The 3 most important ingredients of a product design team
The most basic thing is to have designers and researchers with the right skill set. It has 3 major components (yes I will simplify things a little bit here):
- UI design: so someone who can draw the pixel-perfect, beautiful screen designs
- UX design: someone who can build wireframes and prototypes, and define the most important structures and flows, communicate with other players, brainstorm and run workshops
- UX research: someone in your team must be able to test your designs with real users, validate feature ideas, do interviews, evaluate analytics, build personas, and deliver the necessary customer feedback
That doesn’t mean you need 3 people. In many startups it is a one-men show, which is a quite risky thing. Research is very time consuming, so if you have a one-men product design team she is probably too busy to do research and thus the most important part, the feedback from the end users is missing from the machine. At UX studio we have product designers, who can go through the whole design process from UX to UI design, and they work alongside a UX researcher, who is helping them with user feedback.
The magic is in the design methods
So you got the right ingredients, but the recipe you use is also very important. You need the team to use the best methods you can find. You need a design process to make sure your team will be able to deliver the results and improve the performance of your product sprint-by-sprint. The process defines how you start designing a new feature with sketching and prototyping, how you iterate and how you deliver the pixel-perfect result. And you have to teach this process to everyone involved. That makes the difference between junior and senior guys. Senior people know these methods, they have real-life experience and know what you should do in your specific project. So hiring a junior will probably do more harm than good. Hiring a senior guy with a junior to help might work.
It’s also important to improve the methods your team uses continously, and provide learning opportunities to your designers. At UX studio we do 9 different things to help our designers to improve themselves. We have an intense training program where we teach these methods. Above that we invite designers from other companies to talk on every second Friday. We have mentoring, common sketching sessions, and every designer get weekly feedback from 3 different sources (from research, from her designer mate and our clients too). It’s not a surprise, that they learn very fast in this environment. And as a studio we have experience with many different products and clients, so we know what works best in each case.
Put the pieces together
At UX studio we work in week-long design sprints. It makes it possible to move fast and iterate. We start every sprint with a design meeting, where our designer and researcher meet with the business leader and the technical leader of the product. On these meetings we show the designs we made, and the research results we got. We also make the important design decisions together and agree in the tasks for the next sprint.
Finally you need a good product manager who can support the design team. Her most important job is to emphasize the business goals, give feedback and make sure the design team will get whatever they need to do their job. Stakeholder buy-in is also important, so in many cases the product manager have to convince the top management to hire and run a product design team.
Building up a killer design team is not easy, and it is a totally different job from building dev teams. It’s not something you can do in a few weeks. If you don’t have time for that, we can help you out with an experienced product design team working just on your product. They can work closely together with your team and establish a design culture in your company. Even companies with in-house design teams are hiring us when they don’t have enough resources, or they want their teams to see the best methods in action.