experience for users. And the only way to know if your team is achieving that goal is to see and hear users interacting with your product—whether it’s a prototype or in production. After you’ve conducted user tests, gather the entire team—and folks from other teams as well—to observe the results. Watching a user struggle through the navigation your team thought would be intuitive and fun to use is a powerful motivator. Get everyone in a room and have a debrief after every round of user tests. Talk about what worked, what didn’t, and how you can improve going forward. And once you finally achieve that user nirvana, it’s time to start iterating and testing again. Great user experience is a living, breathing thing. It will change based on what your users want and need, and what’s influencing them in the environment around them. If you’re not constantly testing, you’ll miss out on the clues that tell you it’s time to change something, so test early, and test often. Every organization will structure their teams differently. Some teams will be large with representation from many disciplines while others are a team of one. Regardless of the size of your team, the fundamentals for creating a great user experience are the same. Set the stage with an organization that values the user experience, and build and empower your team to design and improve those experiences.

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About the author:

Jennifer is a Senior Content Strategist for UserTesting. When she's not dreaming up new ways to connect with audiences, you can find her traveling around the world or enjoying a glass of wine with friends.