A Team of One
As a team of one, the sole designer at a small startup, I know how overwhelming it can be to consider taking on the entire UX/UI spectrum of work on your own. I discuss some of these difficulties in-depth in my article on designing for a small startup.
I have learned that to purposefully avoid the iterative design process is to set yourself, your product, and your company up for failure. And because most others in your company will not understand this process or its benefits, you must constantly be an advocate for the process– in what may at first seem like an argument to take on more work for yourself.
I promise you though, following the design process will ultimately save you time and headaches. This quick article is a little insight into my workflow, how I’m able to utilize the design process as a team of one.
1. Translate the Business Goal
The place you’re probably starting from in a small startup is the business goal. The goal might be something like the need to increase SaaS fees, or the need to upsell new programs within the platform, or wanting to improve efficiency for our support team… etc., etc.
There may be solutions presented as to how to do this. If your organization is not design-mature, you might be asked to just put a button on it 🙄. The first thing I try to do when presented with a solution is to take a step back and figure out what we’re solving for. There’s always an underlying issue in play from the users' perspective.
For instance, we need to increase SaaS fees for our platform translates to we need to increase or clarify the value of our platform to our clients. How is this done? If your software is useful to someone, they’ll find value in it. Take a deep look into KPI’s (key performance indicators) surrounding the value of your platform:
- Engagement: Are people using it?
- Use: How are people using it?
- Metrics: How is the use of the platform affecting your client's business?
If you can identify underperforming KPI’s, you have a starting point to help your company prove or increase value to the product, and then they can increase their SaaS fees.
2. Do the Homework
Even if you’re not perceived as a researcher, you still need to do your research if you’re going to implement UX Design improvements. I talk about how an easy approach to bring research into your workflow in my article, The Questions to Ask Before Picking Up A Pencil.
I take advantage of any opportunity I have to talk to our users. Whether they’re internal users on our support team, clients who manage their programs, or managers and employees who make up the majority of our users, I want to talk to anyone who touches the product. It’s important to know who you’re designing for and to boil down issues and solutions to their root problems and design from the ground up.
3. Synthesize and Explore
Once I’ve spoken to all the stakeholders, I start to break down my research into digestible bits until I have a good understanding of the root problem, the user goals, and the business goal. There are many tools in the UX Designers toolbox to accomplish all of this. But simply put, talk to everyone the product will effect, identify their pain points, and organize the information.
This is the part of the process where you go broad before you narrow down concepts and solutions. Explore at least three possible solutions for any given problem before picking a direction and running with it. Do it lo-fi first (like sketches on paper vs. high-fi clickable prototypes), so you don’t spend too much time on any given idea. This keeps it light, making sure you don’t get too attached to one solution that may not work, and it also allows you to move rapidly through the exploration phase, learn from your ideas, and go back to the drawing board when needed.
4. Test and Iterate
Even if you’re simply taking a drawing with some handwritten annotations around the room and getting feedback from a variety of team members, or hopping on a call with that client who had some powerful insights during your research phase, it’s important to get feedback on your designs EARLY and OFTEN.
Feedback early in the process allows for that rapid revision process to happen. You don’t want to get to the handoff stage and discover that you need to start over because you never spoke to your support team about how they reach out to clients and that your design won’t work with their existing workflow or technology.
5. Move into High-Fidelity Prototypes
Once your designs have been through the wringer, build a high-fi prototype so people can actually move through your designs in a production-like environment. By moving through the process of creating your clickable prototype, you could discover necessary screens or flows that you hadn’t thought about during your design process.
Test the prototype with people and make sure they get it. Learn from their hang-ups, their pauses, and confusion, and iterate again and again until you have something that a variety of users can move through efficiently in order to achieve their goal. Depending on what you’re working on, you might have to implement several revisions at this stage. It’s sometimes difficult for people to visualize the process before they actually click through a flow.
6. Prepare Your Handoff
You should be including your developers in the stakeholder group you’re talking to and checking in with during your process. But now it’s really time to connect with your dev team, and there are a few simple tips you can follow to make their lives a whole lot easier.
Make sure you’re giving the team clean files with a good naming system for your components, and solid annotated files through software that can pull code from the designs. Include any assets the team will need.
After launch, you’ll want to circle back to the beginning, gathering essential user feedback for post-launch cleanup and iterations. It’s also important to refine your business goals by tracking key KPIs. If you are a team of one and you face handling the whole UX spectrum, it will be a lot of work but it can also be a lot of fun and a great learning opportunity… so, good luck out there and happy designing.