Important Rules for a UX Team of One

blog.marvelapp.com blog.marvelapp.com3 years ago in #UX Love218

My “first 90-days” at Empowerly, an early-stage startup, was spent speed-fixing an utterly broken web app so that our users can successfully access our basic revenue-generating service features to complete their tasks. Now that the product is patched up, we saw our user engagement up by four-fold — and can at least for a brief moment let out a sigh of relief. Of course, this is just the beginning of a very, very long journey. Before After I decided to reflect on my experience of this first operation. Here’s my survival guide for anyone else who might be working as a lone-wolf designer with a handful of engineers and 0 product managers: 1. Prioritize all that is needed for the red-route For a user to obtain minimum value out of our product, they have to be able to access your product and complete at least one important task. This is UX design 101. Make sure the product is ready to guide your user through the experience from sign-up to sign-out. If you are soft-opening a community center just for a theatre show, you need to make sure that the entrance is paved, the lobby and waiting areas are done, the elevators and stairways are built, the toilets are accessible, and of course, the theatre itself is ready. The swimming pool? Not so much. When you have a million different possible problems to fix and features to develop and are the only one on the job, always ask yourself what is necessary right now and what can wait. Writing out your user stories is super important. 2. Seek front-end solutions first Many usability issues can be resolved by writing better UX copies and putting buttons in the right places. Since I had to be mindful of the limited engineering capacity (we had one full-stack engineer capable of backend work), I prioritized solutions that did not require creating new API calls. (Of course, this rule is only relevant to certain specific, time-sensitive contexts.) 3. Usable is better than perfect Under time-sensitive conditions, it is okay to let go of the expectations of achieving 120% on every single one of NNG’s ten heuristic principles, as long as you commit to constant reiteration over the long run. 4. Don’t neglect your teammates Operations, sales, and community managers hold valuable first-hand insights of our users, customers, and other business stakeholders. Harness their knowledge first! As the only designer on the team, I avoided working in a silo by running internal workshops to learn what they know about our customers/users, align on the company’s missions and goals, set feature development priorities, expectations, and product release benchmarks. Team workshop 5. Use workshops to structure complex dialogues Relying on sticky notes might look like a silicon valley cliché, but I find them to be an extraordinarily effective way to harness everyone’s thoughts while time boxing the process. I thank them for their capacity to prevent 8-hour-long rabbit-hole discussions. 6. Don’t neglect the user As a UX designer, half the job is about advocating for the user. Of course — running interviews does not feel like a priority when you have a lot of little bits and pieces to design under time-pressure. And of course, it is difficult to test/research every single feature or element. As a rule of thumb, the more complex a design task/feature, the more user research and usability testing goes into it, regardless of how little time I have. We all know that it is also our job as UX/product designers to help others realize the importance of research. Fortunately, our engineers don’t want to…

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