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30 Experts On What Makes An Exceptional UX Manager 14 January 2016 | Piotr Koczorowski

With our list of 33 UX Directors That Will Make You a Better Designer, this week we took it further in a similar vein to our post about product managers, and we asked them 3 important questions that every good UX designer, manager or consultant asks themselves:

What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work?

If you are eager to learn how 30 UX specialists from companies both big and small handle their work, read on and see what they have to share with us.

Scott Belsky

Co-Founder/Head of Behance; VP Products, Mobile & Community at Adobe; Author & Investor

Scott Belsky

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

Empathy.

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

The biggest challenge was enduring the anonymity of starting something new as an unknown entrepreneur. When you’re putting everything on the line, your business becomes intertwined with identity and self-esteem.

Nothing is more humbling than everyone passing you by.

Anonymity is both a blessing and a bitch: You can make mistakes and drastic changes to your product without disappointing anyone, but only because nobody cares. I remember it well. Breaking through anonymity is a game of endurance and optimization. Enduring mistakes and optimizing via postmortems, enduring sleepless nights to process the solutions, two steps forward and one step back.

That's why I call the journey of entrepreneurship one of “relative joy.”

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team's work?

I'd ask myself question: Are we making an impact in what matters most to us? Also, the only way to measure is to start with defined (and consistently redefined and reiterated) goals.

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Website: http://scottbelsky.com/

Justin Misfud

Director at Accreda Ltd.; Founder of UsabilityGeek.com

Justin Misfud

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

Empathy. Empathy towards the user, the stakeholders of a project and towards the team he/she is managing.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work?

A constant challenge that I face especially when consulting large organizations is a lack of appreciation for the need to conduct usability testing.

There are many facets to this but generally speaking key stakeholders still tend to see usability testing as a 'waste' of time and will gladly express the will to go away with it especially when running on tight deadlines.

I have also had clients who saw it as an unnecessary expense. Others were 'afraid' of what the usability tests would show (typically the fear that their idea for the UI or workflow would not work).

I would not say that I have learnt … But more like re-affirmed the importance of testing when these same clients would revert back, saying that the system is not achieving the intended goals.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work?

I obviously have my own 'metrics' as a manager such as seeing that a project is finished on time, with least rework, seeing my team members contribute ideas, embracing technologies, trends and practices into our workflows, challenging norms … etc.

But then again, every manager would do this. For me, deep down, nothing gives me more pleasure than a word of praise from a satisfied client. My word of advice here is to never take the full credit with the client. Say it is a team effort and that you will be relaying that praise to the team. And, more importantly make sure that you do relay that message to the team.

Also, even if the client's praise is directed at an individual, still praise the entire team who worked on that project. The client may praise one individual just because that individual was his/her point of contact and they would not know that there was an entire team behind the deliverable.

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Website: http://usabilitygeek.com/

Michał Aleksander

UX and Design Manager at Pearson IOKI

Michal Aleksander

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

It’s the ability to look at the product from a variety of angles.

The designers often want to create a product with great usability, all the while trying to make it modern and inspired by the hottest trends, which is not always what we should be doing. The users of each product are characteristic and specific, meaning that for them a modern design is not always a very usable one.

A UX manager should have all the necessary information to direct their designers in the right direction for them to design something both usable and easily implementable, rather than what their fascinations or ambitions tell them.

My t-shirt collection contains one from Poland Gdynia UX Camp (2015), saying “I never design for myself”. I think it’s the essence of what I’ve just said.

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

It’s reviewing people and maintaining their motivation at a high level. It’s a complicated process which sort of reminds me of tightrope walking.

You should appreciate people, but still you need to make sure you remain objective so that you don’t kill their motivation.

That’s why I believe being able to honestly and objectively review someone’s work while boosting their motivation is one of the top challenges for every UX manager.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work?

A quite common approach includes using long-term goals which are specific, measureable, and described in detail, but it’s just not enough.

The most important thing is to observe someone’s way of working and a regular contact with what they’re doing.

This is the method I prefer, so we meet for fifteen minutes every Monday and everyone presents what they still need to do and how they’re going to do it (and tells us when they need some support). Then we come together for a longer meeting later in the week and we show what we’ve managed to do, collect feedback, and present our design process.

It works out well – it brings everyone in the team closer together and up to date with who does what and how they’re doing.


Another great idea to collect feedback from the people one works with and skilfully process it – we learn not only about how one works, but also about how their work is perceived by stakeholders.

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Website: http://ioki.com.pl/

Maciej Lipiec

User Experience Director at K2 Internet SA

Maciej Lipiec

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

It’s not one thing, because the “UX manager” role differs from organization to organization.

From my point of view (I work at digital agency), it is the ability to offer creative direction and to help the team to generate, develop, and polish their ideas.

It is important to inspire employees' efforts without constraining them and to offer a valuable critique, keeping in mind the big picture, while the team is deep in the details.

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

One big challenge is losing your best team members after working together for many years.

As a manager you need to understand that the best people will eventually leave you, not because they are unhappy, but they just want change, start up their own companies, be managers themselves, etc.

It is hard, but I’ve learned you should be actually proud of it, because you helped them to outgrow their positions, and the new people you will hire will bring a new fresh perspective. You could still be good friends, as I am, with all my wonderful past employees.

Another big challenge is losing an important client. But all clients will eventually leave too, it’s not personal, it’s just business. And I’ve learned that sometimes it is the best kick in the butt to change your ways and do better work. And there is always a next big client.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work?

