What should we ask of our UX designers?

20 Nov By Molly Hammar | November 20, 2014

The other day I was looking at job postings, seeking insights about how our prospective clients describe their needs. Here’s an example of what I found:

UX Designer

Responsibilities:

  • Gather user requirements through interviews, contextual inquiry, and other research methodologies
  • Create wireframes, wireframe prototypes, and design specifications
  • Create a compelling visual design comps using Photoshop
  • Code the user interface using CSS and HTML
  • Moderate usability tests and feed findings into product requirements.

tools

WHAT?!? Can one person fill all of those roles?

These types of job posts are like asking one person to be the architect, builder, and interior designer of your new home.  Everyone knows the differences among home-building specialists, and it’s easy to see that one person wouldn’t be able to do all of the tasks well.

User experience roles aren’t as well-recognized as those in construction. Many of the job responsibilities listed above fall far outside the boundaries of what I do. As a user experience designer, I’ve spent years observing and improving human interaction with technology. My job is to establish what the technology needs to do for users. This is the part of the job definition that includes usability tests, contextual inquiries, research, interviews, and wireframes.

The creative design and coding, though, aren’t. If I am doing my job well, not only do I not have the time to do those jobs, I haven’t had time to develop those skills. Like the contractor who’ll be brought in to pour a home’s foundation, I can confidently assert that design and coding are best left to people with the specialized skills.

Craig Morrison blogged last week about Why You Shouldn’t Hire a UI/UX Designer, and he more succinctly outlined why these uber job descriptions are not only unrealistic, but a bad idea.

As Craig aptly observes, the time constraints and the scope of responsibilities for a “Unicorn Designer” are just too great to overcome in an 8 hour day. The value to your user will suffer. I absolutely agree with him.

There’s another advantage to having different people in distinct roles, full time or not: a balanced conversation.

Bringing a new product to life is an unpredictable, dynamic process. When you have multiple specialists involved, you get a balanced conversation about incorporation of new features, ramifications of technical compromises, and user interface improvements. Ideas evolve and improve as they pass through each team member, and bad ideas rarely make it past the checks and balances that a team provides.

We understand the temptation to save money by hiring one person who seems capable of taking on all of the UX/UI responsibilities. But your money could be better spent on finding the people best suited to undertake each piece of the job, and realizing that when they collaborate, you better your chances of creating a phenomenal product.

It may be that hiring someone with the right skills for a short contract is better than hoping to get all skills in one full-time hire.  Clients on a budget often ask Acclaro to be their user experience team. Instead of hiring one person in-house to be a jack of all trades, they can invest in three part-time people through us.

We would love to help you build out your user experience team. Email me if you’d like a free consultation.

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You’re here already, so I want to let you know I’ve been putting together  some helpful design principles. You don’t have to be a UX geek to be interested in making technology better for users.  My latest post gives hints on minimizing the visual workload on your site or app.