Education for a team of none

18 Jun 2009 - 12:55pm
5 years ago
6 replies
1826 reads

Hi all,

Over the past few years as a web designer I’ve noticed a lack of
education specific to people like me.

I wrote an article on the subject, and I implore you to read it.

In my article, I use an example of building robust personas. I
recently saw Jared Spool present on the topic. He did an awesome job.
But I walked away with a familiar, looming question:

"Can robust personas be built by a single designer, with limited
time and resources?"

It's not limited to personas. My argument is the same for design
patterns, mental models, usability testing, and so on. The examples
I'm seeing are always from the point of view of someone with plenty
of resources. That's not always the case. It's not in mine. And
I'm sure I'm not alone.

There isn't enough mindshare between solo designers in our industry.
I'd like to raise awareness and get people talking about their

If you are a solo designer without a team of experts, I hope you'll
start talking about your design processes and sharing with the rest
of the community. Thank you so much for your time. I greatly
appreciate it!


Jason R.

Jason Robb
jason at


18 Jun 2009 - 4:48pm

Jason, this is a great thread to open and I am completely in agreement
with what you have said here. I will read your post in a moment.

I work in a team of 5. a head of digital, an account manager, a search
manager, a head of tech, a senior developer and an interface developer.
I am the interface developer. Within this role I am also the
information architect, the user experience designer and front end
developer. I understand your plight.

I am fortunate in that the head of digital has passed on a lot of his
knowledge to me on information architecture processes and how they work
within the project flow. It is not his area of specialism but he does
have a good understanding but is not available for mindshare for any
length of time.

Being a small team we all muck in and our skillsets are vast. We have
to be adaptable until the team grows. Until I have a team of IA's and
UXD's around me I will need to start talking about my design processes
as you outline here. I think it would also be of benefit to network
with people like you and me in this situation too. We can talk about
our design processes amongst ourselves and help each other to maximise
our efficiency and increase the resource of information.

I have also asked to join the mentoring scheme as I feel this will help keep me focused
and create further avenues of support. We should help each other Jason,
feel free to contact me and we can talk through the best method of
sharing knowledge.

Kevin Rapley

21 Jun 2009 - 10:14am
Jared M. Spool

On Jun 18, 2009, at 10:55 AM, Jason Robb wrote:

> "Can robust personas be built by a single designer, with limited
> time and resources?"

I know this isn't limited to personas, but here's what I wrote on your

Hi Jason,

You ask some excellent questions here. I do think it’s possible for an
individual to complete all the steps for building personas. It will
take time, energy, and resources. But, when you’re done, will the
results benefit the design? That’s the big question.

I’m wondering if you’re really a team of none (or one). If others are
making decisions that will change the resulting design, then you have
a team of multiple folks.

Personas and other UX tools are about informing the team — helping
them make better decisions. And the process of building personas is
actually the part the informs, not the end deliverable. (See my post
on how personas documents are not personas:

Certainly, as the UX person on the team, you can help with the
adminstrative bits that go into persona development: planning and
scheduling the research, coordinating the intermediate deliverables,
facilitating the discussions, and keeping the personas alive in design
discussions (”So, how would Rachel approach this function? If she’s
trying to get her appointment scheduled quickly, how does this allow
her to do that?”).

Remember, you can judge the success of a personas project by how much
it constantly influences the outcome of the design. If you hear the
team saying, “I would’ve designed it this way, but after seeing the
participants in our research, I’m now leaning to this alternative
approach,” then you know you’re on the right track.

Hope this helps,


Jared M. Spool
User Interface Engineering
510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
e: jspool at p: +1 978 327 5561 Blog: Twitter: @jmspool
UIE Roadshow: Seattle, Denver, DC in June:

21 Jun 2009 - 12:24pm

Jared: You are correct in asserting that I%u2019m not working alone.
My reason for using the title of %u201Ca team of none%u201D was
purely for contrast. I was merely jesting at the fact that I%u2019m a
solo UX designer working with engineers and stakeholders, not a UX
designer working with other UX designers.

Those are excellent bits of encouragement, Jared. I definitely
appreciate you taking the time to explain them. That was helpful.

I%u2019ve learned a lot about personas in the past week. I%u2019m
beginning to see where they come into the picture. But first, I must
do research!

Thanks again, everyone!

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Posted from the new

21 Jun 2009 - 1:29pm

As a follow up to this post:

I've decided I'm going to write about how I approach UX problems at
my start-up company.

Stay tuned!

Jason R.

Jason Robb

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Posted from the new

23 Jun 2009 - 8:50am
Gail Gammel


I'm in the same situation. Throughout my developer career I've
gravitated towards the practices of user experience/ IA / interaction
design and have made it my methods for achieving project goals. I do
more business analysis than developing now, but approach all projects
(big and small) from a user experience standpoint. I'm the only
individual in my small information services team that takes this
approach. I read a lot and have great mentors from this community and
IAI. I follow the same steps everybody else does but on a smaller

How do I know it's working? When I get positive feedback. When I
hear that "Aha" moment from my research. Getting back to personas,
at the beginning of my current intranet project I created scaled down
personas. This was new grounds for the other team members (people in
various departments) and I didn't want to overwhelm. What was
important for me was the discovery from employee interviews and
putting it into a format (personas) that I could share with others.
The team could really care less about the deliverable - but I learned
a lot about how people work and reference that knowledge as the
project continues.

You might be interested in Adaptive Path's Leah Buley, who gave
presentations of "How to be a UX Team of One." You can see the
slides here:

Gail Gammel
Glenview State Bank
gailg at

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Posted from the new

2 Nov 2010 - 1:29am

Education is very important and we all know that. Even though you have the talent and idea on a specific thing, being educated will make you more talented and learn more things. Some are getting pay day loans and enroll themselves to a school that will enhance their talent and skills.

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