Effectiveness is many things. Creative effectiveness: is the design on brief or challenging the brief in a good way? Does it solve a real problem? Are we able to sell this thing to a client? (This is my job.)

Internal effectiveness: is the project on time and within budget? (It is mostly the job of Project Manager to control that.) And finally, how the design performs for the client in terms of KPI’s and conversion rates?

It’s hard data from analytics, research, sales figures. And there is more: is the design sustainable and easy to manage, extend and upgrade in the future for the client? (Time will tell, but you need to think about it from the beginning.)

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Website: http://uxdesign.pl/

Catalina Naranjo-Bock

Lead User Experience Researcher at Google / Product Designer / Writer & speaker

Catalina Naranjo-Bock

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

From my point of view, there is no single quality a UX manager should have in order to be effective, it's a collection of many. These are the qualities that have stood out to me from people I admire as UX managers:

A UX manager should know the craft of UX, and should be up to date in the latest developments of the field. And when I say UX, I mean the whole spectrum of UX: research, design, writing, producing, etc.

This ensures that the UX manager will know how to build an interdisciplinary team that will tap on different types of expertise, hire the best professionals, and scale the UX practice within an organization to influence strategical and tactical decisions.

But a UX Manager is not only a great designer, or a great researcher: it's a great leader. Someone the team admires, respects and feels inclined to follow. And this is not only achieved by being effective at setting tasks, deadlines and make sure the UX teams achieves these, but also by:

  • Creating an open channel of communication.
  • Identifying the strengths goals and dreams of each individual in the team and work hard to make these flourish.
  • Being natural mentors of a variety of creative professionals from all walks and stages of life.
  • Learning to look out for their teams and not their individual interests, within the greater context of the organization's goals.
  • Wanting to be managers and enjoying this position: The role of a UX manager is different than an individual contributor, and being an awesome UX designer doesn't mean you'll be an awesome UX manager or that you'll enjoy the different set of responsibilities. If you don't enjoy the management aspect, neither you or your team will be happy.
  • Helping their employees find the right path and feel good seeing them grow—even if the employee outgrows the leader’s organization

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

Interestingly, my biggest challenge has nothing to do with UX as a craft.

My biggest challenges have been around learning how to choose my battles, don't sweat the small stuff, and be strategic at the moment of prioritizing my work and decisions. As my career has progressed, I have learned that I can't control every single aspect of the experience I'm designing for, especially when working with incredibly large scale projects and organizations.

I have also learned that my work as a UX practitioner touches many aspects of a product and an organization, it is not just about moving pixels on a UI. As I keep growing as a UX professional, there will be more bumps on the road and more difficult days, and there will be battles I can't win or initiatives where it is not wise to spend my efforts…

And I've learned that this is ok.

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Website: https://about.me/catalinaNB

Tomasz Skórski

Head of UX Team at Inter Cars & Lecturer at SWPS University

Tomasz Skórski

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

Seriously, only one? That is impossible so I will try to limit myself to just a few.

It is pretty obvious that different organizations depending on their size and status require different set of skills. In an e-commerce B2B & B2C sector (which I work in) some products are developed for many years. Sometimes in our work we are facing routine and cut corners seduced by most obvious solutions. It is especially common in long-term projects.

So I believe that the most important thing in my work is keeping my team up to date with latest trends and always curious and craving new experiences and knowledge.

Challenging people to go an extra mile is fracking important.

Also you cannot do your job without a bit of a perfectionist and a LOT of diplomat in you. And above all you need to deliver.

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

Dozen months ago our department decided to rebuild our search engine from scratch. Most of our UX designers didn’t have vast experience with search however some of us had finished computer science studies and participated in several technical projects. 
Analysis phase with search log overview (just a number of gigabytes) – planned for a just few days, has been completed after a month. Long tail results in dozens different patterns to analyze and handle. Data collection and building dictionaries (e.g. street names) took one month more. But it was just a beginning before development and quality check phase. During this part we were required to analyze line by line all street (~30.000) and city names in Poland (~50.000) to eliminate any terms related to our industry and improve the quality of the results. It was a nightmare! Despite all that the final product occurred to surpass our expectations. What was the most important lesson we learned? You are unable to build a good product without spending hundreds of hours purely on thinking and modeling your solution. And it still is as good as your data is. Without unsexy, boring, time consuming tasks you will not be able to deliver a unique, valuable product.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work?

I like to think about UX designers’ role as a craftsmanship. Quality, consistency, and elegance of the final product is more important to me than the number of its iterations. I am rather focused on goals (mainly related to personal development) defined uniquely for each member of my team and discussed at least once every three months.

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Website: https://about.me/tomaszskorski

Sabina Alteras-Honig

Senior UX Researcher at Amazon

Sabina Honig

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

The ability to identify opportunities to improve a product’s UX based on insights gathered from data and industry knowledge, and effectively communicate these opportunities as guidance to his/her team in order to come up with creative ways to stay ahead of the curve in delivering great UX.

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

My biggest challenges tended to come from stakeholders who weren’t aware of or concerned about UX, and therefore, made collaboration on projects difficult, if not impossible.  

What I learned is by making them part of the process – literally having them observe studies, and even moderate study sessions – creates buy-in, enthusiasm, and an appreciation for the UX process from stakeholders who previously saw UX as unnecessary overhead.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work?

In UX measuring success can be tricky. 

Sometimes I rely on scorecard or benchmark studies of the product that measure task success and satisfaction over time as a product evolves. 

Sometimes we interview customers and get feedback directly. Other times I read product feedback on forums, articles and social media. 

When I see or hear comments related to how easy a product is to use, or when customers call out great UX, I know our work has been effective. 

