User Experience Groups within a large organization are all a little different. We have multiple UX groups here were I work, and I’ve either read about or talked to people from a wide assortment of large companies. This has the disadvantage of diluting the idea of a UX Group to the outside world. What do you do? How do you work? What tasks does your group perform? To help everyone understand In-house UX Groups better, I’ve broken down the 7 areas of focus – where I see every group having varying degrees of commonality.
First, what determines the make up of your group? In my opinion these are some of the factors that determine what kind of group you have:
- Why was the group originally created? What problems were they addressing?
- How high up is a true User Experience advocate in the org chart?
- How many people are in your group?
- Are you under Technology, Marketing, or are you your own “pillar” of the company?
- How long has your group been around?
In my case we’re: not high up in the org chart, very small, NOT our own pillar, and are relativity new.
This makes my 7 areas of focus different from others. So let’s talk about the different areas:
Spread yourself across multiple projects. Help get everything going, check in at defined intervals. Also fight fires as they arise.
This is where my group spends a large portion of its time. We’re small, and have a large development group that needs direction and help ASAP! We help set direction, create wireframes, etc… We check in and continue to consult as the project moves on. We try to make sure the development team is following our direction, and help them when they go astray 😉
Prototype, design, explore new ideas and workflows. Ideas that do not exist today, and are not typically on any product plan. Iterate and improve those ideas.
While I’d say this is the most fun, and really what I believe most UX professionals would like to do, you need to be in a special place to solely focus on innovation. With our groups positioning, we don’t have the time, money, or pull to explore, to prototype “unfunded” ideas. Although, innovation can be defined in many different ways, and we do insert things I would describe as innovative into our daily consulting work, but as a group this is not our current focus.
Produce materials that will govern UX across the organization. This includes Style Guides, Design Patterns, and Personas.
With our high developer to designer ratio we do spend a good amount of time trying to setup a governance process that works for our extended group. To me the three main areas (which I mentioned above) are: Style Guides, Design Patterns, and Personas. This helps a developer know what “widget” to use in a specific case, how it should look, and what are the needs of the person using it. Not very exciting 😉
Spread the benefits and ideas of User Experience to the different areas of the organization. Present and socialize ideas and concepts that tell the story of “why UX matters” and why organizations should focus on it’s users needs.
This has been a passion of mine, and it fit’s right in with our new group. I have a entire group of developers, BDAs, and PMs who have not been exposed to UX and what UX means for them. As you’ve maybe seen on this blog, I really enjoy getting people interested in User Centered Design, new technologies, and modern interaction patterns. This could of been called “education” – educating co-workers on Usability, UX, UCD, etc…
Research & Discovery:
This helps you to really get to “know” your users, using Design Research methods. This can help create insights that can feed new products, features, and ideas.
This I have little experience with. Some UX groups have Design Research specialists that get them the data needed to do their jobs. They go out and shadow users, watch for patterns, and help make sure we’re designing the right things for the right people. They are the front-lines to our users.
Facilitate workshops, using UX tools and practices like Design Studio sessions to bring collaboration to the Design process.
I’ve never seen a group of people hate meetings so much, but can never get enough workshops This is a big topic in the UX community – what tools to use, what methods, what kind of workshops, etc… I’ve facilitated a couple of these here, and I do agree, it helps to: get things done, create alignment, saturate the design space, and produce usable materials that feed the design process.
Bridging together different parts of the organization, using user data to help make decisions regarding product design and development.
Occasionally we’re brought in when multiple people or groups have conflicting ideas on how a feature should be implemented, or how a interaction should work. We provide two things that others can not 1) what the users would want, and 2) what are the “standard” practices. Remember we’re the voice of the people using the products that are being built.
The “8th” area… I don’t really think this should be a focus for a UX Group, but I’ve seen it happen, so here it is. Using the UX Design resources to create presentations, “slideware” targeted at customers, and other tasks better suited to a Creative Marketing or Corporate Communication Group.
While User Experience Professionals typically have the skills to fill these needs, more often you’re not really doing anything for the user. You’re positioning materials for customers, PR, and internal stakeholders.
Now if your materials come from a true User Center Design process, or through innovation – then yes, you should work with Marketing to communicate these successful ideas. Use this communication to get funding, alignment, even “innovation capital” (like the recent Microsoft 2019 spot) for you customers.
Here’s where my current’s groups focus is (view larger PDF):
(Here’s the Keynote if your interested in making your own…)
Good? Bad? I don’t know. I’m not sure if there is a gold standard for UX Groups and what they should be doing – it really seems like you need to be the right UX Group for your part of an organization.
…or to be the UX Group they need, not the UX Group they want (bad Batman reference 😉
What does your UX group look like?