When you’re a UX team of one, the pressure is on.
You have no one to blame or lean on if something goes wrong from the design end of a product.
That’s why I’ve written this survival guide to help you with your solo UX design journey.
In fact, the things I’m going to mention in this guide have helped me along my own UX-team-of-one journey (I’ve been both solo and part of a team of designers).
I’ll be sharing specific examples on how I’ve done these things myself and concrete way on how you can do them too.
Be Humble and Learn
1. Find Online Design Resources
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a UX designer for more than ten years or less than one year, you need to constantly be learning about design and UX.
Why is this?
It’s because technology and people’s relationship with it are constantly evolving.
And if neither of them are stagnant, then your knowledge of UX design shouldn’t be either.
When you’re a UX team of one, your team will expect you to be the expert.
UX design is easy to start but hard to master.
That’s because there’s so much to UX design–from UX research to UI design to (some knowledge of) web development.
That’s why I recommend that you keep learning through different online design resources.
Besides this website, there are plenty of both free and paid online resources for you to use.
UX Planet is a free website that I’ve found to have some great UX-related articles.
UX Educate is another free resource that helps you learn UX design in a more chronological order.
If you’re looking for a paid resource, you can find some amazing UX courses on Skillshare.
2. Build a Relationship with Developers (and Learn from Them)
Since you’ll be working closely with developers, it’s best that you are all able to comfortably talk to each.
Whether it’s praise or a critique, having a good designer-developer relationship will help your product thrive.
One concrete way to do this is by attending daily standups.
This is what I do with my team.
It gives me a chance to keep developers and other members of my team up-to-date on what I’m working on, but it also helps me know where the developers are at too.
After everyone on the team gives their update, you can ask each other questions.
This has helped us all get really close.
Now we joke with each other all the time and communicate frequently.
Sometimes, there are things that I didn’t see in my designs that they were able to catch.
That’s because they approach projects from a different angle than designers do.
Another thing you can do is build rapport with a trusted developer.
And by trusted developer, I mean a developer who knows his stuff and other developers admire.
If you come to share your designs and ask for advice, he/she can give you some very valuable critiques.
Not only that, but they can then be your ally when you share your work with the rest of the team.
And since they’re well-respected, that will give you a lot of leeway in turning heads and changing minds.
If you know what you want the end goals to be before starting a project, you’ll have a clear direction on where to steer your project while journeying through it.
This will save you and your team time and (the company) money in the end.
It will also lead to a more focused and better-developed product.
Some of the goals you should set at the beginning of your project include:
- Setting the goals of your product
- Understanding the goals of the business
- Setting the goals of your (potential users)
- Aligning the previous 3 goals
- Listing what skills you’ll have to learn to succeed
- Listing how to exceed client/stakeholder expectations
- How to build lasting relationships with teammates and clients
- How to add this project to my portfolio
I’ve gone into detail on how to define these 8 things in this other article, so check it out if you want to learn more.
Make a plan
Having a plan from the very beginning is what has saved me tremendously.
It’s given me peace of mind, helped me see what will be coming next, and showed others that I’m prepared.
Similar to setting goals, you want to make a list of things you need to do.
For example, I often start on Google Docs just to make the list and then move to Google Spreadsheets once I start making a timeline for the list.
I first list things like:
- What are my goals for this project?
- Define the business’ goals for this project/product
- Make an initial definition of who our main users are (turn into personas later) and their goals
- Create a competitive analysis
- Interview users
- Create personas of our users
- Create user journey maps to show how the user would move through the product
…and later define these steps further and turn them into a timeline.
You can use UX Educate to help you come up with a chronological plan.
Test with Users Regularly
You want to be talking to your users on some sort of regular basis.
That’s because as your product evolves based on feedback, so do your users’ opinions on the product.
It’s especially helpful when there are disagreements on the features of a product in the team.
Instead of basing an argument on personal opinion, test with your users to get concrete proof that something works or doesn’t work.
If you’re a UX designer, I don’t think I need to go into too much detail on the importance of user testing, but just keep in mind that the user’s voice and opinions are the basis for much of our designs.
Testing at least once every 6 weeks is a good rule of thumb.
Ask for Feedback
While creating your designs, whether they’re wireframes or pixel-perfect mockups, don’t be too proud to ask for feedback from your team.
Whether they’re product managers, researchers, or developers, everyone has insight on the product and (potential) users from a different angle than you do.
Recently, I’ve especially been learning the benefits of asking for feedback early on in the designing process.
For example, by getting feedback on my low-fidelity wireframes from my product manager towards the beginning of my project, I’ve been able to make changes more quickly than if I had already made pixel-perfect mockups.
For another example, if you make 70+ pixel-perfect mockups of something that developers say they can’t do from a technical standpoint, then you’ll be spending a lot of time having to change all the mockups.
Believe me, you’ll save a lot of time and effort by having your team involved throughout your process rather than just showcasing your work at the very end.
Meet Other Local Designers
Having online resources are very helpful in studying UX design, but if you’re a UX team of one, it will help you out tremendously to know other UX designers in your area.
From sharing what you’ve learned to getting feedback, talking to other designers in-person can help you stay sane and help you make sure you’re up-to-date on the latest design trends.
Not to mention, having connections for the future may come in handy one day.
You can easily find local design gatherings through Meetup.com.
It’s a great way to make professional connections and new friends.
Having a great portfolio doesn’t just mean you have many projects. Refine the work you have and be thorough! Afterall, UX is all about the process.
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