In my monthly column, Ask UXmatters, our panel of UX experts answers our readers’ questions about a broad range of user experience matters. To get answers to your own questions about UX strategy, design, user research, or any other topic of interest to UX professionals in an upcoming edition of Ask UXmatters, please send your questions to: [email protected].
The following experts have contributed answers to this edition of Ask UXmatters:
- Jordan Julien—Independent Experience Strategy Consultant
- Cory Lebson—Principal Consultant at Lebsontech; Author of UX Careers Handbook (forthcoming); Past President, User Experience Professionals’ Association (UXPA)
- Pabini Gabriel-Petit—Head of UX for Sales & Marketing IT at Intel; Principal Consultant at Strategic UX; Publisher and Editor in Chief, UXmatters; Founding Director of Interaction Design Association (IxDA); UXmatters columnist
- Amanda Stockwell—VP of UX at 352 Inc.
Q: What are the primary UX roles on a project team, and what core soft skills are required for each role?—from a UXmatters reader
“Every project has unique requirements, so assembling a project team requires a unique skill set,” replies Jordan. “Every member of a project team—from project manager to QA—should evangelize User Experience. That said, there should be a UX Lead on every project who keeps the user’s perspective front of mind throughout the project. In addition to the UX Lead, there are typically four types of UX specialists I like to engage, depending on the unique needs of a project:
- Content strategists—These are the people who define content requirements. This group also comprehends information architects.
- UX researchers—These people conduct background research and develop surveys to understand users’ needs and conduct usability testing with users to ensure a product or service meets their needs.
- Business analysts—These people are detail oriented and have rational, analytical brains and, thus, are capable of collecting and documenting business requirements.
- Experience designers—This group includes interaction designers, UX designers, information designers, and all the other roles we give to people who understand how users think and can optimize their experience—thus, impacting the business value of the product or service. These people create wireframes, prototypes, business models, service models, product roadmaps, and other design artifacts that contribute to the definition of a product or service. In this category of UX specialists, you’ll often find people who have the broadest skillsets. While there are many more junior experience designers, occasionally, you can find very experienced UX Unicorns—experience designers who are capable of assuming all of the UX roles on a project.
“Back in 2009, I wrote an article for UXmatters titled ‘Specialists Versus Generalists: A False Dichotomy?’ that might interest readers in the context of this discussion,” answers Pabini. Toward the end of that article, I described my ideal team—as a leader of UX teams whose focus is doing research, strategy, and design for applications. I still think a mix of specialists and T-shaped people—whose knowledge and skills have both breadth and depth—is best. My dream team would include
- T-shaped people:
- UX designers—who have some combination of great interaction design, information architecture, visual design, and writing skills
- user assistance writers—who, in addition to writing Help, can also help with UI text and usability testing
- user researchers—who cover both up-front, generative research and usability testing. On a larger team, user research and usability testing may be two different specialties.
- visual designers—who are responsible for designing color palettes, icons, custom widgets, and other key visual elements
- front-end developers—who prototype or actually implement user-interface designs. In today’s world of Responsive Web Design (RWD), I view front-end development as an essential component of a UX team.”