In many people’s eyes, UX remains unfamiliar ground. Even when there is awareness of what we do, some non-practitioners have a opinion about UX that is a little misguided or completely incorrect.
This can be particularly difficult and damaging whenever a member of the UX team isn’t present. In fact, I’ve witnessed entire projects stop moving due to a lack of UX empowerment in their ranks.
In an IDEAL world, every project would have:
- Full-time UX designers
- Dedicated (and separate) UX researchers
- Generous budget
- Flexible time frame
In reality, many projects have:
- Part-time UX designers
- The same UX designers conducting UX research
- Non-existent budget
- A time frame of yesterday
This lack of people power, money, and time will result in compromised research, little to no UX vision, inconsistent styling, made-up personas, and unresolved designs to name just a few project weaknesses.
Worst of all, UX becomes the scapegoat for all these failings, as if the wizard-like attributes of the design team failed to conjure up the perfect product out of a magical top hat.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Even if resources are stretched and UX team members aren’t present, projects can still be a success as long as you give precedence to design democratisation.
By teaching your team about the following attributes and ideals, you can rest assured that they’ll be able to understand and deal with product and project issues as and when they occur.
The attributes and ideals every team should possess
- Design courage
The project team isn’t afraid of designing, sketching, or even drawing on the back of a napkin. Once, I remember a project team member (non UXer) using Microsoft Word to wireframe using squares and rectangles. This is an excellent example of design courage.
- Human-centred (empathy)
UX always comes back to the user and customer – trying to understand their needs and behaviours (pains and gains) and how they want to use and interact with products. So, the team must be able to empathise with the end customer and know them intimately.
Design is at its most effective when underpinned by collaboration. Project teams should be collaborative and cross-functional, working side-by-side to understand design challenges and use the intellectual capital of the group to solve problems quickly. By utilising techniques such as design sprints, design studios, as well as pitch and critiques, collaboration can guarantee project success.
- Co-location (physically or virtually)
True project and product success comes from co-location – having cross-functional roles sitting together (virtually or physically). Every member of a project team can always be online but should be together wherever they are in the world. Beit onsite with a customer or simply working from home, today’s technology MUST allow teams to share the same digital space. Physical location should no longer be an excuse (timezone challenges aside).
The behavioural attitude and cultural values of project teams is also crucial. Egos should be left at the door when coming together to deliver value. By setting up shop with collaborative, self-effacing values from the get-go, a positive and humble culture will ensure product success and team longevity.
Not only should team members feel as though they have a voice when it comes to the user and customer experience of the product, they must also be heard by everyone else. The only stupid questions are the ones you don’t ask, and having the confidence to speak freely without judgement (beit about research objectives or UI design) can facilitate a greater sense of empowerment. This empowerment shouldn’t be restricted to the topic of UX or design either and should be present for every craft and discipline.
- Design Leadership (not ownership)
New or non-experienced designers often feel they need to OWN the design (UI, research etc.). It’s often this ownership that leads to lack of collaboration, empowerment, and humility (as mentioned above). The role of a designer should be to FACILITATE the design process, not own the design (interface or research).
UX empowerment for the greater good
Democratising design isn’t about making UXers obsolete; its about empowering everybody else to reduce dependency, which in turn can increase productivity.
It must be the goal of UX designers to support the working product that is created, to make the best product, to go from GOOD to BETTER to BEST.
As a design discipline, UX is more than just pixel pushing:
- It’s strategic, as it can inform a product’s roadmap.
- It has rigour, as it uses qualitative and quantitative research methods to collect evidence.
- It’s collaborative, as it requires input and buy-in from the entire team.
- it’s adaptive and flexible, as it has a wide range of tools and techniques that can work in agile, waterfall, and hybrid delivery methods.
Ticking these boxes isn’t something that can happen immediately, especially in fast-paced environments where developers often outnumber UXers. Identifying the right person to advocate for the customer while practising empathy can also be tricky because every team member will have their own agenda.
But by increasing their knowledge of UX and confidence in design principles, entire teams will soon see that we’re not wizards or magicians – we simply follow a process that works.
The more people that understand and support what UXers do, the more evangelists we’ll have fighting our cause.
As a result, projects can run as smoothly as possible with clarity, vision, and less dependency on individual design practitioners. UXers will then be able to play a greater strategic role and have more time to influence upwards.
Contact Transpire today to discover more about our human-centred design approach.