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Save time. Set up your team for success.

Often as designers we are placed in precarious positions within organizations who have certain business objectives to meet. The greatest obstacle that any designer can face is a short timeline and a whole lot of expected designs within that timeframe. So how does a UX team manage these expectations to not only meet those timelines but sometimes beat them? A few housekeeping items can ensure that your design team is well equipped to meeting and achieving business requests while still keeping your UX practices in play.

Step 1: Set up your team working agreement

Working agreements are documents that you and your team put together to understand the way that you as a team want to work together to get designs done. Within this document you plan out your daily standups, any scrum meeting times, research internal/external design reviews, and other processes that will enable a smooth transition from design to development. You can include tool sets - are you using Sketch or Figma? Where/How are you setting up and maintaining version control of your files? It is also where you document each person on your team by name and their strengths or roles within a project. Will you create micro flows or mood boards for features? This document provides clarity on who is doing what and can be really helpful if you need to ask a question from a SME (Subject Matter Expert) during sprint work. Set up a meeting with your team, it usually takes around an hour and a half to get through it all but it's well worth the time as you refer back to this document to keep everyone aligned within your UX team. Do this together and obtain buy in from every member. If there is someone who doesn't align, open up the discussion to resolve that issue. It is imperative that each member align and embrace this document throughout your project work.

Step 2: Set up a design system or review all components of your current one (as a team) What good is the bread if the baker doesn't have all of the ingredients? Like the baker, UX and UI designers need the bits that can be used throughout designs to create a cohesive look and feel to your designs at the base level. If your team is starting from scratch on a project perhaps one of the best places to begin is with a base line set of components like those found in material design tool kits like this one. Creating that base gives your design team the freedom to take those components and use them creatively in their designs. Don't like what you see in the design tool kit? Create something new and incorporate it into your team design system with your team approval. Build out the different components into a sketch library that everyone can pull from as they design. Use abstract as a repository to hold all of your team's sketch files and create a level of transparency on what you and your teammates are working on. This saves time when you are having to design quick wires or concepts to show stakeholders. A good design system is a valuable tool to keep things moving.

Step 3: Evaluate all research on hand as a team

You could be sitting on a goldmine of information and not even know it! If you are with a well established enterprise you have research. At some point the organization has either hired an external agency to conduct consumer research, or UX research to learn about their customers buying habits. Set up a team research day where you and your UX team spend the day pouring through existing research for great bites of information like things users have said they have difficulty with or changes that they'd like to see. The information you discover as a team can be shared with stakeholders and project managers as potential opportunities for roadmap items. It can also help your team understand the people you are designing for.

"But I work in a startup and I'm a UX'er of ONE... One lonely...sad...little UX'er."-One tired UX Startup Unicorn

I can relate to the statement above. It was me. I was the tired UX startup person. Not every team is going to have a full group to help mush through the research. Teams might not have ANY research at the start of a project. So what then? Step 3 is still a highly valuable part of creating fast UX work. It may seem like no one in your small organization wants to take the time and immediately wants to just design stuff and jump into user testing. Do the research anyway. There are plenty of scholarly resources where you might be able to find research online around the subject you are seeking to understand. Find out the business objectives that your stakeholders are trying to meet with this project. This will help you identify the important parts for any research you locate. Use industry led research whenever possible. Find out who your competitors are and hit up their white papers or articles online. Another valuable tool is the use of social media. Set up quick polls on your twitter account, use linkedin groups to pose questions to people. There are ways to do the research. Having this in your arsenal means that you can design with your user in mind even if you have to go fast.

So there you have it. Three simple steps that can help you or your UX team maneuver through the whirlwind that is product development and still keep your sanity.

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