With the ever-increasing importance of digital products and services, user experience (UX) design has become the utmost priority. As a result, UX teams are an integral part of every successful business. The size of UX teams may vary for every business, but it’s important to build the foundation of an enterprise UX team. Many of the enterprise clients across South East Asia that we have worked with, including Fortune 500 companies have been investing to build their in-house UX team, we have seen different approaches on how they structure their team.
While user research, user interface design and user experience design are the backbone of any UX team’s work, the structure and form of various groups can change, depending on the resources and needs. There is no one-size-fits-all UX team.
In its entirety, a UX team responds to product understanding and designs based on user feedback and research. This is essential in providing the shape of the product before handing it off to developers and marketers.
Who makes up an enterprise UX team?
It is alright not to be starting off with a complete UX team. It takes time to find the right personality and character to fit into a team. Below we will list out some of the key roles that you ought to be thinking about as the initial foundation of a UX team.
1. User Researcher
User research is about finding out what the users want, what their needs and pains are, this is helpful in analyzing the market and identifying potential product opportunities. This serves as a base for the digital product that is to solve these particular problems.
Essentially, user researchers are the middlemen in analyzing and identifying what your users want, and using that information in defining and shaping the digital product to serve your users well.
You need a user researcher who is also a leader, who understands your business and is an advocate. The aim of the research is to answer 2 questions:
Who are our users?
What do our users want and need?
A user researcher needs to be excellent at conducting usability tests and running user interviews, bonus points if they have a knack for analytics and statistics.
2. User Experience (UX) Designer
User experience design deals with the components related to the user’s experience when they are using the product, helping users achieve their goals and solve problems by lining up user objectives with business goals.
A UX designer figures out how the user is going to interact with the product. Their main responsibility is to ensure there’s a logical flow that users can follow, moving from step to step without getting lost. They must consider what’s best for the user and the overall user experience, thus making it vital for the designers to work hand-in-hand with the user researcher.
UX designers are also an advocate for the user, they are there not only to make the product usable, but also enjoyable and accessible. At the same time, bearing in mind the needs of business in increasing revenue, and conversion rates.
3. User Interface (UI) Designer
User interface design refers to the visual layout of the elements that users interact with, dealing with things that users see and interact with directly. UI design takes care of the product interface design – animations, icons, patterns, trends and shapes. All the visual components are handled by the UI designer.
While the UX designer makes a design usable, the UI designer makes it pleasant to use.
UI designers are responsible for ensuring consistency across the product, this includes creating a style guide or visual language. They are very much hands-on with design, designing each screen and creating visual touchpoints, including the interaction behind them.
Their main responsibility is to ensure that the user interface visually communicates the path that the UX designer has laid out.
4. Data Analyst
A data analyst analyzes how users interact with different touch-points, tracking data in order to understand how to optimize customer experience in yielding better sales and customer loyalty. Data analytics is the process of examining data in order to draw conclusions, it can help increase revenue, optimize marketing campaigns, and make better business decisions.
In a digital product context, the data analyst will likely be using tools such as Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, Crazyegg to measure how users flow through the website. Data analyst will plan out how to tag elements in a website in order to measure the effectiveness of a conversion funnel. For example, from an e-commerce homepage > product listing page > product details page > add to cart > checkout process > payment > thank you page. The user behavior data collected can be used to inform future design improvement decisions. Or when there is a high abandonment rate at a certain web page within a conversion journey, data analyst could inform user researcher to further investigate the reasons why users are leaving the website.
- Enterprise Architect: works with the stakeholders in creating a holistic view of the business’ strategy, process, information, and information technology. They use this information to ensure that the business and IT are aligned.
- Information Architect: deals with the structure, organizing design elements so that they make sense.
- Interaction Designer: understands how users interact with the product, and builds interaction and animation into the design so that there’s a reaction to the user’s touch/instruction.
- Usability Expert: finding out whether users can use the design without confusion via usability test and feedback to the team to make design improvements. They are constantly working to validate the current state of the design or prototype so that usability issues can be detected earlier and fixes can be implemented.
- Visual Designer: focuses on the big picture – typography, iconography and colour schemes, attending to the aesthetics.
Merge UX roles is not uncommon
In South East Asia, we see many enterprise UX teams do not have all the roles we covered above. It is not uncommon that 1 person would cover more than 1 role, and it could be due to the limited annual hiring budget or limited scope of work to justify a separate headcount. However, as the team starts to show results, companies will be more willing to allocate more budgets in hiring separate roles. Here are some of the roles that we commonly see that are being merged in enterprise UX teams:
User Researcher + Usability Expert
UX Designer + Interaction Designer
User Interface Design + Information Architect
Complimenting your UX team with external talent
Building a strong UX team requires a lot of effort and time. But no one said it was easy. Apart from hiring, working with a UX consultancy firm is an alternative to building your UX team.
It is also common to have 3 UX Designers working on the same team as they are building a complex product. Some enterprise UX teams will hire a house UX Design Lead and 2 external UX Designers to help with the load of the project. We have worked with our enterprise clients across South East Asia to complement their UX teams to get their products off the ground faster. Benefits such as time saved in hunting for talent can be better utilized to expedite the product development and product growth.
We also see enterprise design teams prefer to engage external usability consultants because the same team who is designing the product should not be the one testing it! In this case, independent user validation can be done and the external consultant can provide an unbiased usability testing result to the enterprise UX team.
Sometimes we would also see the role of graphic designer outsourced to 2 different creative firms as the UX team would like to get new creative ideas from different graphic designers. There are many ways to skin a cat in order to build an enterprise UX team.
Help UX team to prove their worth through usability testing
Building a UX team within an enterprise comes with its challenges. There will be many stakeholders that the enterprise UX team will need to answer to. The main reason why enterprises invest in having a UX team is to create and deliver positive user experience. But you can’t just have the UX team write an email proclaiming that they have a good user experience, can they?
UX that is not measured will not be UX that you can manage or improve upon.
One of the ways is to know if the UX team is delivering good user experience is to validate the experience with users using and interacting with the product/service. A usability test is the suitable way to see how users might be struggling through or confused when using the live product or prototype. Best still, invite the stakeholders and UX team members to watch the usability test session, this will become the moment of truth. We have always run debrief after usability test with client stakeholders and UX team, to discuss the things that worked well or not and the improvements that can be made. This serves as a reality check and big motivator to push the UX team forward.
But do not stop at 1 round of usability test. Once there is a new iteration of design, it should be tested again. It is only when usability testing is done regularly that the UX team will keep finding ways to improve on the delivery of user experience. We have done monthly usability test cycles with a smaller amount of users (be it remote usability testing or in-person) to keep our client’s enterprise UX team updated about the state UX of their products.
As the world we live in changes quickly, the context which the users use your product/service evolves too. Constant usability test cycles empowers the UX team on the temperature of the user needs and changing market landscape.
Investing in a good UX team for your enterprise saves money in the long-run, get started by building the foundation with a user researcher, user interface (UI) designer, and user experience (UX) designer. This will come in handy especially if it isn’t clear what roles are essential.
Start with the backbone by building the foundations of a UX team and then identify what other roles are required to fill the gaps.