The Business Problem
Most of our clients provide online products in highly regulated industries such as financial services, health care benefits administration and software development. These are applications that serve numerous types of users all with different levels of access and familiarity with the system. They are complex or transactional, there are many moving parts, and a myriad of technical requirements and limitations.
Our clients recognize more and more that they need to have someone on their internal team with deep knowledge of their business and the market it serves who can advocate on behalf of their users.
This requires someone on staff that has industry experience, understanding of end user behavior, and a solid knowledge of best practices in UX design. That can be a challenging role to effectively fill especially since User Experience design is still in its infancy.
Attributes of a Good UX Person
There are numerous risks associated with bringing on an internal UX resource. The worst thing that can happen is ending up with someone in a director or VP level strategic role that is in over their head. Working on a web site or two, attending a seminar here and there, and observing a usability test does not qualify a candidate as a UX expert.
They need to have a clear understanding about how business goals translate to user goals and how to design a system free of barriers. They need to know how to clearly evaluate how an experience causes end users to feel and how to ensure an optimal user experience within the confines of the organizations technical and regulatory requirements
If you are going to hire a UX expert at any level make sure you find someone who:
- Has conducted research with users and has the ability to make recommendations that will improve or evolve a process based on both the goals of the business and its customers .
- Can collaborate effectively with marketing, technical and subject matter experts by understanding what each role brings to the table and how each discipline will influence the experience.
- Has a deep understanding of your market and the people who use your product or service. They need to be able to get into your customer’s head and have the ability to form a hypothesis about what they need and how they behave.
- Can effectively demonstrate how they have helped improve an experience, why the work they did made a difference and how they participated in continuing to evolve it.
- Can talk about their influences, where their get inspiration and genuinely have passion for the work they do.
Contract Versus Full Time
We’ve worked with both contract and full time UX employees on the client side. There are pros and cons to having each of these types of employees:
Contractors can provide a short-term band-aid with out the risks of a long-term commitment. You can staff up when there is a need. The problem is that this person may not have a solid understanding of the business. They may be a bit more of an order taker than a consultant and you may need to invest a good amount of time working with them to make them a successful addition to the organization.
Making a commitment to a full time employee means you really need to ensure you have the right person in the right seat. There is nothing more inefficient than realizing that someone has said all the right things in their interview but can’t deliver when they get into the trenches.
“Bob is our UX expert. He also manages our CMS and he’s responsible for this direct mail campaign and leading training seminars for our new clients.” Don’t make the mistake of assuming that UX expert can be a part time job or a part time role, especially if you are selling a complex product. You are better off hiring a consulting firm. We see this all the time and it usually results in a poor experience for both the employees and end users.
One Versus Many
If you found a unicorn UX person, congratulations, pay them well and make sure you keep them challenged. Even if you have this person on staff it is unlikely they will be able to provide the most effective solution possible working alone. UX is about collaboration and understanding. It is about looking at a problem from many sides, evaluating numerous approaches, and continually refining the solution until it is seamless for users.
This is why we have collaborative in our name. Designing something in a vacuum even if you think you know what your users want, will result in a mediocre solution at best.
Working in a collaborative team structure of as few as 2-3 people offers a much better chance of finding a great solution. At is core it’s really simple math. The more qualified people on a team, the more ideas there will be to choose from. The more ideas we have, the better the odds that some will prove to be truly innovative or ground breaking.
Complicated applications have a ton of moving parts and it is unrealistic to expect one person to provide the best answer.
Qualified, competent internal UX resources can be instrumental in transitioning an organization to a more user-centered approach. Remember, just because someone has “UX” on their resume doesn’t mean they are qualified or competent. Take your time, do your due diligence, ask hard questions, interview references and find the right person for the job.
Most importantly, have realistic expectations about what this persons role will be. You’re looking for someone who can be responsible for bringing your users perspective to conversations about the strategy, research, and design of your digital products. Expecting that any one person can transform your organization without outside help, is likely to result in disappointment.
If you do only have the ability to have one UX expert on staff, make sure that person has the autonomy to work with all facets of the business and can have access to qualified external resources if the complexity of a problem warrants an outside opinion.
If you have questions about hiring the right person, or if you are interested in learning about how we can support your existing team, please get in touch with us to start a conversation.
By John Golden
John’s career in interactive media design began in 1995 and has spanned over two decades with a focus on developing simple, streamlined approaches for complex problems.View John's Bio