The 3 Most Common (and Costly) UX Team-Building Pitfalls — and How to Avoid Them

Leaders in the digital marketing and design space are already convinced of the value of great UX talent. After all, the business case for user-focused design is crystal clear: bad usability drives customers away — difficult registration, for example, causes 43% of users to abandon a site or app. At the end of the day companies lose about $243 per customer due to poor UX. And on the flipside, every dollar invested in usability generates between $2 and $100 in return.

Enough said, right?
But with a limited understanding of the different roles that fall under the broad term of “UX”, many companies still approach UX hiring as just a matter of filling seats. And as a result, they aren’t achieving the results they’re looking for.
Now that you’ve set aside the time and budget for UX, make sure you’re getting the maximum return on your investment. The key? Identifying precisely the right specialists, and bringing them on at the right stages in the product development lifecycle.
Our clients can attest that carefully selecting and leveraging UX talent is the single most effective way to prevent costly issues down the road. Smart hiring strategies are what keep their UX processes running smoothly, and what enable them to reach their customer engagement goals. 

In this post we’ll dive deep into the 3 biggest UX hiring problems we’re seeing in the industry, their negative impacts, and the best ways to avoid them. Though team-building needs vary based on project scope and other factors, we’ve found that this advice applies to virtually every UX hiring decision our clients face.

1. Skimping on UX Research expertise at the start of the project.

Fateful words: “We already know our users, so why spend on formal research?”

The fallout: Product design informed by an incomplete or incorrect view of your customers.
 With 72% of failed products attributed to poor user adoption, it’s clear that many organizations have significant room for improvement when it comes to UX research. This is one area where timing is crucial: without establishing a thorough understanding of your users’ demographics, behaviors and needs at the start of the initiative, companies often face slowdowns and costly fixes later on in the process — or worse, after the product is released.

Senior UX Researcher and Filterati Michael Perry explains that investing in in-depth research up front saves time and effort downstream. “UX Research can identify problems before you spend money on coding, before your initial users have poor experiences, before your brand is tarnished.”

The solution: Make UX Research expertise a top priority in the project’s foundational stages.

Though your whole product development team should be in touch with who your users are and what they need, only a highly trained UX researcher has the keys to the deep insights that lead to successful products. So, although high-quality UX research isn’t inexpensive, enlisting a true specialist at the start of the project is one of the most cost-saving decisions you can make.

2. Over- or under-utilizing your existing team members’ skill sets.

Fateful words: “You can do that too, right?”

The fallout: Compromised quality — and misdirected, burnt out and less effective workers.
 Faced with tight timelines and limited resources, many companies are attempting to address their growing list of UX demands by putting more tasks on their existing employees’ plates. Assigning very specific, high-stakes UX tasks to whoever you have on hand — no matter how talented they are — works against for everyone involved… not the least your users. So beware of relying on the rare (and expensive) UX “unicorn” or the hope that a single UX designer, for example, can shoulder your big-picture UX strategy.

It’s easy to see why it’s risky to assign someone a task that exceeds his or her capabilities or bandwidth — but under-utilizing a high-level expert’s skills is problematic as well. For instance, utilizing a senior user advocate to push pixels is an inefficient allotment of talent and resources. In this situation, you’ll likely be paying a higher rate for a task you could accomplish more affordably — and you may even lose a great employee to a competitor who offers them a better-fitting role.

The solution: Identify the precise UX skill set you need, and don’t settle for anything else.

 UX roles are extremely nuanced, so hire for and leverage them accordingly. Set your product and team up for success by carefully aligning skill-to-task and task-to-cost when it comes to these deeply specialized roles. “Like many things in life, when we enjoy what we do and have honed our craft, we deliver great results,” says UX Designer and Filterati Aaron Bowersock. “Find people with a passion for what they do and the skills to match, and watch your project come to life.”

3. Overlooking EQ.

Fateful words: “Their resume checks off all the boxes. Perfect.”

The fallout: UX professionals with top-notch technical skills — but not the right interpersonal strengths for this highly collaborative discipline.

90% of top performers at work display high levels of emotional intelligence, and research suggests that EQ is responsible for about 58% of job success. However, not enough companies slow down to assess the interpersonal skills that don’t necessarily reveal themselves in a list of past roles and technical competencies. When it comes to UX, overlooking so-called “soft” skills can ripple out to cause detrimental miscommunications and inconsistencies.

UX is an incredibly people-focused field — both in terms of the need to be in touch with users’ thoughts and emotions, and the need to exchange ideas and feedback with other members of the product development team. That means that looking at the candidate as a whole person — and the team as an integrated unit — is key. As UX Designer and Filterati Lauren Curtis explains, “Just as important as thinking about individual UX skill sets is thinking about when and how these different experts need to work together.”

The solution: Adjust your UX hiring strategy to place a greater focus on EQ.

In such a competitive hiring climate, and with top UX talent in such hot demand, it’s understandable to want to scoop up the first experienced and skilled candidates you can find. Taking a deeper look at EQ, however, is one of the most powerful changes you can make to your UX team building and management.

Seek out candidates with a proven history of successful collaboration, who are able to convey their reasoning and process to others outside their specific discipline, and who simply light up when talking about their work and why it matters to them. There are a growing number of qualified UX specialists on the market, but it’s more than worth it to find the select ones who are the ideal fits for your specific project, culture and team.

Make these 3 shifts — and watch your UX team and process shine.

Though specific hiring needs vary significantly based on the type of product, project scope and other factors, we’ve found that these principles apply to virtually every case — so before moving ahead with your next UX project, make sure you’re not falling into these 3 costly UX pitfalls. Take the time to hone in on your specific needs and engage the right expertise at the right times, and you’ll create an empowered team that’s more than the sum of its parts.