UX Designer’s Process: 6 Things to Know

Here is the short version if you do not have time to read:

UX Designers…

#1 … are interesting to manage, if you yourself are another UX designer.

#2: ...have methods; process is queen.

#3 …work on maker time.

#4 …are not interchangeable pieces of the puzzle.

#5 … can help you manage or… they can run the show.

#6 … have a wry & dry and awesome sense of humor.

Now the long version: I went ahead and used the word “our”…hope you don’t mind. I’m working from the royal “we” here. I myself am a UX designer, and after working with others of my kind I have come up with some generalizations, a.k.a stereotypes.

#1 UX Designers are interesting to manage, if you yourself are another UX designer. You can work with alignment or as a director.

For the last 5 years I’ve been working through the many onion-like layers of UX work (IA, UI design, user experience, UX (capital letters, which feel more modern and imply I’ve been saying it so long I only need an initialism), and now edging in on something that feels almost like managing (ugh) and Product Design because it’s more about strategy, multiple projects, etc. Re: managing: I’d prefer to think I’m “Guiding”… maybe if you’re guiding, you feel the right level of attachment to get someone rolling on their bike (please do not imagine a parent and child, but instead equal folks, just…imagine a little harder… yep. there you go), and then like someone with one million better things to do you say, “See ya!” and they bike on, alone, into the infinite.

A designing pair can work together in two ways: 1) you have some alignment on knowledge of the domain, and a similar psychology about decisions making. This comes from uploading the same info on a client or project, being part of the build process & generally matching stride. 2) The alternative is pushing the project along from behind where one designer drives and another plays 2nd fiddle to adopt the dominant logic and move from that pivot point. Option #1 is the preferred option. #2 is a time sync, and delves back into… managing. Like the bike scenario I mentioned earlier, the person pushing is always hoping that they get to switch over to option #1 at some point, and let the other person pedal on ahead with great speed.

#2: UX Designers methods; process is queen. Don’t shit on the process. (please? we built it to help youuuuuuu…..)

I’ve watched this play out in a million ways. UX designers are mostly nice folks. They are the descendants of people who created things like door stops and that big fat blue button that opens stuff for you if you are handicapped.

We have a process for how we make things. We have a process that responds to the outside world ( lean, agile, waterfall…okay lovely, that’s a team process not an individual worker’s process) and we are creatives.

A UX designer knows what process they personally need to build great work: and they are riffing from it. In much the same way you don’t bother the umbrella about that great little button that pops the whole thing open…let them work. If you are not a UX designer: set back and watch the magic happen. (exception: I’ve worked with people made me a snow cone when I asked for a piece of carrot cake. yes. stop the crappy work… on with my story…)

If you are managing a UX designer and something is not running as planned you have three options on your plate: #1) ask UX designer how they would like to work (if no budget go to option 2) … #2) Suggest a method that you know has worked well in the past, or you prefer, and claim responsibility if your idea goes awry. , #3) If some time for work or some part of the process is cut short, and that’s messing up everything, re-evaluate scope.

#3 UX Designers work on maker time.

We are making things and that means we are of the ilk that operates on a maker’s schedule. I tried to deny this for a while…but this article resonates. We can crunch our work a little bit, but not too much, and we cannot operate well juggling more than 2–3 large bundles of logic that drive a project. I’ve worked with up to 7 clients at once ( not my choice) and I feel the reins go loose in my hands a bit: this is too many spinning plates.

You could also have 4 shots of bourbon every day.


#4 UX designers are not interchangeable pieces of the puzzle. You cannot replace one UX designer halfway through the process with another & not loose time and effort!

Sadly, we are finite. I’ve worked in teams before who anticipated that halfway through a complex client project that another UX designer might be substituted for you, if you, [as though you are like sugar and Splenda] are not available.

I can imagine people theorizing at a table, with chairs that recline and wheel around a bit, that “Well… both of them know about site maps and they both seem to know about wireframes and user flows…so yea. Just add person X in week 2 where person A is not available. No need to re-estimate the total time spent in the project. ”

This is amazing logic.

Somehow, this assumes that person X will pick up right where person A left off. This is as bonkers as thinking that everyone in the world who lives in a 7th floor apartment & has a balcony has the same floor plan.

The new designer needs lead time…needs to know about past work.

Each project and client are uniquely fitted into deliverables and have their own snowflake like needs (awe, how lovely). I recall a client who very much needed to hear about research as each decision was made. No prob: can do. I also recall a client who believed that direct, interview learnings should trump all research. Can do…but..new designer needs to listen to your interviews all over again! Time suck ahoy!

Please think of changing UX designers mid-stream as similar to changing surgeons halfway through a series of complex, inter-related surgeries.

#5 UX Designers can help you manage or… they can run the show.

I like to let people lead the way when they are ready to. UX designers and Product Designers (similar in some ways) both consume enough information to play a valuable role in predicting the path of a project, strategic needs, and potential risks.

A UX designer may be able to offer you valuable insight on risks and roadblocks; consider listening. If you’ve got the right designer on your hands and are not agile; they may help you know when to call in the tech team. If you are agile and working with devs in a live build— give the designer and dev a fair amount of time together to reach the best possible solutions for user experience and technical simplicity.

#6 UX Designers have a wry & dry and awesome sense of humor.

…And that’s a good thing. We are Dante, from Clerks, and we know how to just make an F&#@ing sign if one is needed. Done. We are that Indian in that ad about littering who cries one tear because he can imagine a world without crap in the way of beauty.

We have a necessary air of someone who, insanely, feels like they can fix everything and effect everything. Like an orphaned child or an immigrant to a foreign country: both of whom must, by all means, thrive and learn and take flight; we proceed. We might not be happy. Because, well, this is a mentality that breeds dissatisfaction with even the prettiest little thing. Alas…

UX designers have a spark of hope and a passion for realizing a better world that makes them worth while people. We are funny: because we must be: or else things are just a little too grim!! There is a dry humor that makes what is here, now, ironic, and what could be there— tomorrow within laughable reach. UX designers have made me laugh more than anyone I know and also —- take hope. I enjoy them immensely and I think you will too.

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