How to build a UX team

I recently gave a Lightning Talk at Ladies that UX London about ‘How to build a UX team’. It was based on my experience working at Reed Business Information (RBI), a b2b data and analytics company.

When I joined the company as a researcher 10 years ago, User Experience was not a very established discipline. There was a legacy of print products and the shift to digital was well under-way. It was becoming more and more important to understand the principles of building great digital products.

I observed my first usability test and boom! I was instantly fascinated by the insight into human psychology it offered and excited by the prospect of making technology easier to use for people. I started studying UX and quickly specialised in running UX projects. But I could see that the scale of the task was huge — it’s a company with 100,000+ customers in over 180 countries, and a large number of diverse products. It was pretty clear to me that we needed to invest in UX people as a critical part of our product development. So how do you build a UX team?

My five steps:

  1. Obtain exec buy-in and budget
  2. Conduct skills audit
  3. Identify what you can offer as an employer
  4. Design your hiring experience
  5. Co-create the right mix and culture

Obtain exec buy-in and budget

If you want to build any sort of team or increase the number of specialists in any discipline, you will need buy-in and budget from an executive sponsor. A good way to do this is to show the value that having a UX specialist involved has brought to a project. Collect case studies and testimonials. It is also useful to participate in the wider network of your profession and identify the resources that other similar companies invest. Look at the business strategy of your company — how does UX support achieving it? What is the risk of not delivering good user experiences?

Conduct skills audit

Auditing the skills you have already in the company is the next step. UX is an incredibly broad discipline incorporating user research, information architecture, interaction design, prototyping, visual design and more. In my view, trying to hire people who are exceptional at all these things is probably impossible. So I recommend working out the skills you really need to balance your team and looking for people who have them.

Identify what you can offer as an employer

It is very difficult to hire high calibre people. Therefore you need to identify what you offer as an employer to attract candidates. What makes you unique? Are you a large company with lots of diverse projects or a small company with a focused mission? Do you offer international opportunities or a forward-thinking culture?

Design your hiring experience

In UX we value empathy, so think about the hiring experience from the candidate perspective. How can you devise a thorough and fair process? If you use tasks as part of the assessment, make sure they are realistic and clearly defined. If you are expecting to see examples of candidates’ work during an interview, let them know. Try to give constructive feedback to those who are unsuccessful. It does take time and effort, but it is worth it.

Co-create the right mix and culture

As you grow a team, think about the culture you want to create together. Will you sit together or with other parts of the business? What equipment do people prefer to use? How will you offer and collect feedback? What tools or social events will allow the team to bond? Culture cannot be dictated from the top so allow room for your new colleagues to introduce new processes. You’ll be surprised by how things evolve if you give people the freedom to fail and run with ideas.


About the Author

Jessica Hall is a Lead UX Manager at RBI; she has an interest in UX strategy, research, design. If you are interested in discussing any further tips on UX team management, please free to contact Jessica on Twitter.