So many companies and product teams think that if they just hire a UX team, or consultant, or do user research that magically their product will be fixed. However, I’ve found that the biggest barrier to great design and great products are the teams themselves. They sequester the UX people and user researchers and give them no power, or only use a portion of the full design, or they cut critical features that could vastly improve the user experience to meet some (often mythical) deadline.
Steve Jobs was a controversial leader because everyone knew he was not fun to work with. However, he did care greatly about the user experience of his products, and of course, it showed. He would stop at nothing to create a great experience, from the time you open the box of an Apple product, to the documentation, to the feel of the materials of the product, to the actual interaction both in hardware and in the software. This came at great human cost sometimes, with people working ridiculous deadlines, and even losing their jobs. None of us want to advocate for that. However, Steve Jobs did set an extremely high bar for the rest of us.
How much do we care in creating the greatest product ever? Will we make friends with the development lead who is always saying it will take longer than expected? Or with the Program Manager or UX Designer who is making elaborate designs? The answer is always somewhere in the middle, but you have to work together and put the customer/user first. Watch them using your product. Feel their pain. Then make your decision on what is important to cut to meet the deadline. Of course user research / usability testing is great, but you can even avoid that expense if you storyboard the users’ tasks beforehand. By creating storyboards or wireframe walkthroughs of a particular task that the user must do, you can have arguments with your co-workers up front. Not fun, I know. But better to have the tough discussions now than to have them after a feature is implemented and it costs two development weeks to change it after you run your usability test. That’s an expensive, and slow, way to make a product.
People who make movies have understood this forever: creating and changing drawings and diagrams of your product upfront costs way less than changing it during production. I never see enough of this on tech design teams. Everyone thinks that the development team (coders) must stay busy. If you have an existing product, there are always plenty of bugs to fix for performance and stability while the key designs and user tasks are being hammered out on paper for the next version.
So make friends with your teammates. Have your “moments” over your product designs over storyboards and wireframes. Agree to not take things personally while in the design meetings. You can even get user feedback on the storyboards, and then get buy off from your team leads and management. Agree once and for all that the final storyboard for a task will be implemented that way in the product. And then do it. This simple process creates power for everyone on the team, streamlines the product timeline, creates a healthy team dynamic, and will make the greatest product ever.