Recruiting UXers simply to be trendy? Think again

Fads never really work out, do they? It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about the latest superfood, the newest thing you see some celeb sporting in a magazine or that word you read online that you’re not sure how to pronounce but you know you’re going to say every day now. Doing something solely because ‘all the cool kids are going it’ leads to disaster, like it or not.

…and that’s just in your personal life. Chasing a fad with your business can be career-ending.

And yes, I do have a particular trend in mind.

It seems like the ‘latest thing’ in UX is developing huge design teams (mostly full of those trendy types with long beards and fully inked sleeves — the “Sooo Shoreditch” types), without quite understanding why you need a UX team or what it’s supposed to be doing for you.

Now, your business probably does need to be more user-centric, but that is not the way to get there.

Hiring a bunch of people to “do UX for you” just because that’s what everybody else is doing won’t actually help your business become more user centred, nor will it make you more money in the long run.

There seems to be the sense today that a UX team will somehow make everything better just by virtue of being on the payroll. It doesn’t take a genius to see this as a fallacy.

Your UX team needs you as a stakeholder to want your business to change, and to change in a meaningful way.

The only way to actually become user-centric is to change what you do and how you do it, from the inside out. To change radically, and in a way that means you won’t be sitting down at your desk tomorrow to do all the same things you did today. Real change is frightening. It ought to be.

Far too many young UX Specialists sit in interviews and are told that the business they are interviewing for is desperate to become user-centred. That it wants to beat the competition with cutting edge designs. The reality is often very different, though. They find out once they’re in the role that nobody at the top has committed to an agenda or user-centred Vision — or worse, that if the top is sold on the concept the ideas haven’t filtered all the way down to the rest of business. No one is aligned.

Instead, somewhere in the business, somebody has decided that a group of UX designers are needed without really understanding the value that this group of people bring. In these scenarios, UX people spend most of their time trying to justify their purpose, which doesn’t breed a particularly productive environment.

Are you, as a business, actually going to commit to become more user-centric? What will it take?
It might not even be all that much, so long as you’re not wishy-washy about really doing it.

It may be as simple as sending some of your human resource team on a couple of UX courses to help them identify what a UX person looks like on paper and in person.
It might be having a look at the third parties you spend thousands a month on and evaluate what value they actually bring. Seeing what it would take for you to develop that UX skillset internally.
Perhaps it’s investing in a small usability lab (which by the way is nowhere near as expensive as it sounds) and inviting a steady stream of users to run your demos and prototypes and give feedback.

Either way, ask yourself how you began building and defining your current or proposed UX Team. Do you fully understand what each and every one of your team member does? Do you feel like the business supports them? Do they support your Vision? Do you actually have a Vision?

If not, you need a Vision (and buy-in at all levels) a lot more than you need a UX team. Cart before the horse.