An excerpt from Leah's book, The User Experience Team of One - A Research and Design Survival Guide, provided by the folks at Rosenfeld Media.

If you happen to be in the job market, it can be helpful to know how to spot a UX team-of-one situation. Few UX jobs are advertised as a team-of-one gig, but there are usually telltale signs that give them away. Below is a job description that is adapted from several real jobs posted to a popular UX job board.

We’re looking for a talented user experience designer to help us maintain our proprietary software and direct the design of new features and enhancements. This person should have a passion for usability, an eye for visual consistency, and a knack for reducing the complex to the bare essentials.

Responsibilities:
  • Keep the interface beautiful and easy to use. Direct the visual appearance of all new features and enhancements on our software application
  • Initiate, suggest, and spearhead major UI re-factorings for a more intuitive user-experience
  • Design elegant solutions to complex workflows. Design things that people will talk about
  • Act as the user-advocate during the development process, subjecting early-stage designs to usability testing or expert review, and offering implementation suggestions from a user-centered perspective
  • Act as “go to” with in-depth knowledge of user interface best practices and standards. Use research-related services, theories and methods to support your recommendations
  • Take the initiative in providing input and feedback in both departmental discussions and on issues relating to other departments
  • Develop wireframes, behavioral specifications and personas

This is, in many ways, a standard UX team-of-one job description. This employer shows a clear awareness that user experience is essential in creating a competitive product, but the employer might not know how it will integrate with the company’s existing way of working.

This job description shows an employer who is looking for someone who can drastically improve the quality of the user experience. The product will be “elegant,” reduced to the “bare essentials,” and “beautiful.” People may not say it directly, but there’s usually an expectation that having someone who will focus on UX will result in changes to the product that will immediately wow everyone. This can be a tricky expectation to manage, since design improvements often happen gradually, over time. The design methods in Chapter 7 show you how you can improve the quality of the product and bring people along with you in the process.

What you also see in this job description is a common challenge that UX teams of one face–employers are often confused about the relationship between visual design and user experience design. This may point to a lack of awareness about the processes and people involved in user experience work. Some user experience professionals do include graphic design in their arsenal of tools, but many do not. You can still be a user experience designer even if you just stop at wireframes, but user experience generalists–which most teams of one are–are sometimes called upon to do a bit of visual design as well. To get a sense of what your colleagues do and don’t know about user experience, take them out to lunch and have a casual conversation. Consider a “Bathroom UX” campaign to promote a broader understanding of the roles and functions of user experience. Employers expect UX practitioners to be able to back up their recommendations and show their work. Employers also might expect the user experience practitioner to challenge and persuade others in the organization to adopt new approaches. UX teams of one sometimes have to be diplomatic, informed, and well-meaning meddlers.

Whether your a team of one or part of a larger team, Leah can help you communicate your design ideas better

At the User Interface 19 Conference October 27-29 in Boston, Leah Buley has a full day workshop on becoming a human centered design team. Get the talking points, processes, and data you need to see your UX designs through to the final product. Learn more about Leah's workshop.

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