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Website: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sabina-alteras-honig

Hubert Kowalczyk

UX Expert at Alior Bank S.A.

Hubert Kowalczyk

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

Good communication skills. I think it is very important not only when you manage a UX team, but also when you work with other people in the company.

I don't believe in design unicorns. I don't believe in someone who knows all the answers and at the end of the day comes up with brilliant solution. Nowadays, interactive products are too complicated. You need to have different approaches and different perspectives that comes up not only from designers.

Design is a team sport.

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

Tilting at windmills :) Not only with client departments but also with windmills in your own company, such as graphic design department, developers etc. Sometimes their goals are different or even contrary to yours.

You will never design great product if you only work with limited group of people engaged in a project. You have to work with all stakeholders to understand their needs and their point of views. Working with those various groups of people makes you smarter as a designer because you can see a problem from many perspectives.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team's work?

We don't use one metric. We gather feedback whenever it is possible. From analytics, tests with users, brainstorms to all situations when you face your design together with people. The Build-Measure-Learn cycle is someth

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Website: https://pl.linkedin.com/in/hubertkowalczyk

Jakub Andrzejewski

Head of UX Team at BLStream

Jakub Andrzejewski

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

It's unfair to just name one. But if it's just one, then… be trustworthy – your team needs to trust you and believe that whatever you do and say you always mean the best for them as a team and individually.

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

There are many challenges that I'm learning from currently. Today, the biggest challenge is to prioritize my work well, set the direction and hang on to it. So far my lesson learned: don't lose the big picture out of sight when you're drowning in little things that keep on coming.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work?

I look at the following:

  • How our work is assessed by our customers. We use dimensions such as quality, timely delivery or proactive communication. We ask for feedback during projects and at the end, then we summarize the overall experience of working with our design team.
  • How our team is perceived within the organization. This data is gathered typically during informal conversations with people outside of our team but we've ran company-wide questionnaires too.
  • How people using the products/services we design perceive it. For example, we ask our clients to share their users' feedback with us or we simply check apps' ratings. Of course, we also measure our design quantitatively with web and in-app analytics.
  • How we critique our own work and what comes out of it – it's nearly never planned, happens often and spontaneously, and stimulates to do better.
  • How much we spend vs. how much we make. Obviously it's also a very important measure of how effective we are.

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Website: https://pl.linkedin.com/in/jakubandrzejewski

Alfred Lui

Sr. Director, Consumer UX at SmartThings

Alfred Lui

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

A good UX manager must be able to bring the best work out of the team.

That requires a drive for the best possible solution at all times and empathy for each designer as s/he goes through his/her creative process.

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

Design means change, but businesses typically thrive on consistency. The biggest challenge has always been in bringing the right ideas at the right time to inspire the necessary changes.

In the past, it meant bringing polished designs, but in recent years it also means bringing evidence (competitive analysis, analytics, results from research studies) to show that a design solution will make a tangible impact.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team's work?

Having been a designer for a long time before I moved into management. I am a firm believer that designers are the most effective when they are happy and believe they are given the tools to succeed.

So, those are the 2 primary metrics. In recent years, I have been focusing on the Internet of Things (IoT). A complete IoT design requires new expertise beyond what is in a traditional UX design team, particularly in Data Science, rapid hardware prototyping and Environmental Design.

Effectiveness is also measured by when and how we bring those new disciplines into our process so we can tell a complete story at the end.

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Websitehttp://connection76.com/

Joe Pemberton

Principal User Experience Director (UX Director) at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Joe Pemberton

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

I’d make a distinction between management and leadership. Managers watch for deadlines and budgets, leaders are watching out for strategic focus and quality delivery.

A good UX leader has to keep his/her eye on the big picture. Always.

If the team does their job, they’ll look out for the nuances and the details which enables the UX Lead (ahem, manager) to guide the strategic decisions.

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

Our organization is very large, with many separate product teams the challenge we’ve faced is unifying on a standard visual design and standard interaction patterns.

We’ve completed a user experience audit of our digital products and that opened the door for our executive management to see the problems and fund a user interface pattern library.

Pattern libraries are just one part of holistic user experience, but the pattern library will go a long way toward better governance over all of our digital products. 

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work?

We test our work at multiple stages in our process and we use a good suite of analytics tools. Our testing is a mix of A/B testing, user intercept surveys, and guerrilla-style where we will grab people on the street and ask them to react to a series of screens, or try out an interaction.

It’s very gratifying to hear our designers and product managers cite test results and analytics as their rationale for decisions. 

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Website: http://josephpemberton.com/

Karolina Chmiel

Head of Design at Polidea, Lecturer at PJATK

Karolina Chmiel

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

Trust is key!

Instead of managing the UX team, I prefer to say that I look after the team and I try to be considered as a group member. When put in a greater context, you realize that what really matters is not the UX itself, or any other industry, but it’s the people. Each one of us has our own needs and problems – be it professional or personal – that influence our work.

I don’t believe that the manager’s mission is to solve them all. However, being interested and involved in the team will payback with trust from your co-workers, and empathy is crucial here. And when people trust you, they are more inclined to talk and share their concerns, regardless if they're design related or interpersonal.

By being open to your design squad, you can work out solutions and solve problems jointly. Having less problems, in turn, brings up a higher work ethic. If teammates are content and satisfied, they will be eager to do another great piece of design and push their workload a little further.

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

The greatest challenge that I encountered at Polidea so far was the lack of awareness in the company about how crucial is the quality of the UX design to the product success.

