5 Common Pitfalls Faced by User Experience (UX) Teams

We love working with newly formed or early stage experience focused teams and getting them going in the right direction as they work to increase their organization’s maturity in the domain. After working with numerous teams all over the globe to build out their practices in various areas of experience design, we have noticed some commonalities in the pitfalls faced by User Experience (UX) teams, as well as some of the techniques and tips that have expedited their success.

Here are 5 of them in case you are a part of, or are developing, a UX team to support the projects and products within your organization.

1. Following checklists and best practices.

While looking at best practices and checklists are a good step when you start out, simply following the latest buzz can see you wasting efforts and time on activities that may not bring you the results you desire.

There is definitely a wealth of information on best practices that can provide you with plenty of great insights to help you think through how you will grow a culture of experience within your organization. However, to use this information in the best way, make sure that you combine it with the understanding of:

  • Your audience – because your stakeholders and the cross-functional teams that you need to work with, as well as your customers or users, will be important in determining what actions you take, as well as the order in which you do them.
  • Your environment – your organization and company’s setup-including your technological landscape, processes and policies, and infrastructure-will factor into what actions you are able to do and when, or more importantly, how you may have to go about doing certain activities.
  • Your culture – while we may not like it, understanding the organizational politics will help you best decide how to approach your goal of growing a culture of experience and customer focus.

2. Not formulating a lean impactful process.

We have all seen it before. A new UX team is created to help drive the organization's goal of improving user experience and one of the first things they do is create a deck of all of the services they want to offer the organization with the goal of becoming a kind of “internal consulting” unit. While the intention of creating a UX team culture of being nimble, creative, and forward thinking is great, it is always important to keep in mind your fellow colleagues within the organization when determining how best to bring this discipline to them.

For example, a new UX team may list several services within areas such as usability testing, prototyping, concept testing, user research, information architecture, interaction design etc...as you can imagine it can be a rather long list when thinking of everything a UX team could do.

While it is great to be able to offer many services to the various teams within the organization that you are supporting, it is important to consider the different team’s and organization's level of understanding. If your organization has a generally low awareness of what UX really is – or what it means to the organization - then a laundry list of services can be overwhelming. Moving an organization to a more experience focused culture takes purposeful steps to bring around the desired results. We all know that overwhelming an organization that already has a lot on their plate is a fast ticket to abandonment rather than adoption.

Sometimes, with the best of intentions, we see a newer team put together a process for the organization to follow in order to help instill the focus on experience design. However, when they present it to the rest of their organization it can appear to be a very heavyweight process, typically cluttered with what seems to be lots of steps and actions. Again, this may turn people off as they assume that it will take a long time, or even worse, be a bottleneck, ultimately raising your barrier to entry.

While those in the Experience domain understand all the efforts and intricacies, it is better to explain it in an easy to digest and achievable way. One way that we have seen be reliably successful is to start with a part of the process that brings the most impact based upon the organization’s need. For example, if no process exists within the organization, maybe start with some usability testing, or if there is no actual “design” in play, then start with the design part of the process so that the organization can clearly see the value of before and after the UX efforts, all the while keeping these efforts seeming doable and not overwhelming.

Remember, you need to build out the practice step by step – bringing the organization along with you. You can start by collaboratively forming a minimal process (say 3 touch points) that you know will bring tangible value, and then work with a product or project to take it through the process. If a project is in flight, then you can use parts of the process that fit the needs. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have a list of services – of course you can, just be aware how you approach your efforts with teams and tailor it to their level of awareness and knowledge of the domain.

3. Not showing tangible value.

Heavily linked to the last point is the lack of showing tangible value. Many times we will see teams conduct their experience design efforts – and they forget to track their impact. While the value of UX may be obvious to you, when building out a practice or an experience centric culture, the clear and demonstrated impact can speak volumes to stakeholders and other team members across the many functions that have to come together to deliver the experience vision. It is a good idea for each effort you do, at what ever point in the process, to start gathering these measures of impact.

