How to build a high-performing UX team and lead effectively?
The success of a UX design project does not solely depend on beautiful screens, a UX project requires different skills at different stages. Indirectly, the success of a UX project is highly influenced by the team and their skills to offer strategic solutions, creative ideas and dedication to execute them.
Design studios or agencies form a cross-functional team of experts from various domains such as research, psychology, visual design, marketing and engineers. This ensures that they build the right product which fulfils users’ needs in a pleasurable way and at the same time, achieves business goals.
In this article, we will share how we build high performing teams for UX projects and leadership approach at Octet Design Studio.
How to organize a UX team?
Once you have secured the project, you must assess the requirements of the project with the perspective of the types of talent you would require.
Ideally, our cross-functional team comprises of following professionals:
- UX Team Lead
- UX Researcher
- UX Designer
- Graphic Designer/Illustrator
- Content Strategist
- UI Designer
- Front-End Developer
We will now take a look at how each professional handles their role and contributes to the entire UX team.
UX Team Lead
The UX team lead is the in-charge of the overall project and directs all the other team members on how the project will be executed. The leader ensures that the team moves in the right direction.
He/she should have enough knowledge and experience to fill in the gaps, in case any of the team members aren’t able to perform their roles due to unforeseen circumstances.
The UX team lead shouldn’t only be well-versed with design but should have an in-depth understanding of business too so that he can direct the team to align the product that meets business needs.
The team leader needs to be an excellent communicator and decision-maker to address the issues raised by other team members. Parallelly, the leader should be the spokesperson to handle all the communications with the client’s team.
At times during internal disputes or disagreements, it’s the leader’s responsibility to mitigate the conflict and bring everyone back on track.
A UX Team Lead is mainly tasked with the following responsibilities:
- Lead creative and holistic thinking across diverse products, platforms, and devices.
- Craft a UX strategy in accordance with the product’s vision and business goals, in a planned, evolutionary and iterative fashion.
- Coordinate with client’s team to understand their requirements and deliver solutions
As a UX team leader, he/she should be adept in using any of the following tools in each category:
Project Management Tools
- Jira is a great tool to track your project’s timeline from end to end. It helps to capture and organize issues, assign work, and follow team activity.
- Asana’s thoughtful design and flexibility make it a powerful task-management app for many kinds of team-based work, as well as personal task management.
- Trello is a great card-based productivity tool, and they make it easy to track and manage projects, tasks, or even just to organize notes.
- GoodDay has a solid architecture and innovative features that automate work management and allow companies to link their strategy with objectives and execution.
- Microsoft Office’s programs such as Word, Excel, Powerpoint can come in handy to do calculations, draft reports or create presentations.
- A free alternative to MS Office is Google’s G-Suite, which offers similar functionality and real-time collaboration.
- Slack is an excellent and powerful team messaging app with a rich collection of settings and options, which makes it the most widely used communication platform. It has both free and paid versions. The free version has certain limitations, which makes it obvious for businesses to opt for the paid version.
- Teams from Microsoft is a free and powerful alternative to Slack, which provides messaging, file sharing and video conferencing features.
- Adobe XD is a design and prototyping software used by a wide range of businesses to collaborate on interactive prototypes and designs. If you have Creative Cloud subscription, you can easily import creative assets such as colour palettes and fonts saved in your Adobe Library.
- Figma is a powerful prototyping software built primarily for user experience designers and design teams in need of strong collaboration features.
- Sketch is an exclusive design available for Mac users and has almost identical toolsets that can create high-fidelity mockups and prototypes.
A user experience researcher has an instinct to understand user needs and goals. One of their key and foundational skills is being able to empathise with the users.
UX researchers help in providing actionable and meaningful data-driven insights that represent the voice of multiple users.
They collaborate with design, development and marketing teams to evaluate current and upcoming user research needs that help to improve product definition and drive business goals.
A UX researcher is well equipped with planning, data collection, analytical and presentation skills. These are just a few of the core skills but UX researchers build up a picture of target users based on their needs, wants motivations, and pain points.
A UX researcher is mainly tasked with the following responsibilities:
- Plan and implement user research strategies and methodologies.
- Conduct primary and secondary research, conduct and evaluate quantitative and qualitative research.
- Perform usability studies with consumers.
- Analyze and present research findings to UX designers and team lead.
If you are starting out your career as a UX designer or UX researcher, then this article will help you in planning effective UX research.
A UX Researcher and a UX designer together are also responsible for UX audit, user testing, and quality check of implementation. They also plan for the next phase, improvement, and further optimization required to align business goals.
As UX researchers, they should be adept at using any of the following tools in each category:
User Feedback Collection Tools
- UserTesting is an on-demand human insight platform that quickly gives companies a first-person understanding of how their target audience behaves throughout any experience and why.
- UsabilityHub is a remote usability testing platform that allows you to backup design decisions with real user data.
- SurveyMonkey is a cloud-based survey tool that helps users create, send and analyze surveys. It provides users with multiple question types including video, matrix, rating, star, slider, A/B testing and ranking questions.
