Paul Lyngby-Trow has worked as a digital designer since the late 1990s and has held senior and directorial positions at the likes of BSkyB and Travel Republic. He is currently Head of User Experience and Design at dnata Travel Group. At Consortia, we spoke to him as part of our Industry Insiders Programme, leading the UX discussion on key topics that are gripping the industry.
While a lot has changed over the last few decades, the overarching needs of website and multimedia users has remained relatively consistent; aesthetics, functionality and intuitiveness remain of utmost importance, even if the means of achieving them has been drastically improved upon.
These three characteristics are central to any user experience, and small firms must seek to achieve them even if they are on a smaller scale than their big-budget competitors. We talked to Paul about hiring a UX team on a lean budget, and how you secure more funding for user experience staff down the line.
Remain hands on as a manager
Not every firm has a dedicated UX team, so it's important to have a hands-on manager. Paul moved from a Digital Art Director position at BSkyB to head of UX Design at Travel Republic, so there was a learning curve involved for him:
"There wasn't a dedicated UX team when I started — everything was more development driven. I liked the challenge, it was a natural progression from where I'd come from. I started with an audit of the landscape, to see where the public was and looked at the individual product platforms to work out priorities".
A hands-on manager can lead the development team into UX seamlessly, and gradually place more and more emphasis on simplifying the customer journey that ultimately will improve conversion — they also often will have the ear of their boss to stress the importance of UX.
From there, it's all about getting in quick wins to secure a better budget and hiring a dedicated team if necessary. Showing improvements quickly is central to allowing a company to focus on user experience. A quick analysis of the 'pain points' of a given site or app is the first move.
This quick analysis can make for even quicker improvements, which can allow for an immediate return on investment. Even small changes: "it could be just changing copy on a call to action", says Paul. Likewise, trimming the excess of a page is useful, looking at "what is really necessary for the user, and stripping it back". All these ideas help to make noticeable changes, and in a very short space of time.
Outsource or hire contractors for research, and other niche skills
Even dedicated UX teams won't have every skill under their belt — so don't be afraid to outsource or hire contractors. These can later be used to prove a business case for a full-time staff member if necessary.
For example, research is often side-lined in business due to busy teams and tight budgets — but it is essential to have a fresh pair of eyes. A bit of outsourced, user research on key projects with a budget can open stakeholder eyes says Paul. So much so, in Paul's case, that he was able to secure a dedicated UX researcher from the right results and some canny stakeholder engagement.
Drive engagement and work with all stakeholders so they understand the benefits
Such engagement is essential to promoting the UX cause: “ We invite the whole company to view the live streaming research sessions. Then at the end of research sessions, you get a presentation of findings and recommendations. You'll have all the stakeholders, you have a real good mix of people. Make sure that people from across the business are getting invited to that meeting. We also extend the invite for any subsequent design sprints, we want people to understand and contribute to the UX design process”.
Educating stakeholders and the business in general on your findings is key to getting a better reputation and securing more funding. Getting more and more people involved in presentations is essential to do this. This can be hard because often people are busy. You will need to persevere.
Specialists or generalist – go for what works best for your business.
Preference for specialists or generalists vary from business to business, but Paul is very much in favour of the former. Working with talented, passionate people from the ground up and letting them grow into their niche is crucial to a healthy team. But is this doable on a tight budget?
"It's a tricky one", says Paul. While it may cost more to have specialists, the workload split pays dividends — and allows for many more projects to be completed. "I think it's a bit of a gamble, but it definitely pays off".
Throw your staff in at the deep end
Paul favours hiring talented professionals who are perhaps not quite at senior level and giving them a chance to take their skills to the next level. Throwing them into the deep end with 'chunky' projects allows them to grow into their position and learn by doing: "I give them quite a bit of autonomy. Actually, giving them that kind of freedom to experiment a little bit, and push the projects a little bit really helps."
Choose tools wisely
If budgets are tight, then it's important to think hard about what the UX team really needs in terms of its tools. Trials, then, are very important — allowing you to road-test tools for prototyping and sketching for free, until you find the one that suits your needs and improves the process of working:
"I gave my team the time to experiment a bit with the different prototyping tools and work out what works for them". Programmes such as Invision, Protopie and Principal are both worthy of a trial basis, but experimentation will lead a given UX department to the tools that suit it best.
Through these methods, Paul Lyngby-Trow has proved that to his bosses and stakeholders that UX is crucial to conversion and growth. While funds for UX aren't always forthcoming, they can be quickly secured with the seven techniques described. So be hands-on as a manager, get people on side, experiment readily and find the right people for the job — ones who will bring passion and expertise to the team and grow alongside it.
Thank you to Paul for speaking to us about building a UX team on a lean budget. Do you need to fill a UX job? Why not get in touch with our expert Consortia UX Team, who will be happy to assist. Alternatively, if you are looking for a job, check out our latest vacancies.