Invite them into your process

Tips and tricks on how you can ease the cross-functional collaboration in the agile UX design process.

“A rowing team pushing along the waters near Metropolitan City of Florence” by Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash

If you’ve ever worked as UX designer embedded in the agile team, you know that it is very important to stay together and learn together in order to get where you envisioned, better and faster.

In this lesson learned, I’d like to share some tips and tricks on how you can achieve much better results. It is all about how you approach in facilitating the cross-functional collaboration.

Designers often have the unfortunate reputation of going off on their own and coming back with a supposed masterpiece. Great design often has the inaccurate reputation of being the product of bursts of divine inspiration. — Bruno Bergher

Try to involve all stakeholders in your design process from the very beginning.

Align with researchers, product owners, developers and other stakeholders in the early design stages. This will save a lot of time otherwise spent on discussions and misunderstandings.

Make (small) workshops

If you feel it is necessary to put more heads together, make a workshop! Let your team be part of the design. Hosting a workshop may automatically sound to you like something that needs lots of preparation and time. Well, it doesn’t always need to be a 1-week design sprint. Sometimes you can move forward with a small 1-hour session of brainstorming or sketching.

Workshops strongly support cross-team communication and shared understanding; this way the team will stay on the same page.

Share insights from research

Tell stories about what you (or your researchers) learned about the users. Describe their needs and typical behavior. Decisions will then be made with users in mind rather than just based on assumptions.

👉 Share direct quotes mentioned by users during the testing sessions. It is an authentic expression of user expectation or frustration, which I found very powerful in helping to change one’s opinion. Make sure you use it as it was served — even with bad words, etc.

👉 Share positive feedback also. We all know it is easy to see what is wrong — it is easy to criticise. However, I learned it is just as important to you and the team to hear what works well and what users love.

Invite your team to observe users

Inviting stakeholders to observe users completing tasks helps you, as a designer, to advocate user needs with ease across the entire organization; breaking the silos.

On top of that, it supports you in evangelizing the UX and definitely helps to convince, engage and motivate people doing improvements — for users.

Just as we know that a picture (and prototypes) is worth a thousand words, with usability testing it is doubly true! Living the session is more authentic — not like just reading a report, because the experience is not transferable.

⚠️ A usability testing session should not have more than 2–3 people, otherwise, it can have a negative influence on the test. Some users may not feel comfortable being observed by a big group of people. Thus, if you need to invite more people, share a live screen or just make a screen recording.

Here I’ve listed advantages I found when you invite various groups of people to the usability testing session:

Designers

I encourage all designers to observe the usability testing. I was always wondering, why do some designers not attend the sessions, when they could see how their design is used?

First, I always enjoy seeing how users can surprise me with what I did not expect. Second, as a designer, I find it super useful to learn about the user behavior, their mental model, and lastly, I love to have the precious opportunity to ask WHY? 🤔

Developers & QA

I learned to invite software developers and test engineers to observe the usability testing sessions. Many times it turned out good, because letting them hear and see direct feedback from real users opens their minds, and for you, it is easier to advocate user needs in the next steps. Secondly, I think it naturally builds a connection between the user and your team.

Product people & management

Inviting product owners or product people, in general, is great and beneficial too. All the user pains and quotes from the users will be heard directly. Letting them join the sessions will help you down the road when finding a budget for improvements.

Documentation writers

Another benefit I discovered by inviting technical writers to join the usability testing session is that it helps to spread the message about the user needs and its goals through the organizational silos. You will save a lot of time telling stories about what the design should do and what it is for. By joining the session, they simply absorb the message reading the task assignment by observing a user performing the tasks. This helps writers to better understand and compose high-quality feature descriptions in the right context, as it was intended. A user guide is also a part of user experience, especially when describing more complex tasks or systems. It is highly important that documentation goes along with what was designed and developed — using the right wording and real usage examples.


I hope this lesson learned can be inspiring for you as well! Tell me what you think in the comment section below! I’d love to get a conversation started on this subject.

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