A woman stopping to look out into the horizon while hiking on a mountain ridge line
A woman stopping to look out into the horizon while hiking on a mountain ridge line
David Marcu via Unsplash

Being the only product designer is a unique situation. Ideally, design teams of one should be temporary, never the end state for an organization. But if you’ve landed a role where you’re the only one, here are some ways to navigate life as a solo designer in order to stay sane and make an amazing impact.

Person with revolving abstract shapes as a head
Person with revolving abstract shapes as a head
All gifs by Patrick Sluiter via Giphy

What makes someone a solo designer?

A solo product designer is any designer working on a project without access to additional design support.

Examples of solo designers


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via Chang Hsien

Yes, iterative design is possible. Here’s how to get your engineers and product managers on board.

This is a framework I recommend to any UX designer seeking to impart a dedicated user experience focus to the members of their agile development team. I have used it to build and launch new features within quick timelines when co-developing new products for enterprise clients. This framework leverages user story mapping and user testing as guiding checkpoints to ensure final project delivery is a relevant solution.

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via Laurène Boglio

1. Onsite kickoff

Create cross-team momentum and set the stage for a user-centered project approach by visiting at the start of the project.


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Last November, I decided to transition out of freelance user experience design. During my job hunt, I found myself needing to answer the same questions again and again.

I collected my favorite questions and wrote thoughtful and exhaustive answers, creating a list of frequently asked questions.

They served me in two ways:


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4 ways to jump right into collecting All The Insights.

User testing and usability studies are as important on day one as they are when you have millions of users. When your internal resources are virtually non-existent, you still have a few great ways to understand your target audience and start testing how they’ll relate to your young idea.

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Source: #WOCinTechChat

1. Moderated User Testing

For those of you who have the capacity to conduct face-to-face user tests, lucky you — congrats! I currently work from my home office, so I conduct moderated user tests remotely. I rely on two tools for remote user tests to run smoothly. I use YouCanBook.Me for seamless scheduling and GoToMeeting for the actual testing. …


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Using UX to evaluate whether a new project is founded on a good idea.

Tons of ideas (of varying quality!) find a home in today’s tech landscape. Everyone wants their’s to succeed, but most pursue development quite blindly. In order to have a chance to make the user experience design of your idea strong enough to get out there and evolve, make sure to start by figuring out the following three things:

1. Understand the origins of your idea.

It’s important to first contextualize where an idea has come from. Has a strong case been built around this idea? Find out where the idea falls on the spectrum between subjective wants and objective needs of the longterm vision. …


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A simple list of what to include for every project.

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Take stock of the current state of the project by discussing an initial concept or by completing an heuristic evaluation of what already exists.

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Understand the expectations and definition of success from the internal team so that business goals are met.

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Get to know who makes up the target audience, understand their jobs to be done, and develop user personas.

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Review the good and bad ways in which pain points are being addressed and learn how to be a part of the industry environment.

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Strategically organize information into a navigable and unified structure with site maps and user flows.

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Prioritize each piece of content and corresponding goals, creating a low fidelity layout for each screen. …


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This is the story of how I redirected my career path. Having lived through it, I can say this (often uncomfortable) series of transitions has led me to the most gratifying stage of my professional life. My hope is to encourage others not to settle for the wrong fit, but to find the courage to carve out your own personal path.

When I realized I wasn’t in the correct place in my career.

I climbed up the “but what exactly am I doing with my life” mountain and it was hard. I didn’t always know which way I was headed, but I picked up some very different and very useful experiences along the way. …


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Mobile-specific guidelines to ensure a successful first time user experience and to secure adoption

The most important moment in a user’s lifecycle is their first-time user experience. To ensure new users have a great FTUE, UX designers most important focus is onboarding. Until your app becomes a household name, and even after, onboarding is the most crucial component of amazing user retention.

In our mobile-first reality, it’s more important than ever to have a welcoming experience on mobile applications. Solutions are needed whether the user is new to your brand, you have a lot of complex features, or even if a longtime web user is transitioning to your mobile app for the first time.

There are tools and best practices for website onboarding, but when it comes to designing experiences for the mobile screen, the resources and tools are a lot less prevalent. …


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User Experience has been gaining ground, carving out its place at companies through the creation of new job titles and entirely new departments. This rise to the top has been long awaited by many. UX is the key ingredient for a business to sustainable and evolving success. So why is it that UX is only becoming a big deal within tech-centric companies?

Humanity is made up of users, clients, patients, guests and patrons who experience things every day — and yet almost all industries are not hiring for UX roles. In 2013, The Documentary Channel put out a piece on trends in UI, Interaction, & Experience Design. At the end of the documentary, experts speculated on how UX would evolve to incorporate the mundane, non-digital world. Now it’s over two years later and we haven’t seen much traction.


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Consider the physical environment beyond the screen

The amount of physical issues related to device use has been making headline news since the dawn of texting. The term “blackberry thumb” gave way to other, freakier, terms such as “iPhoneitis” and “text claw”. Most of us have experienced the negative effects of smartphone use extending from the thumb to the wrist and up through the arm, shoulders, and back.

With the growth of UX taking off within the tech world, it amazes me how narrow its adoption has been with consideration to the physical experience. The degree of physical strain of the user is a huge variable in product adoption. …

About

Allison Milchling

Product Design | allisonmilchling.com

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