IA Summit: How To Be A UX Team of One

Posted on: April 13, 2008

Leah Buley from adaptive path gave THE BEST talk ever on “How to be a UX Team of One”.

3 strategies for being a UX Team of one

  1. Brainstorm, a lot
  2. Assemble an ad hoc team
  3. Pick the best ideas


Generate lots of ideas by sketching with just a pen and paper. Have at least 5 sketches before putting down a single pixel on the computer.

You can use several tricks to generate ideas:

Spectrum, 2×2, and Grids (just to name a few). Leah used the example of Evite to talk about the different techniques.

In spectrum brainstorming, you generate designs on a spectrum from first time users to experts.

In a 2×2 (which has both an x and y axis), the horizontal spectrum is still a continuum from first time user and expert and the vertical spectrum flows between automatic invitation creation to manual invitation creation. Create sketches for all of those scenarios.

In a grid, you think about the first time user, the guided user, and the expert. You can also think about the website as being about invitation design, about friends, about tracking, about fun. Then create designs for each combination.

Aside from these techniques, you can also experiment with word associations and come up with designs from the word associations. Additionally, Leah highly recommends having an inspirational library (she uses a Firefox plugin called screengrab). You can take elements from designs that you really like and combine them to create innovative new designs.

Assemble an Ad Hoc Team

Host open design sessions with as many stakeholders as possible to generate ideas. Have an informal design session (with pizza) where everyone creates sketches.

You can run template based workshops to help non-designers create sketches.

You should also decorate your work space with sketches so that your ideas are public and you can get a constant stream of feedback and conversation.

Finally, you can create sketchboards that posts requirements next to sketches to enable conversation.

Pick the best ideas

Brainstorming is all about generating lots of ideas, eventually you need to pick the best ones to get to your final design.

You can pick the best ideas through

  1. Business needs (okay)
  2. User needs (better)
  3. Design principles (best)

Design principles are a small number of specific phrases that describe what you want the product to be; they are your “north star” or guiding light in picking the most optimal design.

So in the case of Evite

increase registration (business need) + help manage communication (user need) = make it addictive (design principle).

The design principle is greater than the sum of business needs and user needs. By “make it addictive” we mean we want to encourage everyone associated with the event to keep coming back to the site. So which ever designs best fit the design principle are the ones that make the cut.

Finally, Leah ended by DECLARING that “I am a UX Team of One!” and asking everyone to join her in the declaration. Plus, we go an awesome pin to wear that proclaims each of us as a UX Team of One.

So I would like to sum up by saying

I am UX Team of One! Hear me roar!


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Alla Zollers

I design products and services that just. make. sense.

When products make sense, customers are happy.

If customer are happy, they sign-up, stay on site, engage, share, and buy your product or service.

Happy customers allow companies to profit in both senses of the word.

I provide the following services:

• Heuristic Evaluations
• Discovery Research
• Strategy and Vision Development
• Information Architecture
• User Experience Design
• Usability Testing

You can find me on:

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