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UX Is A Team Sport

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A few years ago, I tried something that changed the way I do UX. It’s a more effective way of working that is sweeping the UX and product community.

I started using a series of techniques that includes the product team, dev team, and other key people in the organization more seamlessly in the design thinking process.

I’ll just talk about two of the easiest techniques for most organizations to try.

Why I Jumped In

At the time when I started using these techniques to include the organization more, I worked for a company with a very complicated product offering. A large part of the reason for this was they worked in a space that included a minefield of government regulations and outdated industry processes. Many of these obstacles were outside of their control and their competitors' products were just as complicated as theirs. They watched their industry struggling with these obstacles and saw it as an opportunity to stand out if they could do it better.

One of the things the organization had going for it was a desire to learn the design thinking process as a team and not rely on one person or role to do discovery, concept design, and ideation. They recognized that their product was complicated enough that no one person understood the problem in its entirety.

So we got to work.

Technique One: Create Problem Strategy Groups

We started by creating small groups of stakeholders, subject matter experts, and other people interested in the problem we were attempting to solve or learn more about. The groups met for an hour every week.

A group member acted as a facilitator and used structured activities to help get to the right information quickly. The group structure also made it easier for all of us to get on the same page and stay on the in sync. This method of creating small focused groups is the first simple technique I used to take advantage of the collective knowledge available increase my impact on the organizations UX.

Technique Two: Bring Your Team Along for User Interviews

The second technique I started using to include the organization more strategically, expanded the way I did user testing and interviews. I used a variation of Coopers Pair Design technique. Instead of using the traditional model of only one researcher and one participant, I brought along an additional person from the team as a researcher. This could be a developer, subject matter expert, product manager, etc.

Before the interviews, we went over a few ground rules, like didn’t correct the user, ask open-ended questions, and so forth. We also had an interview or testing script that was written using the team’s input.

We scheduled a bunch of user interviews and tests, then we took turns as the one leading the discussion or the one taking notes. The researcher taking notes might ask a question or two but his main job was to capture everything important so the researcher leading the discussion could have a more natural conversation with the participant without worrying about capturing everything.

After the interview, we scheduled time to discuss what we learned from that participant. We captured the important parts, switched roles and moved on to the next participant.

Adding another researcher then debriefing after was a game changer for us. It changed the conversations we were having about the product. People thought less about how they would use the product; instead they talked about what they observed people doing. We asked more insightful questions and got more useful answers in less time.

Also, user interviews and testing is exhausting. By adding the additional researcher and switching discussion leaders, we could continue with less breaks and really get in the zone.

Why I Still Use Them and You Should Too

The evolution of these techniques means the UX designer is becoming less of a lone wolf and more of a facilitator of good ideas using the collective knowledge and experience in the organization.

I’ve only discussed two ways to include the right people in the organization, in discovery and design thinking, to improve your product strategy, namely creating small groups for each problem and including the team in user interviews and testing. There are many others like Google Ventures’ Design Sprints and Jeff Patton’s User Story Mapping.

Strategically Involving the right people in my team and the rest of the organization has allowed me to go deeper with user research to discover the entire problem and find an effective solution quickly.


Written By

Joe Burkinshaw

Incurable bibliophile and product strategy junkie, Joe works at SolutionStream as a Senior Product Designer. Joe is passionate about hunting down the whole problem using every tool available. When he’s not working you’ll see him hanging off a cliff, taking pictures, or smoking ribs.

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