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On the User Experience Management side of things, how do you evaluate a User Experience Designer's wireframes/prototypes as far as skill progression goes? What metrics or criteria should be used to assess if someone is plateauing or making progress?

In my mind, I think the criteria could be a periodic evaluation of the following -

  • Low number of revisions (although revisions could depend on manager's feedback plus additional requirements)
  • Low number of errors or missed requirements

What metrics are considered best practice in industry?

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Are you a user experience designer yourself? If not, that could be part of the challenge. It'll be hard to guage UX skills if you don't come from that world. –  DA01 Feb 8 '12 at 23:33
    
I am - but my manager isn't. –  firedrawndagger Feb 9 '12 at 14:46
    
That'll be a challenge, then. I wish you luck! ;) –  DA01 Feb 9 '12 at 15:05
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3 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

It doesn't make any sense to measure a UX designer's progress at making wireframes.

Wireframes are just a way to communicate with other people and can take many forms, from sketches to mockups to "interactive" wireframes produced with software like Axure. Their purpose is to represent ideas in a form that can be discussed with stakeholders, team members and developers. Do not use them as a specification.

What you should measure instead is the product. If I make amazing wireframes but terrible software, I'm not a very good user experience designer.

Another thing you can measure is process. How does the designer communicate, prepare, and progress toward the final deliverables? If she sucks at communicating, then her wireframes likely won't be very good either. Fix the communication rather than looking at how pretty her wireframes are.

The important thing to understand about wireframes and prototypes is that they're supposed to fail. The whole reason you make them is to get things out of your head and onto paper/the screen for communication and testing. If you expect your UX designers to one-shot these steps in the process, you don't understand the design process very well; without the cyclical process of learning from usability tests and improving based on their results, there's literally no way to refine initial design work. If anything, the number of iterations should be as high as possible because a good designer will look for feedback and revise frequently, especially in an agile setting.

If your UX designers are expected to produce wireframes as deliverables, you're doing something wrong. Step back and discuss with your UX designers to determine what the right deliverables should be and what metrics you should use to evaluate them.

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+1! Yes, analyzing document output isn't much of a metric to go off of. I'd give another +1 for "wireframes should not be deliverables" if I could. –  DA01 Feb 8 '12 at 23:31
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I wouldn't measure revisions, as it is a well known fact in software engineering that requirements change and besides, products are improved gradually until (and after) release.

I would measure usability of the required features using techniques like those mentioned in the book Rocket Surgery Made Easy.

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As usual, Rahul's answer is full of great advice. I have not, do not, and will never evaluate a UX designer (or graphic designer or programmer) based on quantitative measurements of things like revisions (or code commits). Now, if someone never revises their work at all then that's a problem, as is not meeting the requirements of the assigned task, obviously.

If you are measuring or evaluating skill progression, then I'm going to assume that it is in conjunction with working with the employee from the outset to determine a baseline, some goals, and specific paths toward achieving those goals. You can measure whether or not they've succeeded in doing the job you've asked and in keeping project stakeholders happy through their work, but can you quantify that a designer's work is 17% better than it was last year? No, especially when the work is but one piece of the project pie.

There's a great post on the Project Management SE: Measuring Team Members' Performance that addresses some of the pros & cons of applying metrics in precisely these situations.

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