I recently finished the book “The User Experience Team of One” by Leah Buley. As a self-identified UX team of one, I found many points and methods in the book insightful. The first half of the book involved the philosophy of UX and its origins. Whether we like it or not, UX has already been a part of our decision making. Currently the industry and acceptance of UX has just started, and some companies still don’t understand what it’s truly meant for. The misunderstanding of UX is justified, however, because by having a job dealing with human emotions, it is difficult to judge something that’s both intangible and difficult to track. Buley puts UX simply as a “means to practice a set of methods and techniques for researching what users want and need, and to design products and services for them.”
Okay, maybe that isn’t so simple, but it does cover the activities that go into UX design. The term “UX” is also muddled, as it can be applied to different processes and systems, stemming from Information Architecture to Application Design. Each job description has their own unique set of quirks: where Information Architecture involves the backend technology and databases, Visual Design involves mostly graphic ensign and the placing of parts so the it message is visually understandable, Use Research involves time spent analyzing user’s actions and interpreting them into dynamic solutions, and copywriting is the textual part of design that involves using appropriate diction to explain details about the system succinctly.
I’m not going to go into detail of the history of UX, that’s up to you to read about. Leah Buley offers a lot of good resources to explore, as this book doesn’t describe in great detail all the functions of design and what they should be use for. Buley then goes over the UX toolkit and demonstrates the various states of production UX goes through. The process is kind of long, but I’ll list them below:
- Stakeholder Interviews
- Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats (SWOT)
- Requirements Gathering
- Design Principles
- Vision Artifacts
- Use Research
- Primary User Research
- Secondary User Research
- Personas, Mental Models, and User Stories
- Information Architecture/Site Map
- Process Task Diagrams
- Design Comps
- Detailed Specifications
- Style and Pattern Guides
- Usability Testing
- Implementation Oversight
- Metrics/Analytics Tracking
With the world of UX being so new, convincing other team members at work that it’s necessary can be a challenging task. UX is where we learn if a product is functional or not. Not from the viewpoint of the product working, it could potentially be the most useful and productive product out there, but is it understandable to the user? Do users know what they’re doing? If it’s functional by the product team, but users have trouble using it, then it’s not really the most productive product, is it? Luckily, Buley provide us a series of steps to get the product team and other members of the workspace involved:
- Invite people in
- Make things together
- Truly listen
- Know when it’s good enough
UX deals with people’s emotions and attitudes, so being able to have a connection and support system we can have access to the tools that help us analyze users. By including team members in the decision process and enlightening them on what needs to be done to understand users, the team can be more productive and not waste energy on systems that don’t work.
The book transitions to the second part, which is the more meaty part of the book: UX methods. These methods walk the UX designer through all the different kinds of steps that need to be done to do proper research and understanding. These methods are broken down into time stamps, processes, and reasoning for doing the methods in the first place. This reasoning can be important because it gives the UX signer understanding on what they have to do, and something they can explain when they ask people to join them in the activity.
The first section goes over methods for understanding business goals:
- UX Questionnaire
- UX Project Plan
- Listening tour
- Opportunity Workshop
- Project Brief
- Strategy Workshop
The next section goes more into doing actual research:
- Learning Plan
- Guerilla User Research
- Heuristic Markup
- Comparative Assessment
- Content Patterns
After the research has been performed and findings have been synthesized, e then stat designing:
- Design Brief
- Design Principles
- Task Flows
Once we’ve created the designs, we then have to further test those designs:
- Paper and Interactive Prototypes
- Black Hat Session
- Quick-and-Dirty Usability Test
- Five-Second Test
- UX Health Check
Throughout all of the process, team members may still need influencing and the designs you make may need strong reasoning to back them up. These final methods talk about promoting yourself and good UX:
- Bathroom UX
- Mini Case Studies
- Peer-to-Peer Learning Community
- Pyramid Evangelism
As you can tell by all the methods listed, good UX cannot be done in a day, otherwise there wouldn’t be a job for it. A lot of these methods take time, and experience comes with them the more they are performed. This book is perfect to have on your desk while you’re working in UX, as you can quickly reference a method if you’re unsure of what to do next.
The one downside I found with this book is that it’s pretty outdated in terms of resources available. It could be personal taste, but something opens’ t sit right with me if you’re constantly using stacks of paper, pens, and sticky notes for your studies and designs. I find using a nice tablet and touch screen pen replaces the née to have stacks of notebooks laying everywhere. It condenses my materials into one place, and eliminates all the paper waste. I also have unlimited paper in this sense, and can easily send the designs to someone else. Fully-online design programs like Figma are a great help for someone that’s not always at their desk. I can access and present my design from anywhere that has internet access on any system. I can also send prototypes for others to test with a simple link.
We can tell the book is outdated, especially during our current work situation. Many jobs have gone remote full time, and I believe that’s for the better. We can now more freely live where we want without worrying about the commute to work. Leah Buley seems unsure how to deal with working from home most of the time. She lists unknown or underused applications to connect with other members of the team. Group communications like Zoom, Discord, and Slack are great to host meetings. If research and team activities need to be done Miro or Lucidspark are great to collaborate on, and they remove the waste of sticky notes and other office supplies. There was one point where Buley’s solution to complete a task when working from home is to schedule a trip. So in that case, don’t work from home. With such poor advice for people to work remote I question why having the information there in the first place.
In summary: a little handy book for UX people to reference during their work. The methods were beneficial in knowing what to do next, just rely on it providing the best tools to perform them.
Buley, L. (2013). The User Experience Team of one: A research and design survival guide. Rosenfeld Media.