Is it normal to be alone yet surrounded by people

culture

#1

Hello,

I am currently working in a software development company. The company consists of 10 Developers and me, a UX Designer. Is this normal?
Just to mention that it would usually be 1-3 developers on a project, but I am involved in all the projects. My opinion currently is that there is a lack of understanding
and willingness to accept that the research and design process is a necessary and hugely important stage of the software life cycle process. I find
myself in this situation due to this problem…But then again, maybe this is normal?

Thanks, I would really appreciate any feedback you might have.


#2

Hey Stephen,
Welcome to the community. In good news, you’re definitely not alone here!

I think that in this industry there is no ‘normal’ but the fact that you’re calling this out as an issue implies that it’s not ok, and that it’s not working for you.
You make an incredibly fair point about the amount of work required (by a UXer) vs the expectations of management. Have you spoken to anyone at work about it?

How long have you been in the role and are you struggling to manage the workload on your own?


#3

Welcome Stephen!

This is definitely a common situation. I wouldn’t say “normal” because there is no “normal”. The ratio of designers to developers is a direct product of how highly design is valued by management. I once worked in an organisation where, and I’m not exaggerating, there were 80 developers and testing staff, and I was the only designer. Trying to effect change was nigh impossible because of the political environment, and eventually I left when I realised that I could only do so much.

However, just because your situation is a common one doesn’t mean that you can’t be more effective, and eventually change the culture of the organisation to get more support. Here are a few ideas that come to mind:
[LIST]
[][B]Get buy-in from higher up.[/B] This is probably the biggest opportunity to effect change. When research and design are undervalued, it usually stems from the top. If you can convince someone higher up that research and a robust design process will save money in the long run, then that will filter down, resulting in you having more time to do research and evolve your process, and the organisation investing in more designers.
[
][B]Be more transparent about what you do.[/B] If you can show artefacts that work in progress, then people around you will realise the value you’re adding. It may be tough, but if you’re able to create a design wall where you can post wireframes, concepts, user flows, personas and other artefacts, then others will look at it, comment on it, and want to share their opinion. These conversations will make design more collaborative and take the pressure of you to be the “expert”. Another way to be transparent would be to share a highlights reel from usability testing sessions at meetings. There’s the risk that people will respond with “but that’s your job to fix” but if your managers are astute they will realise that it’s impossible for one resource to manage iterative design changes as well as work on new features, all across multiple projects. Plus watching a user fail evokes strong empathy and will make people realise how important something like usability is. :slight_smile:
[][B]Educate and empower your team to make design decisions.[/B] If there’s no additional design resource in site, you may need to resort to training your developers to make some basic design decisions, to free you up to work on more complex design challenges. I don’t know your situation, but suppose you were to run a series of “brown bag” lunchtime design workshops over a series of a few weeks, so that developers become empowered to make basic layout decisions, or even run usability testing sessions. You could also distribute copies of books like Steve Krug’s [I]Don’t Make Me Think[/I] or Jeff Gothelf’s [I]Lean UX[/I] onto desks for people to read. Another option for encouraging an interest in design is to link to case studies and other interesting articles on the intranet or by email. The collection of Zurb quips is a useful place to start.
[
][B]Try and involve your team members in design.[/B] Taking this one step further, you could try having team members be more involved in design by running collaborative design sessions, running some design games to encourage creativity, and becoming more of a design facilitator than a designer. One easy way to do this would be to have stakeholders, developers, or managers participate in usability testing sessions.
[*][B]Get better at scheduling your time, and be up front when managing expectations.[/B] If the issue for you becomes one of your own capacity, rephrase what you’ve been asked to do in terms of priorities, and put the decision back on your manager. If they come to you with something “urgent”, explain to them that it may be possible for you to complete that task, but also explain what it is you’re currently working on, and how much those tasks will be delayed, them ask them to clarify whether they’re OK with those tasks being delayed by that much because of this one urgent task. It’s likely that one task may not be quite so urgent any more…
[/LIST] I’m sure other folks will have suggestions, but hopefully that’s helpful as a start.


#4

Hey Guys,

Thank you for your feedback and comments. I suppose I was trying to get an idea of how much time and resources should be placed on a project at the initial research and design phase, but I am aware that each project is different and there are too many variables to consider to get an answer to that one. I studied Visual Communications and I have been in the role of UX for over almost two years now. I definitely have been making a lot of effort to involve other team members in the design process, and to be honest, the majority of the developers have a keen interest in being involved. The major issue is that, I lack experience and the ability to produce quality products under the current time frames and lack of resources at my disposal. I find that I have knowledge and willingness to integrate a UX process at some level, but with short deadlines, my role becomes shortened to creating UI Designs for ‘Feature driven products’, when i know that each feature, should be validated with sound research and analysis into the people who will be using the products and what their main goals are.

Currently I am working on a presentation on UX Design with the aim of presenting this to the team in a format that will explain to the team the role of UX Design, and why it is an important and effective process with benefits for all the team if taken seriously.

All the same, I am finding my experience so far to be really interesting, I just know now that I need to prove that UX has worth. Thanks for the feedback, I would be interested to know if anyone has had any experiences in attempting to convince management to push more resources in the UX direction?


#5

We wrote an article on UX Mastery recently about how to sell UX to clients. It’s a collection of tips for selling the idea of UX to clients, but it applies equally to management.

Have a read through—you’re bound to find some inspiration! :slight_smile: