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5 Signs Your Team is Suffering From UX Immaturity
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5 Signs Your Team is Suffering From UX Immaturity

Clint McManaman
Senior Designer

Sometimes individuals, teams, and entire organizations believe they're doing enough UX work because they perform the occasional interview or usability test. That mindset can create massive gaps in the knowledge of a product's users and lead to design decisions that are based solely on preference or "gut" rather than data.

Sadly, it can lead to products that miss the mark for the organization.

An essential role of the modern-day designer is to introduce, educate, and exercise UX best practices throughout the life of a product.

Defining User Experience (UX)

The User Experience (UX) of a product is the result of a user interacting with something (a web app, a service, a real-life object) and the internal feeling, or experience, the user gets from using that product.

That internal feeling is subjective. It’s based on variables such as a user’s environment, their relationship with technology, how you have designed and presented the product, and more.

Try as we might, we can design a product with the hope that it leads to a desired experience, but we can’t quite know all that is going on internally with a user. If your personal and team-wide knowledge of UX is immature, it will be difficult to create successful user experiences. And because of that, you may not achieve the goals the business desires. When you fail to serve customers effectively, the business will have a hard time succeeding.

Below are five signs your organization may be suffering from low UX maturity and some questions to ask yourself, your peers, and your organization to help you grow.

person writing down notes on tablet in meeting

1. Just make it pretty

You often hear the dreaded phrase "our designer will make it pretty" from the people you work with in regards to your website or product. That phrase is like nails on a chalkboard to any self-respecting modern-day product designer, as it implies that the work of the designer is simply to push some pixels around and decorate content in a timely fashion.

This is a red flag that your organization is suffering from low UX maturity. Still, it is also an excellent opportunity for you to exhibit how a holistic design process contributes to a successful product.

Are the skills that encompass visual and interaction design clear to everyone on the team?

  • Is design - as a strategy understood and exercised within the decisions of the organization?
  • If not, how can you help establish and facilitate best practices?

2. We'll do it live!

There are many organizations today that still do not see the value of research within the organization and make excuses for not exercising it.

You might hear things like:

  • "We already know what our customers want."
  • "We don't have the time in this sprint."
  • "We'll figure it out in the beta launch."

Teams with high UX maturity do research at critical times throughout the life of a product. This ensures the relevance of the product matches where the organization is heading and takes into account the impact on its users.

As a designer, it's imperative that you're equipped to justify the importance of research to your stakeholders.

  • What does research look like within your team or organization today?
  • How are current working designs (those designs being used in your product today) being affected by your research?
  • Are you revisiting those designs with new research to improve upon them?
  • Beyond the screen, are you researching your user's environment?
  • What does a user's day-to-day look like with your product in mind?

person explaining concept on whiteboard

3. Testing is not a habit

Your organization doesn't have a habit of testing the usability of your product, and you often hear things like: "We'll test later, the product isn't done yet." Much like research, teams with high UX maturity are testing as early as possible. These organizations know that the earlier you test, the easier it is to make changes. It also creates a greater impact on the quality of the product overall.

You, the designer, must avoid spending too much time in a bubble designing for what you think the user wants (which is really just you designing for yourself) by injecting user feedback into your process. When are you testing?

How can you begin testing your design work today?

  • Who are you including in your testing (your mom, your users, your teammates, your entire organization, strangers on the street)?
  • What methods of feedback gathering have you tried?

4. Knowledge isn't shared

In the organization, just one or two people have knowledge of UX and are the key to good UX practices. If these people were to leave your team, good UX would most likely suffer or fall by the wayside. In organizations with high-level UX maturity, UX thrives without their best UX person present because good UX is taught, empowered, and part of the entire process.

How can you, the designer, bring transparency to your process?

  • How can you help your users, your team, and your organization experience the benefits that come from good UX design work?
  • In what ways are you equipping your teams to speak with customers, understand the business, assemble information hierarchy, and assess visual design in your stead?

person intentionally listening in a meeting

5. No seat at the table

Still, to this day, people in design and user research aren't invited into product meetings. The meetings about the product and its customers are often attended by product managers and engineers only. If UX roles aren't present in critical meetings, their ideas and knowledge aren't being sought out like other team members' and therefore aren't impacting the product.

So, how are you advocating for a seat at "the table"?

  • Are you going above and beyond to share and collaborate with your teams?
  • Are you proactively seeking feedback from your peers and letting them know when you put their advice into action?
  • Along with improving yourself, how are you offering yourself up to be a mentor and share knowledge?

Building UX maturity is a continuous process

All of these signs present an excellent opportunity for you to influence and contribute positively to UX maturity. Not only for you, but for your team - and ultimately, the products you build.

Resources to share with your team

What is UX Design?

A 12 min, fun and informative video from AJ&Smart. The video suggestions for this one present some good further learning.

Experienced Required: How to Become a UX Leader, Regardless of your role

One of my all-time favorite reads on the subject of UX. I'm on my fourth read/copy of this having given away the first three to fellow teammates.

Front UX Conference Videos

The design team at Headway attended Front Conference in 2019 and learned a ton from some incredible leaders in the space of UX. The folks at Front have made those talks available on YouTube.

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