7 Secrets your freelance UX designer won’t tell you.

As a freelance UX designer I come across many who still don’t grasp what a UX designer actually does.

I don’t expect them to… the answer is ‘It depends’

UX or User Experience is a vastly broad area. I’ve worked with UX designers who came from all sorts of backgrounds.

  • Software developers
  • Graphic designers
  • Business analysts
  • Music teachers
  • Scientists
  • and even sales!

There is no set method to UX that designers must follow. There are some excellent schools and courses now which teach the foundations and principles of UX design but the truth is, every project and team you work with will be different.

Some methods work with some teams and not others.

Adaptation and evolution is the number one trait freelance UX designers need to be able to jump between different teams and projects.

Being a good UX designer means leveraging your own experiences and processes to best solve the problem at hand. There is no right or wrong ‘one-size-fits-all’, ‘silver bullet’ ux process.

Justin Roberts

You can be from ANY walk of life or industry and offer value as a designer. You’ll have to start as a junior like any industry but whatever you already know is of huge value.

Sure, you’ll need to know the tools of the trade like prototyping software or how to facilitate a story mapping workshop.

But, that can be learnt…

The real EXPERIENCE comes from your previous EXPERIENCE.

Justin Roberts

Here are 7 secret hacks i’ve learnt working as a freelance UX designer over my 20 years of experience.

7 secret hacks for a freelance ux designer

1. Treat everyone as a UX designer

UX will happen regardless of if you have a team of designers or you are a single founder bootstrapping your own company. If you have users, they will experience using your product.

The good, bad and ugly… whatever the result, it is a ‘user experience’

As a UX designer you need to value that everyone is a UX designer is some shape or form.

Use other’s opinions, test your work with your team, your customers and anyone else who can EXPERIENCE your product.

Listen to what they have to say and take the time to truly understand their viewpoints, comments and actions.

As designers we’ve all heard the term “Make it POP!”…

Even this vague feedback has meaning.

2. Always ask why?

If you’re a seasoned freelance ux designer you would have been asked to create some sort of solution without any context. If you’re just starting out you will get asked this.

This ask come in the form of a question phased like this:

  • Can you create a wireframe based on this… [Insert spreadsheet or text document]
  • Can you create a “design” based on this… [Insert poorly thought out wireframe here]

This is where the oh so powerful question comes in of ‘WHY?’

You don’t want to sound rude or like a petulant ‘creative’ type. It is a legitimate and essential question that needs to be answered for you to do your job as a freelance ux designer.

If you answer is not satifactory, ask ‘WHY?’ again.

Honestly, you need to act like a 4 year old until you get the true answer that should sound something like:

  • Conversions have dropped by [X] due to [Insert industry reason]
  • A business goal is to increase product engagement by [X] so we can show measurable improvements to secure our next round of funding.

This is the root problem. It gives you context as a designer to be able to design a true solution.

3. Include the team

Being a freelance UX designer it’s very easy to skip over the inclusion of the extended team and deal directly with stakeholders that’ll approve your invoice.

Not involving your team mates (Other designers, product managers, engineers, etc) will create issues when it’s comes to implementation of a solution.

In my experience the best results happen when the WHOLE team has ownership over the solution.

4. Understand current processes

If you’re a fresh faced freelance consultant joining an existing team or picking up a project others have already worked on, chances are you’re coming into an established process.

You may have the ideal process but be aware of stepping on toes or rocking the boat by assuming your way is the right way.

You process may be much better but introduce it slowly. Make sure the team understands the benefits of doing things differently.

If you expect everyone to change how they work to suit you there will be push back. Recovering from this push back will be much harder than adjusting slowly.

5. Give people a vision

Humans are goal orientated animals. We need to know what the future holds or at least be heading in the direction we think will bring the results we want.

As a freelance UX designer it’s your job to understand the vision and help people visualize how that may work.

The client you’re working for may have a robust vision already and if this is the case, that’s great.

If your client lacks vision, you need to create it and communicate it to the team

6. Start with text

Everyone will want to see a beautiful hi-fidelity mockup of what the product looks like. A mockup like this is the output that seems to be the most valuable and justifies the cost.

This could not be more from the truth. The visual aesthetics of a product comes last, it really is the icing on the cake.

Many design problems can be solves at the core by writing.

Design is communication. If your solution can not be communicated clearly in words, you should not create graphics.

Obviously, you will not be able to describe a complex user interface but you should be able to articulate design principles, rationale, outcomes and metrics.

7. Find data

Back your design decisions up with data. Use existing data or find data though research and usability testing.

This removes opinions from the room. It is very hard to ague with cold hard numbers.

If you can not find direct metrics relating to the product you’re working on dig up some industry stats or build a user profile/persona based on the segment you’re targeting and use that.