UX Staffing and the Penny Stock Problem

Jared Spool

July 30th, 2013

When starting to grow a UX team, it’s tempting to shop for new team members with skills to tackle the UX challenges you have now. Unfortunately, now isn’t forever and it’s likely the challenges will change.

UX suffers from something I like to call the penny stock problem. Imagine you’ve bought a really cheap stock on the stock market — one that only costs 50¢ a share. If that stock price increases by 25¢, you’ve increased your wealth by 50%. Nice.

However, when that stock is more successful and trading at, say, $50 a share, a 25¢ increase is not even a dent in the wealth. It would take a lot more to get that 50% increase.

UX challenges grow the same way stocks do. When a team first looks at their product’s or service’s user experience, they often find easy problems that have obvious, easy fixes. They are in the realm of the 50¢ penny stock. You can knock off the fixes easily and quickly, making everyone happy.

As time moves forward, the team does a great job getting through the easy “low-hanging fruit” problems, their job starts to get harder. And this is where those early staffing decisions play out.

If the way the team was built was through the lens of just those early penny stock problems, then it’s likely they won’t have the skills for the more complex problems they’re now facing. It’s critical, when assessing what types of skills the team should have, that they look beyond the penny stock problems, to what they’ll need when they have to tackle the bigger challenges.

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