Assumptions vs. Reality of Working with a UX Design Team

Fuzzy Math's July Newsletter

Goal: To achieve alignment between teams by understanding four key misconceptions.

User Experience (UX) design is often misunderstood. Even the term “UX” itself is subject to heated debates and varying interpretations. So what does it mean to talk about UX design? And what should someone working with a UX design team expect? We’ve broken down some of the most common misconceptions we see to help ensure everyone’s speaking the same language and working toward the same goal.

1. Why do UX design:

Assumption: To deliver a new interface

Reality: To understand the people who use the product/service, to empathize with those people, and to create more powerful products and services for them

At its core, UX design is about people. A good UX team will talk to the people within the company (stakeholders) and the people who use their products (end users) to help understand everyone’s goals and identify ways in which the project can meet and exceed them. Often, this goes well beyond just redesigning a new interface, instead focusing on what the system or service actually offers, and how that can better align with what end users are doing in the real world.

2. What UX design involves:

Assumption: Move pixels around the screen, organize data, support development

Reality: Understand user intent, pain points, and joy; design for their goals while reducing pain and increasing joy

In talking to people, a UX team will discover what real users are doing all day, and how the product or service currently fits within their lives. The designers will investigate things users currently like, as well as things that frustrate them – not only in the product being designed, but also in the other tools they use, as these often represent opportunities for feature growth or, at the least, patterns to avoid.

3. How UX design happens:

Assumption: Listen to requirements, talk to people, design in a dark room

Reality: Learn, absorb, and synthesize as much information as we can; translate information into insights; solve problems and collaborate with stakeholders and end users throughout

In UX design, requirements should be just the start of a conversation. UX designers will validate requirements against research to make sure those requirements are addressing real needs, and then dig into those requirements with stakeholders to ensure we’re meeting them in the most optimal way. For both internal UX teams and consulting teams, researching requirements within the company will help in understanding not only the project at hand, but also the greater company, so that the project is not only meeting the short-term needs but also catalyzing future growth.

4. What UX design produces:

Assumption: UI

Reality: A lot of stuff, and sometimes UI

While a new UI is often one of our end deliverables, it’s just one of many usable artifacts of the UX design process. Through personas, experience maps, and other research documentation, a UX team can help stakeholders understand and evangelize for their users throughout their organization. Conceptual design, storyboards, and feature roadmaps help explore larger-scale changes to improve users’ experience and often go well beyond UI redesigns. In many cases, these more strategic outputs can be the final project deliverable, helping focus future projects and other organizational efforts. And of course, through wireframes, visual design comps, and front-end code, UX design can define the look and feel of the product.

“The wireframe and design are really the tip of the iceberg.”

Assumptions, Reality, and Fuzzy Math

Through our engagements with clients, we’ve worked with teams that have dedicated UX resources and deep existing design knowledge, teams who have no in-house design, and everyone in between. For those without UX resources, our goal is always not only to help get the best results on a project, but also evangelize UX processes and methodology throughout the organization. As the former CTO of Fieldglass, one of our longest-tenured clients, Sean Chou saw this process unfold firsthand: “To truly engage Fuzzy Math, we needed to first understand and embrace the UX process. Coming from a more traditional design approach, we learned that the wireframe and design are really the tip of the iceberg. Underneath what you see is the customer-focused work such as personas, process flows, interviewing customers, and workshops. It’s the solid foundation that is unseen that not only represents the majority of the work and value, but also represents the underpinnings that keep what is seen afloat.”

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