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I was wondering if there are ways to increase my usefulness to my company, in my role as a UX designer. My skillsets primarily reside in UI design, and some front-end development work.

At the beginning, there was alot of UI design work to keep me busy, but after launch of the product a year ago, things have slowed down a bit. Is there something I can do on a weekly basis to measure my own importance to the company? Nowadays, my work has been primarily one-off mock-ups for UI improvements, and some newsletters here and there for the marketing department. But these projects don't take that long to finish, and i'm left with alot of empty working hours to fill in. I know it's kind of an odd question, but as a business to buisness product company, how do you continue to improve "user experience" if there aren't really any users?

Are there any projects you guys create for yourselves to fill the "in-between" hours of your days?

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Should this be here or on workplace.SE? –  Snakes and Coffee Feb 28 '13 at 2:02

7 Answers 7

up vote 32 down vote accepted

There's a million things that you could to do to grow your skills and make yourself a better UX designer. Here are some ideas off the top of my head:

  • Talk to your manager about how you can grow your skills to help the team out.
  • Conduct a baseline usability study on the most recent version of the product that you designed and determine whether users are able to complete their most common workflows.
  • Lead simple interviews with your users to learn more about their experience in using your product.
  • Spend some time shadowing your tech support folks to uncover unexpected user experience issues.
  • Read a UX book that you haven't read before.
  • Ensure that your design is fully documented, including what design decisions you made and what led you to those decisions. If you win the lottery tomorrow, someone else will have to be able to understand your design and continue to grow it, and documentation is often something that we don't do a great job of.
  • Partner with your marketing team to learn more about the market research that they do, and perhaps take part in it.
  • Find a HCI or design or development course on Coursera to improve your skills.
  • Look at job ads to see what kinds of skills they expect for a UX designer at your level or the next level up, and determine where and how you need to grow your skills to meet those expectations.
  • Create a 1-year or 2-year or 5-year career development plan for yourself, and begin to execute upon it.
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3  
+1 Great list! Thanks! –  Anna Rouben Feb 27 '13 at 23:05
    
Loved it! Many thanks for sharing that. –  Salman Feb 27 '13 at 23:17
    
Thanks for your response Nadyne, it definitely gives me something to work off of, and think about! –  Armando Feb 27 '13 at 23:17

User experience design is a comprehensive role and it is not limited to UI or interaction design alone. If you are looking to expand on your skill-set under UX umbrella and contribute to your organization more, you might want to look into following aspects to take its User Experience a level up further. Consider following points

  • Do user-testing with Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Personas
  • Work on Content Strategy
  • Think about Accessibility aspects WCAG(AA, AAA)
  • Improve the platform and device strategies
  • Improve signup forms, checkout and self-support sections
  • Work to improve application personality (Designing for Emotions)
  • The Social aspects of UX
  • Keep an eye on the market and see what competitors are doing and what from their findings is worth to adopt
  • and the list goes on..

Coming to your question,

how do you continue to improve "user experience" if there aren't really any users?

You don't need thousands of real application users to start user testing. User testing is an on-going process which you keep performing as application grows in features, expands its usage or sets higher performance/ user-experience goals. Set Performance and User Experience goals for your application and start testing it with your primary, secondary and tertiary personas. After testing you will be amazed to know how much is there which can still be improved.

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Couple additional ideas

  1. Start a UX brown bag activity. Find a topic that is interesting from UX standpoint (good/bad products, interesting UX/HCI article or research), send invite with reading material to discuss with people who might be interested. Have a informal presentation and discussion about what your learned and how you could use it for the products in you company. In my experience people enjoy such meetings. You don't have to be presenter all the time, other people can volunteer. This is a good activity to stay up to day on what is going one in UX/HCI world and also keeps more employees aware what the field is about.

  2. Think about some product that would be fun to create and create UX for it. Even if it is not directly about your work usually you learn a lot doing it so it benefits your work indirectly :). Let's say you never worked on Android app UX so create one. You could also come up with a product for your company, create UX and show it to everyone.

Good luck!

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Apart from improving the products at your company, you should look at building complimentary skills such as analytics, information architecture, and marketing with the goal of growing users.

These and other skills are converging at a point which people call growth hacking. See more at https://www.google.com/search?q=growth+hacking

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Do you know how successful you or your company's products are, that is do you know how happy your customers/users are and if they are able to accomplish what that want and if they have any issues that you can address?

I bet you could use more information on this subject, and you can work to get that information through analytics, usability testing, and soliciting customer feedback (don't be too intrusive there) and strive for constant improvement of your product. In essence, get to know your customer and give them an easy feedback path. The better you know your customer the more effective your designs can be in the future.

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I think any part of the organization that comes into contact with end users or clients could do with some UX knowledge or skills. UX designers are there to put themselves in the shoes of someone from outside the company, and can provide a lot of useful input for not just the product development team, but the business, marketing, communication, support and other areas where user interaction and communication is important. Personally I get involved in too many areas of the company to be idle (but I have had to change company/jobs when this has been the case). On another note, personal and professional development is always a great thing to be doing when you have some 'down time'.

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Simply call all the customers and various kind of users and try to get some information about how your society can improve their experience with your product. You've got some work for many months.

If your product don't have any users, you've got a serious problem.

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