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This is How You Can Improve the UX Practice in Your Company



Yanci Wu, award-winning UX designer at AKQA Portland looks at the steps you can take to make UX design a more collaborative process to improve studio output

This is How You Can Improve the UX Practice in Your Company

AKQA's UX designer Yanci Wu explains how UX practice can make solid changes to improve your company. 

Structure the discipline based on your business

Let’s face it, the User Experience field is overflowing with jargon. Even a cursory glance reveals the sea of job titles: UX Designer, UI Designer, UX/UI Designer, Experience Designer, Visual Designer, Information Architect, Product Designer, and the list goes on. When you read the job descriptions, you’ll be bombarded with buzz words and overlapping information. 

As an organisation, it’s important to define your own terms. Some companies purposefully eliminate the terms ‘UX’ and ‘visual’ and call everyone in the design department ‘designers’, to promote a flexible and agile work culture. Write your own job descriptions and write with clear intention. Make sure the roles are structured based on the nature and needs of your business. 

Help your designers gain clarity

We need to better understand employees. What are their strengths and weaknesses, what matters to them, and what do they want in life? Take a holistic view, consider the wellbeing and desires of employees and not just what they can do for the company. This is particularly important when designers are working remotely with their work and life intertwined. Happiness begets creativity and productivity.

Help employees understand the business - how it operates and why it’s structured the way it is. A basic understanding of the business can set realistic expectations and motivate work that aligns with business goals. 


Dissolve UX myths in the company

If you’re a UX designer you’ve likely been asked, 'can you UX this for me?' Perhaps the biggest misconception about UX is that it’s a set of activities that a UX designer does (user flows, personas, wireframes, etc.) to ensure the design is usable.

UX is not a verb. It stands for user experience, and experience touches everything. A great experience is not created by the UX designer alone; it’s created when everyone on the team shares a common understanding and works toward the same goal. The project manager, the strategist, the writer, the visual designer, the developer, and the stakeholders – we need all hands on deck.


Foster a collaborative environment

UX shouldn’t be boxed into a project phase. What the end user experiences is intricately connected to every facet of the workflow. The project is set to fail if research, UX, and visual design are only done in their respective phases. Change can feel scary but it’s in the nature of what we do. We dance between chaos, order, and the areas in between. A valuable designer can adapt to constraints and moving pieces, and work with cross-functional teams to solve problems contextually. 

In an ideal world, everyone on the team is involved in all stages of the project. When designers sit in stakeholder interviews, they can better understand the problem they’re solving; when product managers help conduct user interviews, they can better empathize with end users; when researchers collaborate with designers, they can ensure research learnings are addressed. It’s critical to cultivate a work environment where everyone feels proud of what they can achieve together.

Make UX measurable

For many, UX is viewed as a practice of user-centered design. We frame it almost like it’s something done out of kindness, like it’s a “nice thing to have”. In reality, UX is not just about the users; it’s about creating valuable products that drive business goals. Set this expectation and train your UX designers to think for the business in addition to the users. 

For every project, identify the KPIs early in the process, and do it with UX designers in the room. Use metrics to improve the design, sell the design, and unlock more opportunities. A UX designer who can talk about numbers and ROIs is much better received than one who is only able to present user needs and beautiful visuals.

Test, test, and test

This is not something you want to cut. Testing validates our assumptions and de-risks development. It’s not a box to check, or an afterthought to justify a design that’s already deep in the production line. Testing needs to be practiced throughout the project, and the budget allocation should reflect that.

For designers, advocate for frequent user testing - or even better, design with the users. Don’t be afraid to show them rough concepts, hand sketches, or paper prototypes. The goal is to expose potential issues before investing too many resources in the wrong solution. Any testing is better than none. Be flexible and work with constraints to maximize insights. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn from putting the design in front of even three users.

After each round of testing, ensure the team has time to reflect on findings, socialise insights to stakeholders, and implement changes. 

Design is not magic but an iterative, collaborative process. 

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AKQA US, Tue, 22 Sep 2020 13:01:05 GMT