It’s been about 7 years since I started working in user experience and most of that time I’ve been working as a freelancer. Working freelance gives one the opportunity to see a lot of different projects, environments, and processes as they play out in the real world. You can hear a lot about various types of process like Six Sigma, Agile, Waterfall, and many more. You gain so much experience in each of these that after a while you’re favorite saying is, “It depends.” It doesn’t matter if you are talking about a design layout or a process, “it depends” pretty much fits almost every circumstance.
So imagine years later after all that experience you land in a company who’s Product Managers are doing the UX and wireframes themselves because there isn’t a UX’er on board. In fact, there’s no designer on board who understands the user side of building a product. Now you have landed in this position and everyone in the company is looking to you to develop a great UI. Now what?
I’ve only been on board for about a month but I have to admit this has been the most interesting environment to work in I have ever been in. In most companies if there was no UX, then either it simply wasn’t being done or it was being done by engineers. While some are quite skilled in UI, most don’t know how to design their way out of a paper bag. No offense meant. I actually love working alongside engineers.
During my short tenure here, I found the PM’s really loved doing wireframes and they were quite curious to learn more about user experience. Given I was the only designer on my team and was also responsible for testing, research, and visual design. Add to that we have a huge product that needs quite a bit of work and we want to move fast, I found myself in a bit of a quandary. The more I talked to the team the more I felt really strongly that the desire to learn in the PM’s was strong enough that it made sense to mentor them as junior level designers rather than insist I do the wires.
If that wasn’t enough, we are going to take advantage of resources out there and start building a practice of UX across the company starting with Product Management. Each week we will sit down and go through a seminar and talk about what we learned and maybe even implement some of what we have learned. We may even have an internal UX bookclub which chooses a book and spends a month or two reading it and then sits down and talks about what they have learned. Meanwhile I am also putting together what research we would like to do on a weekly/bi-weekly process. I’ll be exploring how to best do user testing. I’ve already been building the style guide and will continue to do so alongside development so we can have code as well as IxD and VizD in our guide. We have a user conference coming up and I will be putting together a special user research session there. We are also looking to start posting our wireframes around the office(s) and see what feedback we get, starting with our once a month brainstorming sessions to start educating the rest of the company on UX. It’s all very exciting and while some of it will fail. I am certain the best parts will succeed and we’ll have an amazing product at the end of the day.