Amanda Stockwell is the vice president of User Experience at 352 inc., has presented at UXPA, BigDesign, Interaction South America, and written content for UXmatters, UXMag, How Design, and—most recently—our Aquent blog, where she published this piece on how to build your very own awesome UX team.
Nearly every company recognizes user experience (UX) as an integral part of a successful strategy, but establishing and growing a solid team of UX professionals can be incredibly challenging. There are many different disciplines that contribute to creating a great user experience, the terminology and responsibilities are inconsistent, and UX professionals are in high demand. So how do you get started building a UX team?
You’re going to need a team with varying areas of expertise. Successful teams have expertise in each of the major disciplines that make up UX: user research and testing, information architecture, interaction design, visual design, content strategy, and the ability to tie everything together into a cohesive strategy. Each person does not need expertise in every area, but they must have a sense of how all the elements work together.
How to hire in UX
While it’s tempting to try to hire unicorns, or individuals with expertise across all these elements, that doesn't set your team up for success. UX professionals work best when they can concentrate on an individual discipline at a time and collaborate/brainstorm with other UXers with a different set of experience. That sort of teamwork ensures that they are able to focus and be more efficient, as well offset inevitable biases of someone testing their own design work. Look for a few team members with complementary areas of specialty; at least one person who has deep expertise with research, visual design, and lower-fidelity design (including information architecture and interaction design.)
To determine your first UX hiring priority, consider the needs associated with your current product state and business goals and what skills and deliverables will help you achieve those goals.For instance, if you’re starting a brand new product and need to understand the competitive landscape and verify market fit of your product, your first hire should be someone with a solid research background. If you’re revamping the look and feel of an existing website, you’re more likely to need to focus on hiring UX professionals with a strong visual design background. There is no one-size-fits-all hiring strategy for building a UX team, but knowing the state of your company and its goals can help you prioritize your first hires.
If you’re unsure what you need or need help defining the problems to solve, you’ll want to look for a senior UX professional with experience building teams and developing project strategy. A UX strategist like this can help identify the right problems to address and clearly define the processes, deliverables, and talent necessary to get you where you want to go.
To ensure that your new UX team is set up for success, plan for integrating the UX team throughout the entire development process, from ideation all the way to performance monitoring. Regardless of what your development process looks like, you’ll get the most out of your UX team by incorporating their expertise at all stages.
Researching the user base can help set product definitions and company goals designing and testing the structure, flow, content and aesthetic will not only save time and money as you develop, but it will also ensure good usability and brand consistency. Constant collection and integration of feedback can ensure that you’re on the right track and uncover opportunities for continued improvement.
It’s not easy, but building a UX team is worth the investment. Stay tuned for our next installment of the blog, where we discuss how to find and attract UX candidates.