September 12, 2017 7 Things Business Leaders Can Learn from UX and UI Designers From teaching operating system best practices to assisting in feature prioritization, UX and UI designers help stakeholders guide successful projects. Emily Genco MentorMate Alumni UX and UI designers are responsible for elevating, shaping, or creating the product experience. Meanwhile, business leaders must take it a step further determining how the success of a product impacts financial projections for the year and customer loyalty for even longer. What lessons can stakeholders learn from the designers responsible for shaping and realizing large UX projects? 1. Look to UX and UI Talent to Understand Platform Capabilities At the beginning of a design project, before a single pixel is shaded or wireframe begun, UX and UI designers invest time to understand the opportunities and limitations of the platform they will be working on, if they aren’t already familiar. Smart stakeholders take the same approach in preparing to guide their teams. By investing time upfront to learn about the platforms where your solution will be represented, you can offer feedback throughout the remainder of the process that will be contextually relevant. Look to your UX team to educate you at project kick-off. Whether your UX team was brought in to assist with a project or assembled from talent throughout your organization, members will be well-versed applying patterns that make solutions feel native to users familiar with each platform. If designers don’t offer it immediately at the start of a project, ask your team for a quick tutorial on the best UX practices by operating system and platform. 2. Respect the Boundaries Set by Prioritization For designers, priority is nearly always the difference between task completion and delay. It’s the only way to manage the avalanche of asks and revisions that accompany project work. Respecting the priority of tasks is the only way to stay productive and sane. Successful business leaders also align around priority before bringing on a design/development partner. Spending time on the frontend of a project to map business drivers creates a springboard for your design team to use in concepting the aesthetics and interactions that will compose your solution. Loosely defining functionality and prioritizing it can help your design team avoid a dramatic course correction mid-project, saving money and time. When prioritizing your roadmap, consider how many departments or which legacy functionalities the solution should support at launch. How important is speed to market? Are you building an MVP first? The answers to these questions will help your UX and UI team adapt its process to match your goals. 3. Create a Source of Truth for UX and UI Enterprise designers are often tasked with building a solution that either fits into or supports an entire suite of related products. Designers who work with the enterprise often elect to document their design language and brand identity in a style guide. By establishing and documenting the design language, UX and UI teams create a source of truth for the business, development team, and designers on the project. It can also be shared with the rest of the organization to bring other solutions composing a legacy ecosystem into alignment with the new offering. A style guide may include: standards of measurement, color, layout, and functionality. Some teams also choose to add application patterns, brand guidelines, or even language commonly used by the organization in marketing efforts. Source of truth documentation has benefits beyond design teams. Business leaders can benefit from collaborative inventories, task lists, and status tracking. Investing the time to develop them at the project outset saves confusion and mismanaged effort later. 4. Make It Easy and Actionable to Track UX and UI Feedback Create a document to track action items and status toward revision throughout the project. During the course of an enterprise project, especially one with feedback being delivered across departments impacting an ecosystem of solutions, building an inventory of changes can serve as a resource for all. Consider including: Proposed feedback Intended revision Impacted team members Estimated time investment Approval to move forward Status Sample statuses: Finalized Approved Awaiting approval Flagged for revision 5. Assess a Solution for Its Ability to Scale UX designers must often think modularly to create an experience that adapts as an enterprise scales. Especially as businesses move toward the use of web technologies, understanding how design must shift between platforms is critical to give feedback that helps to establish consistency and unite offerings rather than emphasize their differences. Enterprise UX Strategies Decoded What should teams know and plan for ahead of time to smooth the turbulence common in large design initiatives? 6. Ground UX and UI Feedback in the Business Prerogative The best kind of feedback you can provide your team is to communicate how the business will benefit from the particular design or project in motion and what success looks like. You are an expert in your business. By imparting as much knowledge as you can to your design and projects teams, they can prioritize their efforts and make decisions in their areas of expertise that will best serve those ends. Compared to standalone solutions designed to launch a startup product offering, enterprise UX projects often involve reckoning new design with that of legacy products. Rather than assessing the design solely on its application to one solution, consider too how the brand standards being established and design decisions might apply to other product offerings. 7. Build Time Into Projects for Revisions Revisions will and should happen. Designers feel the full weight of a small change that echoes and amplifies throughout a project. Many have learned building time into each sprint helps account for effort needed to respond to stakeholder tweaks that also impact development tasks. It’s a valuable lesson into the importance of foresight and interrelated tasks for the business. Businesses who encourage teams to commit to a heavier focus on user testing and feedback within the early stages of the process will minimize large pivots further on. User testing that unearths major concerns after a majority of the development has been completed portends the potential to slow down progress or compromise the timeline because changes would involve major rework. Find a Rhythm That Works Some teams opt to user test after the first 20% and then after the second 20% of the project. If major changes are discovered, enough runway remains to address them along with any interdependent functionality or UX. Other teams opt to user test the UX and UI after each major project phase for the same reason. Comparatively, if user testing occurs near the end of the project, major issues are discovered and the team opts to remove the functionality in question to maintain the release date, the project team risks crippling the success of the solution. This is especially problematic if the functionality removed was foundational to user needs. Learning from UX and UI Designers Whether they’re small or large, enterprise UX projects are different — and hold valuable lessons for the business at large. Rarely do they involve just one department. Rather, they touch many. Interdependencies between business objectives and legacy solutions increase — so do the challenges UX and UI designers and business leaders must continually solve. 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