Why You Need a UX Team (Part 1)

We often get contacted by potential customers that know they need some kind of help designing their software product or website – but they aren’t always sure how a UX Team fits in. Sometimes clients have their own development team that they have been trying to stretch into User Experience designers. Other times, they have a graphic design team or ad agency that they have been leaning on to fill the role of a UX Team. The most common tipping point that causes a client to finally reach out for help is when their product is either found to be unusable by its users or their website is not converting visitors into paying customers.

To help provide some guidance on who, what and why you may need a user experience design team, I’ve compiled the following from personal experiences we’ve had with our clients.

In Part 1 of this series on “Why You Need a UX Team”, we examine what specific roles, responsibilities and skill sets a UX Team typically brings to the table.

UX Team Roles, Responsibilities and Skill Sets

A UX Team members typically perform one or more of the following roles and responsibilities based on specific skill sets and experience:

Information Architects
Information Architects (IA) map the entire structure of an application and organize the positioning of pages or screens within sections, developing a functional and intuitive plan to get the users from point A to point B on the path of least resistance. To achieve this, an IA’s activities usually include:

  1. Conducting Card Sorting Exercises: A very simple exercise that helps you gain valuable insight into exactly how users logically group or categorize content.
  2. Designing Information Architecture Site Maps: Visualizing the overall navigation structure in an easy-to-follow diagram is an extremely helpful way to get all project team members on the same page with what needs to be built and in what order.
  3. Creating Task Flow Diagrams and Swimlane Diagrams: Taking the time to properly design the step-by-step process that a user will need to follow to accomplish a critical task can mean the difference between increasing or decreasing bounce rates, sales conversions and signups.
  4. Defines the Visual Hierarchies: Documenting all necessary screen elements for key screens and assigning a visual weight to each element based on its relative importance.

Visual Designers
Visual Designers typically have an education in graphic design and/or visual communications. Their main goal is to enhance the user experience through the careful use of color. While it is very helpful for them to have experience working with marketing branding and teams, it is more important that they understand how color and graphics can be used to increase a software product’s usability.

Usability Testers
As the name implies, Usability Testers create test scripts and conduct usability tests with real end-users. Unlike focus group testing where the goal is learn about people’s opinions, usability tests are about learning how real people would use your product before it is developed. It doesn’t take much effort to gain a whole lot of valuable knowledge.

HTML/CSS Designers
While just about anyone can learn to write HTML/CSS, it is far more effective if they are a Designer first, Developer second. A great HTML/CSS Designer will not only know how to create pixel-perfect layouts but they will leverage proven techniques, code libraries and plugins to enhance the user interaction design of your screens.

Front-end Developers
Once the HTML/CSS layouts are done, a great Front-end Developer can code the front-end to retrieve, submit and manipulate data in the most efficient manner for the users. Often times, a Front-end Developer will leverage a lot of JavaScript and/or JavaScript frameworks to perform specific functions in the browser to minimize the amount of server calls, which can also increase the performance of the application.

In some cases, a single UX resource can handle more than one of these roles – but if you do not have any of these types of resources on your team, you should hire a UX Team.

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