Challenges in the UX Landscape

UX maturity has been one of the hottest topics in the UX community for the last few years. All professionals want to work in companies where UX is a standard and user-centred design is one of the main principles. But reality is far from the ideal world.
In reality, designers join companies and find themselves fighting for the ability to research and do their jobs in the right way. The worst part can be when they are conducting research, and gathering data, and insights, but management doesn't really care and still makes decisions based on anything else except user research.

Red flags are everywhere
I began my role as Design Lead, traversing through all the stages mentioned. Ironically, during my initial interview, the interviewer tasked me with redesigning the dashboard of B2B software overnight. For many UX designers, this might signal a red flag about the company. Nevertheless, I proceeded, albeit with only cosmetic changes.
In the subsequent interview, I expressed my concern that one evening wasn't sufficient to thoroughly research such a complex topic. Surprisingly, the employer was satisfied with the outcome. However, the next query could have dampened any enthusiasm, as they asked if I could code. This raised a red flag for a Product Designer. Typically, one would hesitate to continue with an employer expecting coding skills from a UX designer. Despite this, I chose to embrace the challenge and accepted the job offer.
You might wonder why. I was drawn to the product's concept, recognizing its underlying potential. Moreover, the team comprised several senior developers with positive energy, and the founders were deeply passionate about the product. Hence, I decided to give it a chance.
That's how my journey started from UX maturity level 0, progressing over four years to stage 5 or even 6, where user-centred techniques were fully integrated into the process from top to bottom.
The UX start in start-up
I find it easier to list the things that went smoothly rather than delving into the multitude of challenges I faced, as there were indeed many. I dove straight into the development and Product team, juggling multiple tasks in our fast-paced startup while attempting to gather as much information as possible about our software's audience.
Navigating the B2B and manufacturing environment proved challenging; individuals were often incredibly busy, making it difficult to engage with them. Complicating matters further, most user contacts provided by the customer success team weren't direct users but rather managers overseeing implementation or procurement.
The company management's desire to deliver as many features as possible without understanding the underlying problems presented another hurdle. At times, I felt like nothing more than a UI printing machine. Despite these challenges, I seized the opportunity to learn and conduct interviews.​​​​​​​
Keep telling about users
During these rare user interviews, I made a strategic decision to bring along one of the engineers to take notes. This collaboration proved invaluable, ensuring we were aligned and providing support during decision-making processes. I began formulating the initial drafts of user personas, highlighting their pain points and assumptions regarding their tasks.
Unfortunately, these efforts didn't always garner the attention I hoped for. Often, it seemed that my focus on personas was undervalued, with others questioning why I wasn't solely focused on designing screens. To add a humorous twist, they even requested that I still probably need to install all the development tools on my machine. 🧐

I persisted and not only constructed Personas but also consistently shared user insights in the tickets. Additionally, I delivered numerous presentations on topics such as 'what is UX,' 'why it is important,' and 'What is a user-centred approach.' I actively scheduled meetings and invited the entire Product team along with the founders to discuss concepts like Norman Doors, various UX techniques, and other crucial topics.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
Slowly but persistent 
After a year, alongside persistently questioning our approach in our recurring meetings, I began conducting user testing and creating prototypes. Despite lacking sufficient data, I continued to advocate for the implementation of analytics. We lacked fundamental insights such as active user counts and feature usage patterns.
Eventually, we successfully launched the analytics project, overcoming legal hurdles and technical challenges. This marked a pivotal moment, as the fog of uncertainty lifted, revealing behavioural patterns and valuable usage data. Armed with this newfound information, I could substantiate my arguments with real numbers.

UX is embedded
As the persona project matured over the years, it became a common language within the team. Engineers began leveraging personas to explain decisions and address queries during refinement sessions, marking a significant success.
We increasingly relied on data analytics to inform our decisions and began incorporating the "why" questions earlier in the discovery process. Nowadays, no feature or initiative progresses without thorough user research, interviews, and analytics.​​​​​​​
This transformation within the organization has been a collective success, not just mine. However, I believe it's the responsibility of the Product designer to drive this change. To fellow designers who shy away from roles and companies with poor UX processes, I urge you to reconsider and embrace the challenge, or at the very least, give it a try.
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