Usability and User Experience is a team sport!

Usability and user experience teams have traditionally been way understaffed and often under-utilized.

Usability teams that I have led in the past have had to beg, borrow, or steal resources in order to achieve the significant gains in user productivity, user satisfaction (and reduction of user errors) for the software systems of the many companies and organizations that I’ve worked with.

For over 20 years I’ve often had an email signature that included the phrase “Usability Starts with you” as a subtle way to help promote user-centered and human-centered design across the organizations that I’ve worked with, and those that The Usability People has supported.

Nowadays my kids would laugh and call this another of my crazy “Dad-joke style PUNS.”

In the past I have received emails back from several developers that claimed that “Usability ends in WHY?” (Sad story but one such developer was brutally murdered in Brazil). I’ve had engineering managers claimed that because we are working with an enterprise system that is already making millions a year, there is no need for improving the user experience (I’m not sure of the full reason, but this company no longer exist). I’ve put in requests for travel to customer sites to gain insights into our user needs, goals and background, only to be told, “You are a great designer, you should not have to meet people in order to do the design.”

Usability People are different than developers, marketers, system administrators, and others that may have a closed-looped engineering-centric understanding of the technology of a product. We understand the social and psychological aspects of working in groups, and bring and share our knowledge and experience with applying many theories of (social and cognitive) psychology to the projects we work on. (See for example: The 7 plus or minus 2 things about psychology that the software industry needs to know).

Usability People are different in that we very often share or present our work at conferences, meetups, and blog posts (like this one) so that everyone can benefit from our shared experiences. I’ve often spoke about the spirit of “Co-operatition” that exists between User Experience professionals (most recently with Kelsey Loftin who is just starting her UX consulting business, “Don’t Panic Digital Media”). We compete and cooperate at the same time because we know that when the sea level rises, all boats will rise.

Over the years I’ve been on government and healthcare industry committees and workgroups where my expertise in usability has helped shape public policy. I’ve volunteered at many conferences and recently I’ve helped to create personas that have been shared by the EHRA to help healthcare IT development teams better understand and have empathy their user’s needs.

UX team members, unfortunately, are often defined by the artifacts that we produce. However, Site-maps, wireframes, prototypes, information architecture and even content strategy are indeed terms that are beginning to make it into the corporate culture. But, UX thought leaders are more than just "wireframe monkeys" and as soon as more corporate cultures realize this, UX will be integrated into the entire SDLC.

Across all of this experience, I’ve learned that usability and user experience is a team sport. Usability People should led this cross-functional team.

No end user ever says, “wow that design specification was great.” UX practitioners are unique in that our success completely depends on the work of others. None of the work that we do matters unless the developers develop it, testers test it, sales teams sell it, support teams support and training teams train real users how to use it.

Armed with an understanding of the mental models and workflows of actual users, and led by a User Experience Strategist, these cross-function teams can and will create the next viral app, or improve the feature and function of their current application. For a user experience to be “Effective, Efficient and Satisfying” the entire team needs to understand and emphasize with the real users of the system.

A successful User Experience requires a cross-functional team that includes, ethnographic researchers, visual designers, interaction designers, information architects, usability testers, content strategists, interface developers, system administrators, quality assurance, training, project management, sales and marketing, and many more.