The UX department was only introduced to the company two years ago.  And when we did, we entered an engineer-only club where we had to learn the hard way how to cooperate, communicate, synchronize our methodologies, what to expect from each other and how to be a well integrated team.

We had to build up mutual trust step-by-step, success after success. Today we know that we have to be open-minded and always try to adjust rather than impose our point of view.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work?

At Polidea, we do not have any particular method to measure the effectiveness of the designers’ work and I don’t feel we need any. I believe the most genuine metric to gauge the efficiency of our work is the satisfaction of our customers. Then comes the completion of the projects in accordance to the requirements and deadlines.

All this in a stress free environment. Despite the lack of measurement methods, we have found agile tools which are very supportive in increasing the effectiveness of our work. Daily standups, demos and retrospectives let us keep an eye on the ball, and improve our productivity.

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Website: https://pl.linkedin.com/in/karolina-chmiel

Andrzej Pyra

Head of Design w Insys

Andrzej Pyra

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

In the first place, an UX manager should be a good manager in general. It is highly probable that in order to become a UX manager, someone started in the field of design or research, got better and better, and one day became a manager.

However, it's not enough to be a good specialist, we should also learn how we can become great managers. It requires no less effort than being a good specialist, but in this case you get a responsibility for other people in your team. If you are not good at managing, then your team will suffer, as well as users of products that the team is responsible for.

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

As a Design Manager at Insys, the biggest challenge for me is to combine our design with development. Since I have started working closely with developers, I understood that we have to strike a balance between what is feasible and what is attractive for users, and at the same time try to be innovative and achieve business goals.

Working for agency is easier because you worry less about implementation – it's usually someone’s else job. 

With every project I see that the stronger the collaboration between developers and designers gets, the better results, and my challenge is to make that work as close as possible.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work?

From my perspective, "measure" is not the best word in this case.

To monitor our work, we check three areas – clients, users and coworkers.

In the first place, we ask our customers if they are satisfied with our work and what we can do better – so it's more qualitative. In order to find out users perspective, we use both quantitative and qualitative methods – Google Analytics and lately UsabilityTools for remote user testing.

On the other hand, we routinely conduct usability test of our products as well as monitor reviews and complaints. The last but not least is our coworkers’ view – recently, we have tested our mockups to make them better for development team. Adding that up, we get the picture of how our work is perceived – if people we are working for are happy, then we are on the right track.

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Website: https://pl.linkedin.com/in/andrzejpyra/en

Heather Wright Karlson

Usability Consultant, User Experience Center, Bentley University

heather wright karlson

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

Diplomacy.

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

Balancing what clients say they want with what really need can be a big challenge. Focusing and returning to project goals regularly is crucial for a good outcome.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work?

One way I know a study has been a success is when a usability report presentation opens a conversation among constituents where they share understanding of the challenges and the energy and excitement to make improvements where there was previously none.

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Website: http://www.uxheat.com/

Karen Landis

UX Manager at State Farm

 

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

An explorer's heart.

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

My biggest challenge is helping leaders understand that UX is more than what appears on a screen. I'm inspired by the way that brand specialists evolved the meaning of the word "brand". It used to refer to "a mark". Now, it is widely accepted as "a perception in a customer's mind". I think we need to broaden our definition of UX in a similar manner. By looking at how brand owners accomplished this, I've learned that this shift took time and new methods of evaluating success. It will require a commitment to being strategic in how we position our teams and how we tell their stories. UX managers today need to be part reporter, part storyteller and part poet.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work?

The easy way is to have measurable targets you've met. But I think the more important measure is customer and team sentiment. Measuring customer sentiment tells you how your team is performing and measuring your team's sentiment lets you know how your are performing.

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Website: https://www.bizzabo.com/

Krzysztof Piwowar

Senior UX Designer at Spartez

Krzysztof Piwowar

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

One might say:’… it's an ability to solve complex problems, soft skills like empathy or experience in the UX domain’. It's all true. All of these things are very vital to daily work, and I wouldn't argue with that. But…

From my experience, the most important quality a good UX manager should have is the ability to create opportunities and a unique environment for your team to experiment, learn from failures and grow. I call it 'the torch skill'.

It's the capability of removing obstacles and showing the possibilities. It's mentoring and encouraging people to validate their hypothesis and to learn from the outcome. Carrying this 'torch' and leading to make another step on their own. Sounds familiar? It should!

It’s the same skill that is required when you're building a product for customers. Real people are your team, and you're creating for them an unique environment where they can accomplish their tasks or goals and leverage the product or a service by their own. Simple as that and yet, very hard to transform it into the sweet spot state.

UX managers are not different than any other design team members. They are ‘cut from the same cloth’. The same triggers make them tick. But yet, the good UX managers are devoted to people and are capable of spreading the light around them.

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

The biggest challenge for me is to find a person who can be your successor. Not in the moment when you're planning to move forward but from the first day, you’ve started the job as UX manager.

I’m sure that only in the situation when someone, who believes in the similar values and the same goal as you, can take your responsibilities and lead the team, you can fully focus on your job.

There are too many examples from a real life when extraordinary leaders left the company, and everything has fallen apart. Don't want to see that coming with what I'm doing.

If there's one thing that I've learned from this biggest challenge is to start looking for (or growing) someone to pass the 'torch' to from the first day of your new job. Period.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work?

By using the NPS (Net Promoter Score) measure. It's the vital sign of your progress, aligning with real problems, fulfilling the needs or making a difference in a daily life of your customers, company, project, relations. You name it.

This measure is flexible, can be applied in many cases and yet, it gives a rich glimpse into heart beat of whatever you're doing in a longer term. You need to see some trends. It's not an 'one-time' measure.

