The SpoolCast with Jared Spool

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Episode #106 Leah Buley’s UX Team of One, Revisited

October 22, 2010  ·  24 minutes

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Leah Buley discusses her latest findings in her work with small teams and solo UXers with our Jared Spool.

Show Notes

User Experience is a growing field. When a company starts incorporating user experience design, it often begins with one person. Our colleague, Leah Buley of Adaptive Path, has been researching this situation for a couple of years, and she's found many interesting things.

We brought Leah to User Interface 14 to present her "UX Team of One", and it was one of the most discussed sessions. We've asked her to return to User Interface 15 this year, to present her updated take on the subject. In this podcast she and Jared Spool compare their observations and experiences with small teams and UX-teams of one.

When someone takes up the mantle of UX within their company, they are quickly overwhelmed. They're often a detail-oriented person who quickly builds a to-do list that's just not doable for one person. Leah suggests the first thing to do is shift into the role of a design facilitator. A facilitator recruits her non-designer colleagues to help determine the necessary components of an experience.

You are going to do better design work, and lay a foundation for more user experience work in any organization… if you can invite other people into the process.

Jared adds that UXers often are more social, outgoing people. That is a helpful trait for facilitation. But beyond that, it's a skill set that improves with practice. Leah agrees, adding that facilitation is a mindset as much as anything else. When you're bringing non-designers into the process, Leah suggests setting your personal investment aside (perhaps even your ego). Listen for ideas that spring organically from your colleagues. Your colleagues provide helpful insight while you open the black box of design to them. Giving them a voice in the process also helps build their understanding of user experience.

Leah suggested two techniques that aid in collecting valuable feedback. One idea comes from Edward de Bono's Six Thinking Hats. Leah suggested that the "black hat" mindset is useful to help pull concerns out of your colleagues. Black hat, in this instance, means being cautious and looking for potential problems. Your aim is to pull the group's fears out of hiding, so people can be completely frank in your discussions.

Her second technique, graphic recording, helps you document the group’s thoughts in a meaningful manner. You can see examples of graphic recording at Sunni Brown’s Web site and in this promotional animation for Steven Johnson’s new book Where Ideas Come From. Graphic recording allows you to collect and share everyone’s input. This way you have a record, and people feel their concerns are being addressed. When you move concerns out of the way, people contribute more freely.