The problem certainly isn’t a shortage of talent in the user experience design pool. As UX design continues to emerge as a mainstream discipline, more universities are offering UX courses and programs, or even entire degrees.
Between these colleges and the groundswell of UX boot camps, there have never been more people who have the skills necessary to create intuitive, seamless user experiences. But the best UX design agencies understand that creating a well-oiled design team is more than just assembling quality designers.
In this article, Codal shares insights into how we constructed and scaled our award-winning design team, and how you can create a holistic design team that’s much more than the sum of its parts.
Let’s start with the fundamental unit of any team, design or otherwise. What kind of people make up an ideal UX design team?
A pillar of UX is being able to tailor experiences to an often extremely diverse user base. Quality UX design companies boast a team that comes from differing backgrounds and schools of thought, with disparate perspectives on both life and design.
Having these distinct perspectives will not only enrich your user experience, but your company’s culture as a whole. Countless studies have found that creativity and productivity are higher amongst diverse teams. When design teams are an accurate cross-section of society, both the solutions they craft and the users that interface with them benefit tremendously.
Codal’s UX manager, Brent Rousseau, has scaled Codal’s design team over 800% in his time with the agency. When he interviews potential hires, searching for the next addition to his team, he not only prioritizes this diversity, but also how they fit into the larger team culture.
Brent looks for the intangibles, those intrinsic qualities candidates have that can’t be coached or taught—passion, a work ethic, the ability (and the desire) to go above and beyond to meet a deadline. Designers with these qualities are like a positive feedback loop for design teams—their qualities inspire the same in others, and vice versa.
You may have the best group of user experience designers around, but how do you structure them to optimize their abilities and foster a more efficient project workflow? It’s a complex question, with no easy answer, but Brent argues that the solution lies in the nature of your company and its clients.
The best team structures can scale and grow with the design agency implementing them, and there’s a slew of different strategies and methodologies for implementing them across the industry.
Codal is currently transitioning to a “pod”-style team structure, a hybrid between full-stack teams and compartmentalized ones to leverage the best of both. Each pod is comprised of design roles (UX researcher, UX designer, UI designer, etc.) and projects are assigned to entire pods. There is a designated pod leader, and a project manager that collaborates with the pod as well.
The benefits of this strategy include the consistency of a single, dedicated team to a project, while still being Agile enough to handle multiple projects at once. It also helps Codal foster an environment of collaboration and edification, helping our designers strengthen their skills while developing new ones as well.
CREATING THE ENVIRONMENT
Even with the right composition and structure, a design team isn’t operating at its full potential if it isn’t working in an environment that cultivates and strengthens it. Codal’s UX manager, Brent, helps implement this milieu in a number of ways.
As an extension of the Agile process, Codal holds regular scrum meetings to open lines of communication between the design team, engineers, analysts, project managers, and more. The idea is to not only build social rapport between members of different teams or projects but also to help learn from them.
Brent is also planning on implementing “peer talks”, two members of the design team meet bimonthly for half an hour to talk about their projects, teach each other something new, or simply chat.
These design team-specific events, in tandem with Codal’s company-wide team building efforts, help create an environment where a UX design team can learn, flourish, and work to its full potential.