As always, even this metric is not universal. Sometimes you need to replace it with a different quantitative or qualitative approach. For that, you have your UX toolbox. Use it.

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Website: http://spartez.com/

Piotr Jardanowski

Consumer Area Product Owner w PayU

piotr jardanowski

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

The ability to translate user empathy to business stakeholders. If you want to introduce UX into an organization, you need to convince stakeholders that it is valuable and can increase crucial numbers.

UX is mainly about users' behavior, attitude, knowledge and relations with surroundings. A UX manager must understand all of them and feel empathy towards users.

However, this is not a language of business stakeholders. They talk in numbers like income, revenue, or number of created accounts. In order to push the idea forward, a UX manager has to find the way to translate "users language" into "business language".  

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

My biggest challenge was to introduce UX in a big company and a real source of knowledge and support for development teams.

I learned 2 things from this:

  1. UX is not an unknown term in companies, but they still do not know how to utilize this knowledge. In most cases they want to have a UX person on board, but they do not treat him or her seriously. They nod during meetings, but in the end they do things in a totally different way than UX requires.
  2. To put the UX work to life you need an understanding and/or support from senior management. Someone in the organization must say that UX must by respected. Also a good option is to give a UX team leader/manager a position of a "director". Usually people in organization respect "directors" :)

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work?

In most cases we try to A/B test our ideas. The result is a clear indicator of our work (goal measurement) and helps us make a decision if we want to invest time and develop a solution. We also track results of our work on production. We can clearly see how our work influenced important metrics i.e. number of created accounts, revenues, incomes etc.

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Website: https://pl.linkedin.com/in/piotrjardanowski

Alfredo Aponte

User Experience Director at North Kingdom

Alfredo Aponte

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

Empathy. As UX designers, our responsibility is to understand and identify people’s unmet needs, emotions, goals, and motivations. These insights will help inform and inspire our designs while creating a sense of purpose for the client and their customers.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team's work?

This is always a hot topic with project managers and business owners, especially in the design industry where many people learn and grow from experience. That being said, here are some insights on how I approach it with my team:

First, we have a conversation and define what is success for ourselves, team, or professional growth. Is it to become a better sketcher? Iterate faster while still being efficient? Communicate better? Have more confidence when presenting work? Become a leader? Learn to prototype with code? Launch a mobile app or experience? Etc. 

Second, we ask ourselves when we want or need to achieve these goals because once you have that detail – you’re then accountable for it during that project, month, or year. 

Third, it’s important to make a plan and seek support if needed to help you hone your craft and work towards your goal during your set time.

Then, in the end, when that time has passed or the project is over… we dissect and reflect what has happen or not one-on-one to ensure we have the time to be in a place to talk about the truth. I find this to be the most important part of this entire process because we sometimes embrace the problem, open up through a simple conversation, and celebrate differences in opinion.

That’s how I follow our professional development and personal growth as a team.

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Website: http://www.alfredoaponte.com/

David Carr

Strategy Director at DigitasLBi & Digital Innovation Group

David j Carr

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

Balance: being able to balance the competing Jobs to be Done, Business/Brand and technical feasibility demands to ensure that a product or experience is right. This then extends to diplomacy as you try to lead and balance the different co-worker and stakeholder views of these elements..

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

On an ambitious quantified self project a few years back we faced the challenge of developing a whole new architecture, CRM system and mobile/desktop interface from scratch. It was an amazing project, we all learnt a lot but actually we shouldn't have done it in the first place – or at least not the way we did it, which was doing ALL OF IT. Instead we should have focused on where our real skills and advantage lay and partnered for key aspects. Effectively "don't re-invent the wheel, borrow someone else's and make it better". We learnt what we could do well and what we could afford to do well. Realism is sometimes better than enthusiasm.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team's work?

We will have a framework of Leading and Lagging Hard and Soft Metrics. Depending on the nature of the site, app or experience these can be anything from conversion rate, sign-ups and basket size through to brand tracking, NPS and contribution to NPV or return on investment. For smaller changes or more service design projects we'll use the effectiveness metrics as part of a Hypothesis driven development test.

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Website: http://www.davidjcarr.com

Amir Ansari

Head of UX at DiUS Computing

Amir Ansari

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

I feel as a UX manager, the most important quality I need to possess is the same as any other manager – the ability to empower their team to be efficient, effective and achieve greatness!

So in that light, it includes giving them the right tools they need, staying out of their way, being aware of the business and their needs, shielding them from politics that slow them down, ensuring they are current in their knowledge and practices, and ensuring that the user and end customer is always at the forefront of conversations they have and decisions they make.

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

The biggest challenge I have set myself currently is to educate UX practitioners and non-practitioners around the notion that UXers must NOT OWN the design (of the product that's being built) but OWN the PROCESS of DESIGN.

By this I mean that Design is something we all should care about and actively promote, but the Designer should own the facilitation of the design process.

Design IS a process and NOT an output / artefact and the sooner project team members realise this and not point the finger at the designer when something goes wrong, but actively engage in the design conversation of the product they are collectively building, the better the overall outcome will be.

Having done some surveys around this topic, it seems we're half way there but there are still people who feel that Designers MUST own the design, and without them, the Design should not be altered.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work?

Although I have defined some metrics around measuring my team's effectiveness, the most effective metric I rely on is the feedback I get about my team from non-team members. I like to constantly ping clients and staff who work with my team and measure the temperature of how they're going – nothing more accurate than face to face or one on one feedback on individuals and performance.

