Fostering even a moderate level of UX design in any team or project can at times be an impossible task.
Often there are things that we do that can stifle and sometimes even oppose UX techniques we are trying to support.
In a way, it’s as if we are by accident forcing UX people to leave or just warp back into simple pixel pushing designers or worse photoshop operators.
No Contact with Users
It has been said that the opinion of a UX designer doesn’t count at all, it is the opinion of the users that are the most important element of any design.
Not allowing contact with any users really doesn’t help in the research or evaluation process. The entire knowledge which the design is based just becomes second hand with all the issues that are associated with this.
Any UX design has to have users engagement, often as early as possible, in fact the more the merrier. Stop doing this and well its not really user focused, more expert or self design. Which is okay, however its not why a UX designer is hanging around.
A good deal of UX professionals tend to be very sociable people. We often joke a good way to send us over the edge is to force us to work alone with no access to our peers.
UX people need to collaborate, talk over concepts and ideas, if only to just confirm issues. Working in isolation will stunt their skills and abilities over time.
Even just being forced into a strict communication structure can be an issue, as you tend not to be allowed to discuss and talk over issues that may arise.
It’s a little like the old “throw the design” over the wall approach. Which sadly is still alive and well.
No Critiquing of Design
The ability of have any design or idea critiqued fairly, with understanding is a great tool for the advancement of a design.
Now I’m not talking about the usual management style of, “I don’t like that”, or “That isn’t what I’m looking for.”
The critique needs to explain why a design is good or bad, provide evidence, or even alternatives to progress the design. Force a UX person into the situation where they are just given no direction or not allowed to improve by having their design examined and suggestions made to improve the design. Then they are just going to stagnate and get bored.
Don’t expect someone who is bored to stick around.
No Space or Time to Think
Creativity is not about group thinking or brainstorming.
Sure these things are good for getting some ideas on the table.
However the real creative work happens when someone is alone, focusing on the problems, the design, the issues and playing with the outcome, examining the alternatives.
It is then at this time that someone is designing at their best, although to the untrained eye they may appear non productive. This is when those crazy ideas are found. To do this they need the time and space to focus to be alone, not easy in the cubical city that modern management loves so much.
Our obsession with having people appear productive is just plain cost ineffective.
Having people doing mindless tasks just because we need them to appear to fill their hours of the work day is just an inefficient use of their resources. It’s an old school industrial workhouse ethic that we just need to loose.
No Time to Iterate
There is nothing worse than having the first generation of an idea or interface go into production.
Particularly when you know that will a little more time, sometimes just a few hours, the interface could have been iterated and improved on.
However the budgeted time is just too short so the first round of concepts becomes the final one. I have seen this happen time and time again. It really is very sad and everyone (except the client) knows it’s not their best work.
In the design world being able to fix issues, correct assumptions and design mistakes is required to find the perfect design. Design isn’t a precision art where the right interface can be found by following a formula. It takes iterations, time to craft the perfect UI. We have to allow for this time.
No Failure Allowed
Design is very much about failure, especially UX or product based design, as you really want to fail as many times as you can and improve things as you go. All those failures are just minor issues compared to what would happen if they were encountered after a product was released.
So we have to find them and fail a little in the design process. This is normal.
It’s often not the fault of the designer as to why the product or interface fails. After all we can’t expect every person to be masters at their craft and be able to see perfectly into the minds of the audience.
Personalisation of failure, instead of taking it back to the fault of the design and looking for a solution, is the outcome. We know it’s wrong, but still it continues, make mistakes in mockups or draft wireframes just isn’t allowed.
If you ‘re employing a designer, be it on contract, as a client, or in-house, the best thing you can do is let them design.
After all isn’t that what you are paying them for.
Just driving the design and it’s direction from a management stand point will generally get you poor results. Think about it are you allowing people to really design or are you dictating the design to them and they are just software operators.
Designers usually love constrains and a tricky problem, but if you restrict the playing field too much and they can’t design, you may find they have just decided to move on.
So that’s my short list, a few things to consider, I’m sure we have all worked in those environments or unknowingly caused them.
If you have any I missed, just pop them below.