7 performance boosting secrets a freelance UX designer should know.

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

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’

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.

Being able to adapt and evolve to different teams and projects is the number one trait a freelance UX designers needs.

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!

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

If you have users, they will experience using your product.

Justin Roberts

UX will happen regardless of if you have a team of designers or you are a single founder bootstrapping your own company.

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

As a UX designer you need to value everyone’s UX opinion. Treat them as UX Designers themself.

Use other people’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, behaviors and actions.

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

Even this vague feedback will have a basis in logic. It’s your job to figure out what that means.

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 on the problem or user need.

This ask will come in the form of a question possibly phrased 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]
  • Can you design a form for this [Some vague reason]

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

‘Why?’ is a legitimate and essential question that needs to be answered for you to do your job as a freelance ux designer.

If your answer is not satisfactory, ask ‘WHY?’ again.

You need to act like a 4 year old until you get a reasonable answer that should sound something like:

  • Can you create a wireframe based on this
    Conversions have dropped by [X] due to [Insert industry reason]
  • Can you create a “design” based on this
    A business goal is to increase product engagement by [X] so we can show measurable improvements to secure our next round of funding.
  • Can you design a form for this
    There is a business objective to [X] but this form is not converting. We believe we need to redesign it.

This is always a core problem. Find it… 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.

Reach out to your extended team and find out who plays a part in the solution creation.

Involve them in your process and decision making.

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.

Your 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. (Been there done that)

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

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

Justin Roberts

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 your client is outlaying.

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

A cake that tastes horrible is not a cake. Suddenly, what that cake looks like is irrelevant.

A designed solution should always start with text. These are some of the writing exercises I use before I sketch a single UI or user flow.

  • Articulate the core problem you need to solve and the metrics you expect to improve based on solving that problem.
  • List your knowns and more importantly your unknowns.
  • List your risks, assumptions, Issues and Dependencies (RAID)
  • Articulate the design principles
  • Articulate your desired user needs and outcomes. (You can format these using Agile User Stories)
  • Write down the steps in the flow

You don’t need to be able to describe a complex user interface (although it is possible) but as a minimum 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.