Integrating UX practitioners into product development

We have slowly integrated UX members into our product development teams which previously consisted of developers, product managers and testers. It has been a journey to ‘discover the blend of requirements and design that meet the needs of the user’ with the aim to create valuable and usable software.

The aim of this post is it to share some of my experiences during this journey.

Everyone has an opinion on design

‘I think the orange colour is not great, I would go with blue, and there is too much white space. We need to reduce it.’

First and foremost, it is important to realize that everyone will have an opinion on visual design when you put something out there; this is from executives, engineers, product managers, buyers, and users. Definitely the same can’t be said about code, as not everyone can write and read code.  It is very important to have a strategy on how to react to these opinions and for sure, you can’t please the wide audience.

Acknowledging opinions and active listening is important; designers also need to defend their design by carefully explaining the reasoning for the decisions. As a product manager, I like to express my opinion and leave the decision to the experts. I am very aware that I am not a Jonathan Ive when it comes to design and aesthetics. A good principle to follow for product managers:

‘Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.’  General George S. Patton

Embrace constraints

‘Man built most nobly when limitations were at their greatest.’ Frank Lloyd Wright

Design is very much in the creative space; there are lots of ideas, exciting concepts and endless possibilities.  This is so especially so in the early stages of product development.  However, it is important to realize that there are very real limitations in terms of time, budget, technology and people. Constraints are often viewed as limitations, but with limitations come opportunities. Once constraints are in place, focus follows naturally.

Designers need to learn to work within these constraints.  The presence of constraints can lead to good design decisions. Constraints are best understood when product managers, user experience designers and engineering form a partnership and work in close collaboration.

Design is indeed a very collaborative process

The way we work with people has a direct impact on the quality of products we design.’ Sarah Nelson

The design process is a very collaborative effort, this cannot be stressed enough. There is something very unhealthy about designers working in a corner with no collaboration.

It goes a lot further and deeper than product managers explaining features to a designer and expecting them to go forth and get the job done in isolation. Designers need to work very closely with product managers, various functional teams and end users to get to a usable product. The various stakeholders also need to dedicate time to collaborate and to provide input. This is where breaking down silos is very important and also where everyone within an organization needs to take on the responsibility to collaborate and provide input. Systems and processes across an organization need to lend to this collaborative process.

User experience practitioners contribute immense value. They serve as user advocates, not only caring about, but also understanding people who use our applications daily to accomplish tasks. A strong and healthy relationship between product managers and designers is essential for product success.

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