- A free alternative to SurveyMonkey and other paid survey tools, Google Forms are highly simple to create, edit and share with the respondents. You can export the responses received in a Google Sheet file.
User Analytics Tools
- Google Analytics helps to track and evaluate website or app traffic and improve the performance of marketing, content and product sales.
- Optimizely is a cloud-based marketing solution that helps product teams test, modify and deploy customer-oriented digital experiences.
- Hotjar is a behaviour analytics software that makes it easy to go beyond traditional web analytics and understand what users are really doing on your site.
Product Analytics Tools
- Pendo is a product experience platform for teams to capture product usage data and behaviour, gather feedback, and influence behaviour with in-app messaging.
- Mixpanel helps companies measure what matters, make decisions fast, and build better products through data. It helps to analyze how and why people engage, convert, and retain—in real-time, across devices—to improve their user experience.
- Heap helps digital experience owners quickly surface blind spots where users struggle or drop off in multi-step digital journeys, so that product and marketing teams know where to make the most impactful improvements to the digital product or website.
- Notion is a project and workflow management solution that enables users to utilize the drag-and-drop interface to organize, rearrange, and develop ideas, thoughts or plans.
- Microsoft One Note is a powerful note-taking app, which helps to organize and take notes. It is packed with many features that go beyond just taking notes; it also provides you with several ways to convert images to text.
UX designers are involved at every stage of the UX design process and work in close collaboration with UX researchers and UI designers.
They generate ideas through ideation techniques such as brainstorming and the best possible idea to solve the users’ needs in a way that provides value to the company.
Not only that, they analyze complex data to produce design goals that align with the business goals.
A UX designer is mainly tasked with the following responsibilities:
- Interpreting research insights and building an understanding of users.
- Defining user experience goals and design principles.
- Designing the architecture of the functions and information of the experience
- Designing the interaction patterns between functions/information and users/customers.
As UX designers, they should be adept at using any of the following tools in each category:
- Balsamiq allows designers to build low fidelity wireframes by letting them easily sketch out their ideas, then quickly collaborate and iterate over them.
You can create both – low and high fidelity wireframes in other designing and prototyping such as Adobe XD, Figma, Sketch, Justinmind, Mockflow, Mockplus etc.
Design & Prototyping Tools
The UX designer should be well versed in any of the popular design software like Adobe XD, Figma, Sketch, etc.
Content strategists deal with all types of content that are created, published or governed.
They are well versed in search engine optimization (SEO) and organizing the information architecture.
They possess sharp analytical skills, think strategically, and look at the details within a wider context including where the company is heading and how competitors are shifting across the playing field.
A content strategist prepares a content strategy, an editorial calendar, templates, creates or collaborates for content, evaluates and checks the produced content and hands over the finished product to the marketing team.
The role of a content strategist is profound in a content-heavy website/app where designers rely on their inputs to structure the entire website/app.
Content strategists differ from UX writers in a manner that content strategists ensure that the content reflects the brand’s voice and tone. They work closely with marketing to ensure a consistent voice across the entire user journey, while constantly adjusting that voice as the user base grows and changes.
A content strategist is mainly tasked with the following responsibilities:
- Incorporate optimization content strategies, analyze data and research the best ways to increase engagement.
- Provide SEO analysis and recommendations in coordination with elements and structure of websites and web pages.
- Monitor and administer web analytics dashboards, reports and key reporting tools, and point out key areas of importance in accordance with client goals.
As content strategists, they should be adept in using Google Analytics and MS Office Suite or Google Suite.
Graphic designer / Illustrator
Graphic designers help UI designers with creating custom visuals – be it images, icons, or illustrations for the website or an app.
They are creative visualizers who create custom imagery that complements the UI design.
A graphic designer/illustrator is mainly tasked with the following responsibilities:
- Understand creative requirements from the UI designer.
- Illustrate design ideas using storyboards, process flows etc.
- Adhere to the client’s brand guidelines and create visuals.
- Communicate ideas visually through designs.
As a graphic designer/illustrator, they should be adept at using any of the following tools in each category:
Image/Vector Editing Tools
- Adobe Illustrator CC is an industry-standard tool in vector drawing and editing for professional design and artwork. It is mainly used for vector-based graphics for print and web such as logos, illustrations, banners, posters, etc.
- Adobe Photoshop is an image editing and graphic designing software that helps with photo editing and compositing processes. It is mainly used for editing and manipulating images to give them virtually any kind of special effects.
- Canva is a free, and easy to use alternative to Illustrator and Photoshop. It allows you to design and publish anything using an intuitive drag-and-drop editor. Canva isn’t just used for images, but for creating short videos too, mainly for social media.
Video Editing Tools
- Adobe After Effects is a motion graphics and visual effects (VFX) solution designed to help businesses create cinematic title animations, introductory videos, and transitions via a unified platform.
- Adobe Premiere Pro helps video editors to fine-tune the audio, adjust the colors, and do more to create professional-looking results.
It is not mandatory that graphic designers should know video editing software, but it helps UI designers when they want to add animations to a website or an app.
