UX & limited resources

Case Studies: The UX “team of one” in action

Inês Bravo
Apr 25, 2017 · 6 min read

Going undercover. Like Leah Buley (2013) explained a UX team of one is someone who works in a situation where they are the key individual driving a user-centered design philosophy.

From understanding the context, when facing a design challenge that is targeting activity to users to perform, the first step to take is to assess the team and their UX awareness, from methods to the importance of the subject. To maximize the work, and put in place usability techniques and strategies to optimize the impact of the project, and in the organisation.

A UX specialist is full of information on how to engage in user-centered design approach. However, when time, manpower and budget is not enough, what can designers do? A set of challenges is clear: determine where to make the biggest impact, who can help and which methods to focus on, during the timeframe available, facing some creative isolation.

Generate research and design ideas quickly, focus on methods and results. The risk of this approach is that designers become a generalist in research, not a specialist. Looking for partnerships to improve the knowledge and shared understanding is essential in this multi-disciplinary field.

Identify business value for significant improvement projects, is mandatory. When business value areas the project are identified in having an impact, communicate the why investing is needs is done by correlation with the benefit for the organisation.

Depending on the stakeholders, the process differs. The power of abstraction from the players is limited; visual helpers, like drawings and benchmark, are conversation starters. Designers are learning from doing as they go along in the process; process differs from stakeholders.

Benchmark validates assumptions, not facts. Collaboration and co-creation are leading to a concept-driven approach, bringing together strategy, design, and technology, with a holistic customer and business focus. Resources are too constrained to do everything that stakeholders wants and needs to accomplish. A priority system leads the decision. Question to have in mind when starting to assess the business value (Weinschenk, 2014; Spool, 2015):

  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Why are we designing this? When does it need to be released?
  • What is the unmet need this product will answer?
  • Where will it be used? What is the context of use?
  • Will it increase revenue? Alternatively, decrease expenses?

The presented research is grounded on Jesse James Garret book, UX elements of User Experience (2003) where the elements of user-centred design are described. The book is dated 2003 before the boom of mobile usage, and omni-channel experiences were not present. Nevertheless, for the present research, the principles are valid and can be applicable.

Technology has been a part of our everyday. Can empower the user, can frustrate the user, can turn people lives simpler or complicated, can bring people together or do the opposite (Garrett, 2003). The first step to acknowledge is that User Experience (UX) is how the product or services are used in the real world, in the context of people that interact with him. With this question in mind:

  • What is my role in your organisation?;
  • Defining UCD and UX in your organisation, is realistically to achieve?
  • How to make an impact with limited time or budget, being a one-person group
  • Capitalising on opportunities to gain recognition with maximal strategic impact
  • Aiming to build a lab of research strategies, formal or informal, taking advantage of automated testing tools
  • Share a description of testing tools and their benefits, using reports, lists, videos to speak on user behalf, demonstrating ROI

Tiny habits

I conducted and experiment during one week with the methods of BJ Fogg to assess if it could be applied in the work environment.
My conclusions lead me to belief if a method a similar method inside and organisation can trigger a behaviour, could be used to amplify the UX awareness.


In the process of designing and developing, if funnel vision in place of and organisation, the real world context is not considered. Funnel vision is the invisible barrier that people can put in their minds, narrowing the understanding of others and thinking that the way they think and act is equal to everyone else outside the organisation.

Looking to the outside, where user experience happens, is a challenge for an organization with non-user-centred mindset. Experience are individual. The insight worker, brings a new set of skills to the table, having the ability to be lifelong learners. To track change over time, data is a powerful ally. It can be used to set and explore new patterns.

Sharing and discussing data around the team and the organization is necessary. Design with data goal is to use all information available to develop a better understanding of the experience. Every case is a case, but guidelines can be applicable, include numbers and context: analytics, A/B tests, social media sentiment, interviews, usability tests, etc. For each project, a culture map is drawn to help the future situation (Gray — Osterwalder, 2015). What is mapped:

  • behaviors: how the team acts and conducts within the company
  • outcomes: what are the concrete positive or negative consequences
  • enablers & blockers: things/situations/people that lead to positive or negative behaviors

Web analytics is constant in our lives for years and the software to use is getting better and better. For some, Google Analytics is the software of choice, but it can be increased and complemented with others like Hotjar or Tableau. Designer can evolve in their design-centric choices based on what designers are doing in the digital sphere. But this is only applicable to existing products or services, or to serve as a playground for redesign decisions.

A current thinking in a day to day project life cycle is that the “roof of the house” is not built on the knowledge of the shape of the foundations is gained. When resources are too constrained to do everything that stakeholders wants and needs to accomplish. A priority system leads the decision. As Spool states (2005), designers should identify business value by asking about the result.

The foundation of UX should be available, so the user is taken into consideration, in each process. The following actions should occur (Weinschenk, 2015) to integrate UX: stakeholders interviews; user research; target audience design; design iteration; test with collaboration

Setting the scene: in any case, a self-organised group adopts and adapt the approach that is best suited for them and the project, the lead experience designer (and only designers) is on the project from the start.

Building design activities into the plan: regular end-user feedback (goal to achieve); “guerrilla testing”; user feedback is asked as frequently as possible; regular feedback from business stakeholders; frequent interaction with developers and cross-functional conversations.

PROJECT A: Transferred knowledge from previous research sessions to expert review; monitoring closely the implementation with follow-up.

PROJECT B: During the project, some methods and UX tools where used, bringing to the table new topics of conversation. Trust the team was key issue.

Disclosure: it is not the purpose of this research to analyse the inclusion of a specific UX methods into the process of development (waterfall, agile or lean), when software is in place. In the following cases, the application of the work done by the designer is ingrained, depending on the project, in a waterfall or agile environments


For designers and researcher, a set of tools available online to be used in every step of the design process, from research to deploy phase (this is not intent to be exhaustive, the criteria was source relevance and updated data):

For academic validation, details of experiment can be consulted at appendix B.

Originally published at ines-bravo-ux-ltd-resources.squarespace.com
January 2016

Inês Bravo: Industry Research Project . MA Digital Media Management (PT Crew 1) — Hyper Island, London, UK . October 2015 / January 2016
Contacts www.inesbravo.com

Research project

The mindset for professionals who wants to create a better UX practice, with limited resources  —  Industry Research Project, MA Digital Media Management Hyper Island (October 2015 / January 2016)

Inês Bravo

Written by

user experience designer. strategist. visual geek. consultant. digital management. www.inesbravo.com. lisbon lover & world traveller. hyper island alumni.

Research project

The mindset for professionals who wants to create a better UX practice, with limited resources  —  Industry Research Project, MA Digital Media Management Hyper Island (October 2015 / January 2016)

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