For example, with usability testing, you can capture the number and severity of usability issues found and closed before release against the time taken to conduct the usability tests - hence demonstrating return on investment (ROI). With design efforts, you can look at the level of flow optimization before and after – mapping this to perhaps the time taken for the customer to achieve a task – again, showing tangible impacts that the business cares about. You get the gist. Remember, what you measure and how, will depend on your organization's purpose, needs, and the experiences you are designing. Once you are tracking these, make sure you maximize the value of such effort by actively sharing these metrics with stakeholders and the organization. This way, you raise credibility and prove value, which are both critical when growing out the discipline.

4. Not remembering to raise awareness.

When building out organizational awareness and an Experience discipline, it is important to be inclusive. Creating and delivering an experience is a cross-functional sport, so it is important that everyone understands their roles and how they work with the Experience team. Many people will have their own understanding of what UX is, what CX is, what experience design is etc.…but it is a good idea to have a plan for building knowledge and awareness that serves as a common organizational language and understanding.

Many times we see an early stage team be so centered on getting their services out there, or trying to get involved in all of the projects that need help, that they forget to have some focus on planned organizational awareness of the domain itself.

The benefits of having a plan to raise organizational awareness are many, including:

  • The new team becomes known as experts in the space – building credibility.
  • The organization as a whole can learn about experience design so that the organizational maturity advances.
  • Insights from across different functions can be consumed and learned from.
  • Integration points between the several cross-functional teams can be best understood.

There are several things you can consider:

  • Lunch and learns - about experience design, UX, CX etc.
  • Lessons learned – from efforts carried out so that other teams can apply the learnings. For example, talking about the findings of usability testing from one service and presenting it to all the product managers, or presenting the user research from one area to others.
  • Having some functional tracks combined with organizational-wide efforts - for example what does the Support organization need to know, the Engineers, the Communications team? What is relevant to them?

5. Not understanding some of the skills required.

Skills are obviously very important. Of course there are domain specific skills that enable the tactical efforts to get done, however, there needs to be some focus on hiring for or growing some “people” skills that can really help you develop your organizational culture of experience. These include:

  • Genuine passion and interest in designing experiences – when the team presents to and works with the rest of the organization, their passion will shine through and help motivate others around the subject.
  • Being purposeful in communications – often times you will deliver feedback on products to the very teams that have created them. It is important to deliver the feedback or results in a way that does not increase defensiveness, or if they are defensive, then knowing how to approach the situation. It can help to deliver the facts of the user tests and provide some potential solutions – rather than focusing on language that fixates on how bad a solution may be. Remember, when providing solutions, there is always a scale of “fixing” - you can do some tweaking, an overhaul, and everything in between. Working with the teams you support to balance effort, feasibility, time, and the impact of different solutions to the experience can help the team more easily adopt the experience efforts.
  • Being strategic – not everyone has to have this ability, but there needs to be some level of strategic mind-set within the team to keep in mind the big picture and purpose to drive the team towards it.

In Summary

These are just some of the pitfalls faced by newer UX teams who are trying to raise the organizations maturity, or instill a culture of experience. If you are in this situation remember:

  • Understanding your audience's environment and culture will play a large role in deciding what steps you take and when. Use best practices for inspiration and knowledge, but always think what is best to achieve your goals for your organization's footprint and experience needs.
  • Look at how you can make the efforts, and process, digestible and achievable for the organization. Make sure that you do not overwhelm them with everything possible straight out of the gate.
  • Understand how you can track the ROI for your efforts, measure them, and share them.
  • To create a plan for how you will raise organizational awareness and knowledge in the Experience domain that you are trying to instill into the organization.
  • To grow or hire for some of the people skills needed such as contextual awareness, active listening, political savvy, passion, and strategic abilities.
Are you hiring for, or a part of a new experience focused team such as User Experience or Customer Experience? Talk to us today to see how we can expedite your success.
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