Having said that, some key metrics that I use to see the effectiveness of my team include: thought leadership activities (e.g. blogs, brown bags, special interest groups, presentations), sales-related activities (helping business development bring in work), and as always, how they're going with meeting their agreed individual goals. 

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Website: https://au.linkedin.com/in/mramiransari

Wojciech Augustynowicz

Senior UI/UX Designer at GTECH

Wojciech Augustynowicz

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

In my opinion the most important quality is to always be ready to challenge the current status quo.

When something seems to be obvious, being able to take a step back and look at the Big Picture once more is crucial. Who knows, maybe there is another great idea hidding behind the corner?

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

The biggest challange I face is evangelizing that UX is not simply wireframing or designing “fancy” interfaces. The notion that UX is a constant process of improvement and not a one time thing isn’t always easy to accept, especially in a corporate evnironment.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work?

Each case is different. For example, in a case of a web application module redesign, at the early stages of the project we conduct multiple user interviews to get the idea about ways users interact with it. Then, during usabilty tests we meassure the effectiveness of achieving specific user goals. If a user passes usability tests without making critical errors, and clearly knows what to do to succeed in his task, we know that we are on the right track.

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Website: https://pl.linkedin.com/in/augustynowicz

Bartosz Sułkowski

Head of UX at DDB & tribal

bartosz sulkowski

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

Experience in a UX or AI job, but also understanding approach to the people.

In my opinion, a person associated with the UX manager duties should have some time to be able to participate in projects – otherwise he or she will not understand the difficulties that their team has and they will not be able to provide necessary support.

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

It seems to me that even the smallest projects gave me a lot of knowledge and were just as big a challenge as any other.

It is clear that with large projects we can learn more things, but often small projects provide an opportunity to find a different approach or different solutions.

Projects with access to end-users are always eyes opening for me as a manager and UX designer.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team's work?

I still have that impression that many companies have problems with measuring the efficiency of UX departments. It is sometimes very difficult or even impossible to explain to customers why we are in a project or what we do.

So, measuring efficiency depends mainly on the project that my team is working on. In some cases it will be a calculation of income for a company and in others it will be how we improved conversion or other selected KPIs. 

Also, it is often the progress in education of customers and their understanding how important UX can be in their businesses.

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Website: https://pl.linkedin.com/in/bartoszsulkowski/en

Fabio Palamedi

Head of UX Design at AG2 Nurun

Fabio Palamedi

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

I believe the most important quality for a UX manager is being generous. A UX manager puts their team in a first plan of importance, not looking at them only as professionals but as people. I believe that because of this the knowledge of limits and potential of each will be a natural consequence. It is done so that managers can better manage their team, resulting in a richer professional growth.

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

People will always be amazing in a good or bad way. I believe the biggest challenge for a manager is to understand how to properly communicate with someone on your team.

In the past, not preparing myself for a meeting with negative feedback and not using the most appropriate words brought a bad and unexpected result for me.

It's really challenging, because a bad phrase or an earful out of the occasion can discourage and even lead a team member to give up. And there's nothing more sad to see a staff member sacked because of a failure in communication and understanding

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work?

I have no main metric because each project has a body of characteristics that makes it unique and incomparable.

But I keep my attention focused on the team's engagement with projects coming, the joint everyday activities and  individual talks.

I realized that there is a very close relationship between engagement and quality of delivery. The more engaged and excited the team is with the possibilities of projects, the more richer the discussions and exchanges of ideas are. The deliverables consequently become richer. That is a fact especially when you have remote teams.

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Website: https://br.linkedin.com/in/fabiopalamedi

Luca Longo

UX Design Manager at Hotelbeds

Luca Longo

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

The ability to be a "hybrid". Today, a UX Designer is becoming a Product Manager for digital products. Sometimes we are UI Designers, sometimes we have to deal with the psychology, sometimes we are the Team leader, sometimes the idea of the product comes from us. 

So we need to be ready to embrace multi-disciplines, because only a mix of all of those can give us a good ability to design User Experiences.

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

A challenge can be very connected to the first question. Being a hybrid person inside your company makes me very busy every day. 

Nowadays, I'm very busy with a Taxi Mobile project and with a very famous International Bank. Last year I was working in a B2B startup related to the Hotels area. Every year I change projects and the User/Customer is different every time – it seems I have to start from zero every year, but it excites me a lot. 

Facing new technologies every day is another one. We can't improve ourself and our products without studying new technologies and understanding the limits. 

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team's work?

From the company's point of view there is only one metric to measure it: revenue!

From the UX point of view, I have a very simple answer: we have to build a product that works! 

So a mix of those 2 concepts is the right measurement.

We can adopt hundreds of techniques to do that, and it depends on the project, the business plan, the customer segment, or on the technology. There are many metrics we can use to achieve our goal. 

But, at the end of the day, what matters is that the product works and, at the same time, it makes revenue in the way the company wants.

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Website: http://luxlongo.com/

David Detzler

UX Manager, Head of Berlin Office, Lead Medical & Pharma Design at Ergosign GmbH

David Detzler

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

Decision-making and responsibility (in German this is one word: „Handlungskompetenz“) 

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

Working on huge and complex design projects with many stakeholder and each of them thinks he or she is the better designer (independent from their real profession).

What I've learned?

a) Bring a lot of patience and endurance in those projects.

b) Focus on your profession and guide stakeholders with sensitivity to finally convince them. 

c) If they will firmly stand by their opinion (against all UX arguments), try to make the best out of it and do not resign.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work?

