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5 Key Lessons From Running Complex UX Projects
- Jul 2017 -

Although our leadership team have been involved in UX / UI projects (User Experience / User Interface design) for many years, a couple of major projects in the last 18 months really drove home to us the importance of getting certain things right. Luckily we did get most of it right and the projects have run well but there are always areas that one can improve. 

Our model is a consultant / client model, but these lessons are applicable to those running internal UX  projects too. In a future blog we will be sharing more about approach to UX itself using specific case studies, but in the meantime we wanted to share our big takeaways from running these types of projects because we know they can be challenging. So hopefully they can be useful for those undertaking such projects themselves:

1.     Be meticulous about scoping & planning 

Scoping a big UX project is really difficult. You never really know what you’re going to end up doing and therefore it’s really hard to plan the length of time and resources required. Our advice is to try and break out the functionalities and features into more manageable modules and then within the modules, break it down into very granular tasks, with the amount of time and resources required for each of those tasks.

Being transparent about the resources is really important. If clients (or management) aren’t experienced in this type of work, they may not realise that you usually need different types of designers for UX and UI, and perhaps don't recognise the value of good project management. 

If a fixed budget needs to be agreed at the beginning (no option of additional budget for additional scope), then make sure to allow a buffer in that budget for extra stuff. Almost undoubtedly things will come up during the project – new features / functionalities that need to be added – so make sure that one way or other that has been planned for. It should be an agreed buffer specifically for that type of context.

There will almost inevitably be conversations during the project about whether it’s ‘in scope’ or ‘out of scope’, so being meticulous, diligent and transparent are hugely important.

2.     Be sure to have the right team

UX has become a very generic term and we know that there are many 'UX Designers' out there who can draw good wireframes, but not all of them are great UX thinkers. To be able to execute challenging UX projects successfully, you really need at least one senior person with the experience of working through the complexity of many functionalities and different user flows in a very logical way. It takes a certain type of person with a certain type of brain, and there are not many out there! But of course it's not all down to one person, you obviously need excellent UX and Visual designers too but a truly great UX strategist is harder to qualify and appreciate.

Ideally that senior UX strategist will have great communication skills too because as we discuss later, communicating the thinking that goes into a big UX vision or even just a tweak to an existing design is super important for the purposes of alignment.

Ultimately, within a team, you need at least one big UX thinker, great UX and visual implementation, meticulous project management, and good communication skills at a senior level.

3.     Be sure to have the right tools

Great digital tools for prototyping, project management and collaboration are essential. Be sure that the whole team involved are all familiar with the tools and prepared to work with them. We use Proto.io and InVision for digital prototyping, Slack for communication & collaboration, and Trello for sharing / managing specific tasks. Of course there are other good options, the important thing is that everybody within the project are up to speed and using them in the right way. Tools play a big part in the running of a well oiled project.

4.     The importance of process: bridging design and development

To bring user interfaces to life, they obviously need to be coded, not just designed. Whether you are all based in the same place or work remotely, making sure there is a seamless collaboration generally but especially between the two teams of ‘design’ and ‘development’ is super important. This is as much about having an agreed process in place and using the right tools together. There needs to be constant communication so the teams are synchronised and expectations are aligned on both sides. If this doesn’t happen, it can play havoc with the whole project plan.

The last thing you want to hear is that familiar sentence that starts with “But I thought you were going to send me….” or “But I thought you said…”. !!

5.     The importance of story telling and communication

Good communication is crucial to any type of project but there is a certain type of story telling within UX projects that’s really important. For example, If you are going to propose a completely new direction for a digital experience, then it’s vital to frame that in the right way. Whether you are explaining to the client or management within your business, you need to explain exactly how and why you arrived at that thinking, what will be the benefits and what will be the risks of going down that path. Ultimately it’s all about alignment and understanding, so even if a decision is made that turns out in hindsight to be problematic, at least there was universal understanding and agreement as to why that decision was made.

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