Getting members of your team involved in the design process in a Lean UX environment can be extremely valuable… and potentially hard to manage.

So as part of our series of Q&As with Jakob Nielsen, I posed the following question…

Lee: In Lean UX, non UX-trained people carry out UX activities involving all members of development team. What do you think about this?

Jakob: I think it’s mainly good, but it has to be managed… it actually goes back to part of the previous question (which I forgot to answer), which is: how do you get the team on board in team buy-in?

Well, one of the big ways to get team buy-in is to involve the team, so that really goes to this question here.

I don’t think it means that all members of the team should all do the same work equally much — I mean, it would be a waste of a great programmer’s time to have them sit and usability test all day, because they are probably not going to be that good at it, and they are really good at programming, so why not let them mainly do that?

But that said, I still think they should be involved in UX activities. For example, observing studies would be a great thing to do, and helping analyse something is another great thing to do. People have been involved, they’ve seen some users…

There’s one point that I would like to make: one of the biggest ways of getting people just motivated to do that work to create a better user experience is to have seen your own customers struggle with the previous design. Then, you know, in the later stage it adds to the motivation that you then see it has been changed, and now you see them having a great time.

But that is extremely motivational, and it is also gives an extra insight because there are a lot of day-to-day decisions that are made at the time of coding — so the extent to which the programmers understand some part of the user experience, that makes them that much better programmers as well. I mean, that doesn’t make them great interaction designers or great user researchers, but they can certainly do some of that, and if they are involved I think it really does help.

Now, if that was all that was happening, I don’t think it would be as good. I think we should recognise that there are lots of different types of expertise involved in system development. There is definitely programming, and programming can be split up into many different types of programming as well — if you are a bigger organisation, you are going to have people who are front-end programmers and back-end programmers, database administrators and security experts and what have you, lots of different type of expertise.

Sometimes there’s person who is like “I’m a geek! I can do anything,” but they can’t really, and it’s the same here with user experience — there are a lot of different aspects of user experience and one person can do a little of everything and that will give you some level of quality. But if you have people who are experts on each different element, that will create just a higher level of quality. So it depends on how big the project is, how big the budget is, how important it is, how much expertise you are going to require, and how much expertise you can afford to have. But I definitely believe in the value of expertise.

Lee: Yes, okay. So just in terms of that expertise, I know you guys offer training courses — are you just seeing a general increase in demand for those, and for people who want to become user researchers for example?

Jakob: Actually, yes, it’s interesting that we’re seeing two types of increase. This is just raw numbers, but there’s more people coming to our conferences to learn, which is in its own right good. But also, interestingly enough, we have a course on usability testing (we also have various other courses on how to measure the user experience, and various other methodology courses) and they have also, as a percent of the overall conference, increased quite a lot.

I would say that, 10 years ago, it was more so the case that people would like to come to the conference to hear what we had discovered in our research, and just get the guidelines and then go home, and make the website the way it was recommended by the people who have done the studies.

That’s still a good thing to do of course, it’s a way to rediscover things we have already learned… but that said, it’s even better if you can do your own research, and do that with some methodology. So we are seeing more people being interested in that now, so I see that as a very, very favourable sign that there’s decidedly a growth in the number of people and the number of companies that are interested in doing their own research. Not just here, with what we have found – people still want to hear what we have found – but they also want to do their own, and that I think is a great development.

Lee: I think it is. I guess if I worked at Forrester, I’m sure I would have some kind of matrix that demonstrated that kind of maturity in the market. But I am happy to say that just sounds like a really good development.  

Check out the rest of our series of Q&As with Jakob Nielsen