An important point to note is that content strategists and graphic designers may not be required in every UX project. It will depend on the project’s requirements and the nature of the digital product.
UI designers are part of the creative lot who deal with the visual aspect of the digital product.
They design all the screens through which a user will move and create the visual elements and their interactive properties that facilitate this movement.
UI designers are experts in colour psychology, typography, design principles and heuristics. They are conversant in various design and prototyping tools such as Adobe XD, Figma, Sketch, Invision Studio, Adobe Photoshop, and Illustrator.
They also might know how to animate the objects and designs using video editing software like Adobe After Effects, Premiere Pro, etc.
UI designers take inputs from UX designers in the form of information architecture, user flows and wireframes and then create the visual design of the product.
A UI designer is mainly tasked with the following responsibilities:
- Carry out research to find out the latest industry trends in UI design and develop design ideas that complement the brand image.
- Create a set of design systems, and style guides for every project.
- Design visually appealing graphic layouts, page designs, assets and screens, and interface designs.
- Conduct layout adjustments based on feedback from the UX team lead and UX designers.
Just like UX designers, they should be adept in any of the popular design tools such as Adobe XD, Figma, Sketch, and Invision Studio.
Front-End Developer / UI Engineer
Front-end developers convert the UI designs into code, which will take the product live on the internet.
A front-end developer or UI engineer is mainly tasked with following responsibilities:
- Developing and testing UI design for mobile and web applications
- Accurately translate user and business needs into functional frontend code
- Developing reusable software/framework based products dealing with scalability, availability, reliability, testability
As a front-end developer, they should be adept at using any of the following tools in each category:
Code Editing Tools
- Visual Studio Code is a source code editor, which helps businesses build and debug web applications running on Windows, Linux, and macOS.
- Sublime Text is an application development software that helps businesses manage code refactoring, debugging, multi-monitor editing, syntax highlighting, and more from within a unified platform.
- CodePen is an online code editor primarily designed for the front-end social community. With an integrated IDE, CodePen allows users to create, test, and find front-end code for any project.
Design Handoff Tools
Zeplin is a collaboration and handoff solution, which enables enterprises to share ideas, organize projects and create products using a digital workspace.
- Google Pagespeed Insights helps to increase your sites performance, your search engine ranking, and your visitors browsing experience.
- GTmetrix is a website performance testing tool designed to monitor page performance and provide detailed reports on the performance of any website.
Principles for Leading a UX Team Effectively
Once you have formed your power UX team, it is now time to take a path that will utilize their skills the best and provide avenues for growth and development.
As a UX team or a project manager, you must have trust in your team members. It is the only way to be receptive to their thoughts, ideas and opinions and in the process, the members will trust you back.
At Octet Design Studio, we trust every decision of the team member and then advise accordingly. This way we have built an unshakable foundation of trust which, at any given point in time helps us navigate through project complexities.
Direction Led Autonomy
Providing the team members freedom to experiment with their ideas and thoughts breeds innovation, and this is a culture that we have cultivated over years. When encountered with a complex problem, our team lead acts as a compass, enabling the team to think in the right direction.
Instead of forcing your thoughts on the team, you should try to provide them with opportunities to come up with their own ideas, which in many cases prove simple yet effective.
This is a great way to keep them motivated and instil a sense of accomplishment among them.
Leading by Example
The job of the leader is not just to shout out instructions and then breathe down the neck of the team members. Instead, as a leader, you should roll up your sleeves and get down on the ground to show how it’s done.
You can provide samples of your past work to your team so that they can get a fair idea of what are your expectations and how things should be done.
In case of a new project, you can create the first screen by yourself and instruct the team members to create the rest of the screens in similar lines.
Maintain High Standards
The way to create delightful designs and happy clients is to keep pushing your teams to strive to do better in every iteration. It is not that you should have unreasonable expectations but to set the bar high enough.
This helps your team to develop a strong mindset of not being satisfied with the designs if they feel it is too mediocre. They will challenge themselves to create better and better every time; growing & learning in the process
Create and Nurture Creative Environment
As a leader, one of your prime responsibilities is to keep the environment free from any kind of negativity and toxicity. You should actively look for any team member that is influencing others in an adverse way. Or it can be a criticism that may demean, demoralize or disrupt the delicate creative environment.
If there is an issue that can cause or has caused a dispute between any of the team members, you should intervene and try to resolve it in a prudent way. Else, it can quickly spiral out of control and adversely affect other team members as well.
You can maintain a healthy, creative environment by regularly engaging with team members in an informal discussion, can go out together on a movie or lunch/dinner, play games or celebrate small achievements.
These small breaks are rejuvenating and play important role in enhancing team bonding and creativity.
Having a strong team is central to the success of any project. In case of user experience design projects, strong teams are the foundation.
So, if you own a UI/UX agency or you are looking to start a new UX design project with an agency, you would certainly find our team structure highly relevant. Properly organizing the team will bring more clarity and consciousness to your design decisions is the first step.
At the same time, structuring the team isn’t enough. You must also lead them well in order to ensure that their talents and skills are materialized.
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