After our projects we discuss in a "retrospective“ what went good, where is room for improvement, what was enlightening and what the still unresolved issues are.

Additionally, after each project (or a milestone within large projects) we conduct a brief evaluation-survey to our customers in order to provide them a formal (and if needed anonymous) feedback-platform.

Luckily, our customers are more than 94% satisfied with our work 😉

Further large projects and debriefing workshops are planned at least once a year.

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Website: https://de.linkedin.com/in/david-detzler

William Cole

User Experience Director

William Cole

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

The most important quality a UX Manager should have is communication, the ability to have effective and open communication with direct reports and stakeholders.

UX managers need to create an environment where accurate and important information can flow through the UX organization to all of its stakeholders in a timely and efficient way. UX managers need to encourage communication in their teams and nurture the open exchange of ideas and opinions in an atmosphere of trust and respond positively when stakeholders or direct reports voice differing ideas or opinions.

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

The biggest challenge I face daily as a UX Manager is juggling responsibilities, or how best to direct a team day-to-day, enabling them to produce the best work possible and perform at their best individually, while at the same time be at my own most efficient state as an individual contributor.

Even though this is a challenge, as a manager I have found that this is less of an issue if you hire people who are as smart or smarter than you are. If you surround yourself with the greatest talent you can find and delegate authority and responsibility to them you have a much better chance of success.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team's work?

My team manages the usability and design of over 100 active products, so I am constantly looking for ways to better track the effectiveness of our user experience.

Currently, I work closely with my teams to conduct usability tests, track UX Metrics and monitor customer support issues for clues as to how effective we are at any given point.

I use the outcome of the usability tests to facilitate review sessions to address any issues we uncover from our metrics or customer experience with product stakeholders to make changes that ensure our customers and users receive the best possible experience we can provide.

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Website: https://www.linkedin.com/in/williamcoleuxpro

Joanna Sieniawska

Product Manager

Joanna Sieniawska

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

In my opinion a good product manager should know how to asses people to pick them right to a team or to a task. Therefore he must be experienced observer of human behavior. Further he must assure that people share company vision and goals. The last but for me the most important is approach to changes. He must prepare people to treat it as a challenge not a problem.

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

I think the biggest challenge is to build a team of IT, UX experts, marketing that collectively works on solving customers problems. Many times I was the person who intruded my vision but did not try sell it to my team. As a result people were not engaged enough to develop the idea and thoroughly understand customers need. I have learned that members of the team must take responsibilities for the result of their work. One way to this is to get involved customers into the designing and developing process. Let the team to confront their solution of a problem with real users. Let them see how real people struggle to use software we design. It helps the members of the team to take care and become more involved.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work?

The most reliable measure of our work is performance. We take into account customer satisfaction but in the end I must answer financial questions: What revenue we generate? What cost we have?

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Website: http://divante.co/

Tom Greever

Author of Articulating Design Decisions, UX Director at Bitovi

Tom Greever

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

Empathy, and while I think that’s important for any manager whether in design or accounting, it has extra value for someone managing a UX team.

Our industry talks a lot about having empathy for users, but we must have the same level of empathy for our team members and stakeholders if we expect to understand each and keep projects moving. The ability to share in someone else’s experience is valuable for every relationship, but it’s even more critical for managers working with designers, executives, and users. 

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what have you learned from it?

Recognizing how important other people are to my success. I didn’t realize that I was surrounded by people who could help me be successful. I didn’t care what other people’s perspective or experience lent to my own agenda. I was arrogant. I was too focused on creating “stuff” as an indicator of success, instead of seeing my success in the success of my team or other people. What I learned was to put people before projects.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work? (think ROI)

That can be difficult, because as a consultancy we are only effective if our clients are effective. So, first and foremost, we know we’re effective when we’ve helped our client achieve their goals first.

But beyond that, we want to see that we’re doing the things we value as a team. This includes things like creating a live style guide, documenting our progress, and communicating our design decisions. We know we’re effective when we can look back over a project and see these things. 

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Website: http://bitovi.com/

Marie Thacker

UX Consultant at Essential UX

Marie Thacker

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

For me, the most important quality for a successful UX manager is the ability to approach a project from a holistic point of view.

That means thinking about the best UX solution of course, but equally important is constant communication with other leaders and teams that touch the project. That means early on discussing business goals, technical requirements, content requirements — any aspect that has a stake in the project.

As important, is making sure your UX team is inspired, motivated, being challenged, and have support from you and others on your team.

Sometimes UX folks get too focused in their own UX world, and forget that "user experience" is not just wireframes and UI, but should be approached from a 360 degree view, externally AND internally. A good UX manager will be able to communicate and collaborate with other cross-functional teams on strategy, defend UX decisions, and always be there to support and mentor his/her team.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work?

Is my team proud of their work? Would they put it in their portfolio? Would they show friends or colleagues? As creatives, it's extremely important to LIKE the work you did, that means making decisions along the way that are good for the UX, and the project, but these should also be decisions the designers feel confident and proud of.  If a designer doesn't want to put a project in their portfolio, I think something is wrong, and then it's time for some digging and mentoring.

Did it test well? I use testing frequently throughout a project, and test all aspects (UX, visual design, copywriting). We obviously want to create work that tests well. I don't approve designs for handoff until it has tested well with users. Also, after launch I like to do a round of validation testing, and when that comes out positively, that's one win for a successful project.

Do analytics show improvement in the conversion and/or metric we're tracking? If no, then time to revisit and plan for a follow up phase to fix the issue(s).  If yes, then chalk up another win for UX! 

