UIEtips Article: Assessing Your Team’s UX Skills

Jared Spool

June 15th, 2009

You may have noticed that the last two UIEtips articles concentrated on UX teams. The first article was on Building and Managing a Successful UX Team. The second article was Five Techniques for Getting Buy-In for Usability Testing. Following the rule of three principal, I’m focusing this next article, once again, on the UX team. Today’s article goes back to December 2007 and concentrates on various skills required for a successful UX team.

Over the last 9 years, we’ve been looking carefully at how to put a user experience team together. We’ve studied dozens of teams, some that are very good at production great designs, while others regularly struggle to produce anything that makes users happy. As we’ve looked at the differences between the teams, we’ve started to notice some patterns.

One emerging pattern focuses on the skills found in the team. While it’s a no-brainer to say that the more skilled the team, the better the results, it’s more difficult to hone in on the specific skills that make a difference.

Our research has isolated eighteen skills that the best teams all master. We’ve divided these into two groups: Core UX Skills that are unique to the user experience process and Enterprise UX Skills that the team shares with other parts of the organization, such as marketing, IT, and product management.

In this issue of UIEtips, I describe these skills and a simple method for assessing where a team is at. Managers can use this assessment to identify areas of improvements for the team as a whole and individual members.

Read today’s article.

Have you assessed your team’s capabilities? What techniques have you used? Are there skills you think are important that aren’t on the list? We’d love to hear from you. Leave your thoughts below.

[If you manage a UX team, or you’re part of a UX team, I think you’ll find our next UIE Virtual Seminar of great interest. This Wednesday, June 17, Sarah Bloomer will present Upgrading Your UX Team. Some of the topics Sarah will touch on in this Virtual Seminar include: the key ingredients of developing a successful UX team, how to setup your team, and where it fits within the organization. Learn more about the next UIE Virtual Seminar.]

10 Responses to “UIEtips Article: Assessing Your Team’s UX Skills”

  1. Tom Philo Says:

    Specializing Generalist. One person at work came up with that phrase to describe my job skills – they could not pigon-hole me due to my widely varied abilities at work, so I have ended up in job areas where they can be best put to work and not doing a single specific job. Your article about teams is moving them into that type of classification – they can do a lot of different items but a few select areas they are very good at – specialists and know in depth. However, they can work and undrestand the other areas well enough to know what they can – and more imporatantly – what they cannot do and when to call in a specialist to tackle those unique problems.
    What you article also does not take into account is when there IS no other person who can be called in, those same people can still do the job – it just takes them longer to accomplish than a true specialist.
    Me, I would rather be a “specializing generalist” than a specialist.
    Tom Philo

  2. Steve Psomas Says:

    Thanks Jared,

    I touched on “Framing Your Strengths and Weaknesses” in my UX matters article: The Five Competencies of User Experience Design. There are two more scenarios for the use of this assessment that would complete the circle.

    1) The UX professional provides this assessment to the hiring manager as a self-evaluation
    2) The manager uses this assessment to evaluate a UX professional’s skill areas

    For these, the scoring criteria will have to be tailored to address an individual’s skill level. I’d love to take a crack at it, if only for my self-serving purposes.


  3. Keith Instone Says:

    Great list of skills. It feels like it is focused on UX teams that are only delivering web sites or software products, however. Should hardware design or hardware human factors be added for those UX teams where a physical object is part of the user’s experience?

    Also, it seems like the hardware/software coverage is not even enough anymore – UX teams are working on service systems. Are there any additional skills needed for UX teams where the service is the major part of the experience? For example, designing for a quality patient experience probably has more to do with how the “human service” is designed as the software or hardware a patient encounters.

    Perhaps your list of skills is good enough to cover these situations. I think it would be interesting to try out your skill assessments on a wider variety of UX team contexts and see who they stack up.

    Great work as usual.

  4. Deepak Says:

    The list is amazingly great and simple to understand but I haven’t seen the simple 130-point scoring process. Can you tell me where i can download or get it.

  5. Claus Wagner Says:

    Hallo Jared,

    I read your list of skills and must say: Great! Mainly cause the content creation is respected and listed as – in m y opinion – one of the keys for ux and content usability in a special way. A lot of projects I did struggled cause of a lack in that skills: Bad words – bad experience!

    Claus (from Germany – therefore maybe a bad english – sorry)

  6. Daniel Szuc Says:

    Great read!

    For UX Teams who are overloaded with work because the business is already sold on UX and seeing the value of their work — what tips can we offer to help them better prioritize?


    1. How does a UX manager better prioritize work coming into the team?
    2. What factors should they take into account?

    I think this is becoming an important question to answer as UX folks continue to become more senior in their organisations, especially in emerging UX markets.

    This may also be a nice topic for a future article or PodCast …


  7. Steve Psomas Says:

    Unfortunately, my team is just me. I took the test for my “team” anyway. Didn’t pass with flying colors. But I did want to push it further by asking the question, if I were to hire another team member, how would I assess the candidate’s UX skills? Or asked another way, if I were applying for a position in a UX team, what would I want the hiring manager to know about me?

    So I created this document to do the UX Skills Self Assessment. (Best thing to do is print out the Scoring Criteria sheet so you have that beside you.) Problem is, the rating scale in Jared’s article is a little unforgiving. Maybe someone can offer another scale. Enjoy.


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