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UX Across Divisions
UX feedback

Problem Statement

Can a sparse-matrixed approach provide actionable direction for project teams new to UX across organizational divisions?

Background

In higher education settings, project teams often lack UX designers, yet many projects have usability issues. Also, project teams often operate without conferring with other teams, missing an opportunity to improve their practice.

Project teams need UX designers in order to make their projects usable, yet many teams either have trepidation about how to incorporate UX, and/or are not concerned about usability.

Project teams operate in isolation, yet the changing technical landscape requires that they share skills and approaches with other teams.

My Role

  • Community organizer

Steps

  • Assemble Team: Working across organizational divisions, I created a team of prominent UX designers. I registered the group as a UX community of practice, which enabled sponsorship from both central IT as well as human resources. This allowed us to dedicate a portion of our time to working with the project teams of our choice.
  • Address Trepidation: To overcome trepidation, we encouraged project teams to chose from a list of usability issues that they were facing, and might be able to address.
  • Assign UX: For each project team, a UX practitioner or two was assigned. The UX practitioner(s) then worked with that project team for several weeks to learn about their specific usability challenges, and their capacity to address them.
  • Determine Methodology: The UX practitioner(s) then choose methodologies to assess the usability issues. For some projects, a simple heuristic analysis was sufficient. For others, generative research interviews, structured usability studies, etc. were a better fit.
  • Write Findings: The UX practitioner(s) next produced findings and recommendations, which were not shared outside of the community of practice.
  • Hold Workshop: Once all UX practitioners were ready, a usability workshop was held. Some describe it as "Queer Eye" without the drama. At the workshop, many witnessing project teams gather to hear the UX suggestions given to each participating project teams. Participating team members were free to ask questions and discuss the suggestions. For each project, the floor was also open to witnessing project teams. This was a secondary benefit to the event, in that it allowed members from different teams to interact in an ancillary setting.
figma variants
interaction suggestions

Findings

  • Track Record: The recognition of UX value comes with a local track record, a shared vocabulary and an understanding of common problems faced by project teams.
  • Matrixed UX: A matrixed distribution model for UX resources can improve usability. Consider holding cross-division usability events annually or semi-annually.
  • Job Satisfaction: Job satisfaction can increase when UX practitioners are given agency over their project assignments.
  • Professional Development: A low-threshold, immersive context for motivated, aspiring UX practitioners can result in low-cost, high-yield professional development and consequent institutional benefit.
  • Pandemic Factors: The first usability workshop was held in-person, and about 30 people attended. After more than a year of pandemic restrictions, attendance at the third third workshop quadrupled.

Outcomes

  • Annual Usability Workshops
  • Increased staff skill levels
  • Incorporation of usability feedback

Reflection

  • Growing UX Talent: While skill and experience are essential to good UX practice, there may be a few specific personality traits that allow UX success in a technical context.
review of usabilty workshop