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Website: http://essentialux.com/

Steven Soshea

Lead UI/UX Designer at Ingenio

Steven Soshea

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

Well, it’s a bit hard to boil down the qualities of a successful UX manager to just one. UX is complex in itself, and being a manager adds a whole other level to things.

That being said, I think a core quality for a successful UX manager is adaptablity. The foundation of UX itself is an understanding that the needs and desires of users are constantly changing and evolving, and UX needs to keep up with that flow in order to stay relevant. A/B and multi-variant testing testing, in part, is a reflection of that.

Add to this the dynamics of collaborating and coordinating between product management, engineering, marketing, legal/risk, and finance. It's imperative to be able to work effectively with those teams, while also staying committed to creating immersive and delightful experiences for the user that drive business value.

Being an effective UX manager requires adapting to those complications and constraints, but still staying true to creating great experiences. Finally, managing a team absolutely requires being able to adapt to all sorts of situations, both professional and personal. Creating a productive and happy work environment means building and managing processes that align with the competencies of your team, and then understanding how to adapt your team to future needs.

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Website: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stevensoshea

Yury Vetrov

Head of Portal UX at Mail.Ru Group

Yuri Vetrov

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What is the most important quality a good UX manager should have?

UX managers have a multi-faced job. We should take both sides: to be with designers, who propose design solutions, and with managers and developers, who can be against these solutions; we should balance our management responsibilities (team and task management, administrative work) with design skills (staying up-to-date professionally, considering micro- and macro-level of designs); we should be leaders instead of bosses, who deal with tricky project situations without compromising either products or team trust.

However, I want to highlight more important thing: a UX manager should have a vision of a superior product UX and design culture within a company, as well as an implementation plan for this vision. We should also keep this vision up-to-date, because markets and companies are always changing, and we see new horizons for great UX as we implement our initial ideas.

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

I'll tell two stories about internal crises of our team:

For a new team in a company, the first sixth months is the most complicated period. A company has expectations about a design manager, as well as a manager about a company. When we start, it gets tricky: to make a new design process work, we have to make changes to production process and design culture; it takes long time and requires a strong authority within a company (which we don't have yet). I saw this situation many times from outside and got here myself. I even had a feeling that our team could be disbanded: people in the company hadn't trusted our design solutions — managers double-checked them; it was hard to approve a design task because of endless iterations to try all alternate approaches.

Both sides accumulated grievance. However, this uncomfortable situation helped to start honest discussions about problems. During my first sixth months, I gathered detailed understanding of problem reasons. Then, I written a long letter to my bosses and product managers with the list of problems and their possible solutions. I expected to be asked to prove these problems exist; however, my bosses told me that if I believe these problems should be fixed, I need to work on them myself. Since then, a new life has started and my team transformed design of our products and a design culture in the following years. What I learned here:

  • Your past achievements will help you in the beginning, but don't overestimate it. You should also verify expectations as soon as possible, so there will be no mutual disappointment.
  • The reason current design of products is bad lies within company's design culture; changing it is hard and sensitive. You need an authority within a company to do these changes, but it's low when you start. It's like a currency — you gather this authority with small wins and spend it on conflicts that often emerge from uncomfortable changes.
  • A company hires skilled professionals to hear what to do, not to lead them. And you have to implement these changes yourself.

The second story is about selling hard changes. Mail.Ru Group has several product lines; we started to unify their UX when we finished to set up a new design process. It was one of the goals for our new design team: unified UX is familiar for users, good for a brand, and simpler to support. One by one, we found solutions for all platforms and types of products. As a triumph of the initiative, we envisioned a unified approach to mobile web and apps, that was also tied to desktop web designs. We refined all UX details and made a big presentation to our bosses. However, the presentation meeting was a disaster that led to internal crisis and almost a breakup. It took a long time to heal these wounds and regain trust. Why did it happen?

  • We put too much focus on specific design details in our presentation; we considered them as a foundation of the whole unified design idea, while management saw here just an unnecessary redesign. It turned out that accents in our presentation were wrong.
  • Top management just changed a strategy for mobile apps and they didn't yet communicated it to our team. Initially, the plan was to have an app for most of our web services; then, only a couple of most popular apps would be left. In this new strategy, our approach to unification would be too expensive to implement for just several apps. It's critical to re-assess company's vision and values often, especially if you're proposing significant changes.
How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work?

I see the value of UX in three things:

  1. Get products and features to market fast and with decent quality. We use quarter-based planning to track the former; we monitor web analytics and do UX research to prove the latter.
  2. Improve value of a product though UX: look for insights to find unsolved user problems and solve known user problems better. We collect success stories of products and features where we helped product managers to increase user engagement, revenue, or user base growth.
  3. Improve perception of a brand and its products through great UX. We monitor user feedback and what opinion leaders say about our products, because they influence users too.

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Website: https://ru.linkedin.com/in/jvetrau

This list proved one thing: UX is not only incredibly important, but also highly demanding. Every person listed here is a Swiss army knife of abilities that are crucial in the field of UX. And even more crucial in a life of a UX manager.

Do you agree with what specialists have been saying? Or maybe your company has a completely different approach? Share with us in the comments! If you wish to join the list, head to @UsabilityTools and give us a heads-up – we'll be happy to grow the list with you.


Piotr Koczorowski

Written by Piotr Koczorowski

Quirky, funny and energetic young blogger from Poland with a passion for video games, contemporary American literature, chillwave music, and pizza. Between studying Translation Studies at a Polish university, Piotr works at UsabilityTools where he blogs about UX and goes overboard with puns and cultural references. In his free time he dreams of space travel (and pizza.)


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