User Experience Team Blueprint

Building a successful UX team, with the right mix of roles, responsibilities, method, etc., isn’t an easy task. Depending on the type of the organization (internal product team or agency) and its executive leadership, UX can take on a range of responsibilities and methods to produce innovative work.

Here’s a visual outline that I tried to follow at Ameritrade when I was the UX lead managing a team of 12. The domain is a secure, authenticated trading platform, with unique opportunities for collaborative filtering, interface customization, sussinct client messaging and knowledge management.


If I had to do it all over again, here are the top four things I would’ve done differently:

Align Sr. Designers with product verticals
Running a centralized team is difficult; product owners are constantly vying for resources and there isn’t deli ticket machine keeping folks in-line. While I did align designers to Apex, Amerivest, Streamer, etc. to keep consistency, I didn’t do a good enough job communicating outwards and managing the finality of those resources. I’ll take responsibility for that, but it would’ve helped if my management chain understood anything about design.

Reduce the emphasis on methodology
Due to the UX team sitting at the bottom of the development team, with no executive Design representation, and the lack of Design input in modeling requirement documents, I pushed to implement an IxD Goal-Directed Design methodology. While it successfully gave my designers the footing to have important conversations upstream when defining the product, it also created bottlenecks for the development team without proper attention. Figuring out how to iterate and ship more often would’ve been imperative.

Introduce blogging as a means for knowledge sharing
KM is such a terrible term. In essence, an outward facing blog with a solid search engine and a rich tag approach could’ve served as both a conversation point for speaking with clients and providing answers to non-client account related questions. Internally, we could’ve dropped our KM tool with central controls and replaced it with internal blogs for every employee.

Focus on research, behavior, information context, design and presentation
Editorial is a huge compliance issue within the financial industry, and collaboration with designers on interfaces was difficult to manage. I probably would’ve fought harder to keep the client-side team, or just focus on the core Design contributors.

Live and learn.