Many times as design leaders we find it difficult to justify another employee when our project intake follows the pattern of the wind. Beyond inconsistency, the design portion, when compared to development, seems minuscule. In the world of designers, consultancies and advertising agencies compete for client work, and internal design leaders compete for company resources.
Design Leader Marcio found “5 Easy Steps to Scale a Design Team” relevant, but expected to see ways to quickly expand a team for new projects when there is no chance to hire new talent. Here are a few techniques I have picked up on my path to sell a design team, accomplish assignments with less, and temporarily expand a team when the budget is tight. Most of these steps could apply to any team, but all of them focus on aspects relevant to User Experience Designers.
1. Turn user experience into sales, literally
If you have ever taken a sales seminar, you may have heard the speaker explain user experience principles, and you would have heard right. Both UX and Sales share a common parent: Psychology.
Convert personas into leads
As user experience designers we develop personas and profiles to better understand and empathize with our users. Similarly, sales teams gather insight about potential prospects to help them determine leads. The data collected by sales help them identify which industries and individuals to contact. Through this connection, the mystery of sales can begin to dissolve.
Know your five
When we offer our team services to external or internal stakeholders, the buying decision often relies on a group rather than an individual. Ian Dainty in “Who Makes B2B Buying Decisions – The 5 B2B Buyer Influencers” suggests there are five influencers in a purchase decision: financial, user, gatekeeper, champion, and researcher. It is then the goal of sales to find the champion influencer, preferably doubling as the financial influencer, who can sell their services for them.
Develop influencer personas
To tie this together, consider the power a persona would have if created for each influencer. You can start with employees at your company as it will be easier to recognize the five. Your role may even be one of them. Once you have determined which employees match each persona, it is time to gather motives and pain points.
Discover the pain
While what users say and do are often different, the critical incident technique in user interviews can help uncover positive and negative feelings our users had during essential happenings of their past. In the same way, sales members strive to discover pain in the present through a similar technique. User pain points and motives help us learn which features to improve or add to our products. Prospect pain provides possible contract opportunities for sales members.
Time for a sale
With this slight twist in our understanding, we can finalize the personas with real influencer archetype data and leverage this adapted user interview when speaking with potential clients over coffee.
2. Scale without people
The buzzword digital transformation holds merit when observed through the subcategory automation. Like the cycles of the moon, our work tasks repeat themselves. Through observation of repetition, we can begin to automate and optimize our processes. Let’s review a simple example.
WordPress website redesign
Like other public-facing websites, WordPress sites are a commonly requested service of design teams. For the sake of simplicity and commonality, a WordPress website will serve as an excellent example to explain optimization. Here are standard steps the design team could be responsible for:
Custom mockups mean custom code
Ten potential steps to design a simple site is quite extensive, especially the wireframe through the development phase. Once we hand our custom mockups to the WordPress Developer they, in turn, must create custom code to accomplish them.
This overcomplicated process was my exact scenario the first time I redesigned our Whiting House website. Even though we had streamlined methods, the number of steps were bulky and involved too many cooks.
Optimize the redesign
With WordPress sites, there are many fantastic elements prebuilt into the theme. With the right plugin, WordPress itself can be a mockup tool. Instead of involving a Visual Designer and WordPress Developer, I took it upon myself to strip out the custom CSS, leverage the built-in theme options, and redesign the website with the Fusion Builder plugin working as a WYSIWYG to mockup each page in code.
The first website took roughly three months and the second redesign finished within three weeks. Albeit I leveraged much of the content and research previously collected, but the layouts and designs were fresh with ten new pages added. Honestly, I have received more praise from our current website with out-of-the-box functionality than the first with custom code.
Leverage global standards
Another way to expedite design is through the use of global design standards. Sites such as NN/g, Smashing Magazine, and UX Matters teach of common design traits users expect. For instance, drop-down fields should consider enabling autocomplete when options grow beyond ten.
Keep local knowledge
Another time saver is local data you have collected through previous usability studies. Jakob Nielsen explains in “Corporate UX Maturity,” that in stage five user experience teams begin to manage their previously collected usability data in a “usability reports archive.” With past experiential knowledge readily available, the design team can swiftly implement successful results.
Locate user experience themes
In a previous article, I mentioned UX templates are scarce. There are however a few places to find them. For stencils and sketchpads, you must check out UI Stencils. Their products, as seen in the image, are fantastic, and their customer experience rivals Amazon. For UI templates and many other goodies, my favorite spot is Envato Elements. They are an off-shoot of the Envato brand where only the best designers are invited to offer their templates in a monthly pay model atmosphere.
3. Temporarily expand your team
As long as your process is solid, freelancers are an excellent option to expand your team in small bursts. The ultimate goal will be to create a steady position for the skill set the individual brings, but until you can, a freelancer makes financial sense.
oDesk + eLance = UpWork
If you have never heard of UpWork, you are missing out. Global initiatives crush local mentalities and nowhere do I see this more apparent than the twelve million freelancers registered on Upwork from around the world. They have a freelancer for anything you can accomplish on a computer from IT & Networking to Legal & Accounting. I have hired WordPress Developers, UX Writers, Visual Designers, Photo Editors, and a Bookkeeper.
Freelancers are worth the money
Even though prices can go as low as $5/hr, the adage “you get what you pay for” rings true. Over time and many freelancers, I have learned to pay more for top talent. You still save money when compared to a full-time employee if you cannot support their income all year. Plus, according to UpWork, “Under the Internal Revenue Code Section 6050W, you do not need to file Form 1099-MISC for freelancers paid through Upwork because you are not paying your freelancer directly.” (upwork.com)
Toptal offers top 3% of freelancers
While I have never used their services, I have heard of the grueling hiring process designers go through to gain access to the Toptal network. If UpWork seems like you are sacrificing quality, then you may want to consider Toptal instead.
Get comfortable with remote employees
As our design community grows, so does the area of land they sit on. It took time for me to be comfortable working with someone I only ever met on a computer. However, this is no longer the future, but the present reality.
Expect some pushback
I have met co-workers who just cannot get over the remote aspect and refuse to work with remote peers. I have also heard of security issues when dealing with proprietary knowledge. I bring this up so you can prepare yourself and know you may need to be the champion influencer of remote workers if you see them as an option to relieve your design team.
Through posts and LinkedIn messages you asked me to continue speaking about the business of design and the steps necessary to grow as a team. This time, I will bring the discussion in and talk about ways to directly nurture a design team.