Building the UX Dream Team

More than a few have written on how to build the ideal User Experience design team. Those articles have typically focused on the titles, skillsets and passions of the folks you put on that team. However, one key piece is typically missing from consideration when setting out to put that team together – what are you designing?

It goes without saying that you need passionate people on your team – curious, tenacious people who rally around the customer and dig into their deepest motivations and pain points. You need to hire specialists who complement each other’s skillsets and can collaborate together to reach elegant solutions to tough interaction problems. All of this, however, could end up in vain if the “thing” that you are building is not taken into consideration.

Are you building marketing experiences that focus on driving acquisition and conversion? Or are you building heavily interactive web-based applications that take the user through a complex workflow? The best UX team focused on project work that is outside of their comfort zone will not realize the maximum benefits of their collective knowledge. That is not to say that teams shouldn’t stretch their capabilities in an effort to grow, learn and expand beyond their current domain expertise. But if you’re looking to build a dream team of UX talent, it is imperative that this team be well versed in the type of work your business requires of them.

This philosophy works especially well for online businesses. Typically there is a singular focus for that business allowing the UX team to specialize and hone its skills in a particular arena. In agency land however, there is usually a need to diversify. Agency work spans the gamut of experience design work and in these situations the best UX team may be a set of smaller, tactically focused UX teams.

Nowhere is this realization more acute than during the hiring process. Just because a candidate has impeccable credentials, a sterling portfolio and the right chemistry to fit the team doesn’t necessarily make them the right designer for your dream team. Have they ever built a web application? Can they logically and elegantly design solutions to multi-tiered workflow problems? If that’s the core business you’re in, the answer better be yes or that designer doesn’t make your roster.

The context of the work you do is the ultimate decider.


About Jeff Gothelf

Jeff Gothelf is a lean thinking and design evangelist, spreading the gospel of great team collaboration, product innovation and evidence-based decision making. Jeff is an author, speaker and thought leader on the future of product development and design, often teaching workshops or giving talks on building cultures that support teamwork and innovation. Jeff co-founded Neo Innovation, a lean/agile product firm in NYC. Prior to that, he led the UX design teams at TheLadders and Web Trends. Earlier he worked with and led small teams of software designers at AOL. He is the co-author (with Josh Seiden) of Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience and the upcoming (Harvard, 2016) Sense and Respond (
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  • outdoor furniture

    I want to add Hannah Montana’s new song “Butterfly Fly Away” to the list for single moms. The lyrics almost made me cry both times i brought my seven year old to see the movie!

  • outdoor furniture

    Something that seems glaringly missing is any sort of coding or programming skills, for prototyping (barely mentioned under interaction design). I think it’s more and more important that ID folks be able to actually build and tinker to quickly iterate through ideas and see if they are workable. I’d say that’s a more important skill than Graphic Design, though I’d always want that too.

  • Team building

    Passionate people on team – curious, tenacious people who rally around the customer and dig into their deepest motivations and pain points can lead team to victory.

  • Anonymous

    Well said Jeff!