The high demand for top talent in the UX market continues.  On Twitter alone, the #UX and #jobs Hashtags are in constant motion.  But do recruiters, program managers and team leads know what it is that they’re looking for?

Often times, the perceived need for a UX talent is reactive.  The project is done, and the post-mortem research and conversations are all about how bad the ‘experience’ is, and how unhappy the client/user is.

These days, I regularly encounter frustrated UX talent that are trying to cope with unrealistic expectations – they were brought in as the ‘silver bullet’ resource that would solve a litany of design, architectural, conceptual and sometimes even cultural issues that may or may not be understood by the project team.

“Micah Boswell presents some of his own tricks and tips to succeeding when a project hasn’t met expectations, and the UX designer is brought in to ‘fix’ the problem(s).”

I’ve been in the same boat, and although the it’s wonderful to be in a place that’s discovering the need for UX, it’s also a perpetual challenge to remember that, as the ambassador of an often misunderstood discipline, it’s the UX person’s job to clearly manage expectations.

Here’s a list of helpful tips to get you through the challenging situation of being the UX ‘Fixer’:

  • Be honest with yourself.  Where does your expertise lie?  Assess your own approach to the user experience and communicate it clearly.
  • Do your talents compliment the challenges ahead of you?  Assess the project and its challenges.  Ask the tough questions about what happened.
  • Don’t assume that your recruiter and hiring manager understand what you do.  Communicate the first two assessments clearly.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk yourself out of the job.  The project may not need a UX resource.  It may need a re-alignment of expectations, or it may need more usability testing.  Help the project owners succeed long-term, even if it means risking discomfort.
  • Never do a deep-dive without first scoping out the landscape.  Understand context and the project ecosystem.  Who are the stakeholders, and what are their priorities. Do their priorities match the priorities of the project?  Understand the user’s end goal.  Is there a match between what the user wants and what the project intends to accomplish?
  • Be patient and realistic.  Adjust your personal goals against the realities of the team, the project and the organization executing.  Not every organization has the multimillion dollar budget of a Fortune 500, and not every organization can move and adapt as quickly as the 8-person startup.

These questions are framed around the idea that above all else, understand the context and environment of the project.  Often times, this understanding is going to give you the information you’ll need to circumnavigate the more difficult decisions in the project.