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March 11, 2022

7 biggest UX designer challenges

Project Management Resource Management
Agnieszka Sienkiewicz

The “user experience” (UX) field is not entirely new. It has been around since the 1950s and has quite matured since then. But it does not mean that it is free from flaws. In fact, there are still many challenges UX designers often face in their everyday work.

Company culture, workflow, and methodology, among others, play significant roles in designers’ work and often are the sources of various challenges. And even despite all the new tools, technologies, and approaches UX designers can employ, certain difficulties cannot be readily fixed.

So, what are those UX designer challenges you could encounter these days? Let’s dive straight into it and find out.

1. Fuzzy role titles and duties

While the general population is familiar with the term “designer”, the same cannot be said for the “UX” part. Many people confuse it with graphic design and associate it mainly with the visual part of the design process. Even worse, they consider UI and UX design to be closely related or even interchangeable.

It often happens that companies that decided to hire a UX designer do not fully comprehend their role; they have no clear idea about what they need from their designers or what value they can deliver for them. Because of that, the meaning of the UX designer role varies from one company to another. Consequently, some designers do not have the opportunity to fully exercise their potential and go through all the stages of the Design Thinking process.

UX designers are involved in all phases of the Design Thinking process, starting with researching user pain points and ending with product usability testing.

 

Secondly, a company size and growth stage also determine the scope of the UX designer’s duties. In-house designers, who work for small companies or startups, are one-man armies engaged in an entire life-cycle of customer experience. Whereas larger companies tend to hire professionals who specialize in a specific area of user experience, for instance, user research or information architecture.

2. Issues with user research

UX designers are advocates for the goals and needs of the product end-users. They find those needs and goals through various research methods that allow them to hear from the users directly. They can also observe users working with the product to understand what users do and why. User research is an integral part of the design process that brings more intuitive and user-friendly products. On the other hand, user research is very sensitive to the human factor. That being the case, it can become a source of various UX designer challenges.

One of the biggest issues concerns recruiting the participants for the interview or test, because they need to meet several criteria to qualify. For that reason, recruiting the right respondents for user research can be time and effort-intensive. And if that was not enough, UX designers need to go to great lengths to conduct those interviews or tests; they need to bear in mind users’ time zones, availability, venues, and technical background (in case of remote research).

UX research employs many methods which differ in terms of cost and feasibility.

 

3. Tight budget and deadlines

One cannot buy more project time (or resources) on a restricted budget. These two factors alone can heavily impact design and the entire product development cycle. Many UX designers care for the projects and advocate for the users’ needs, especially when the project resonates with them. Therefore, finding ways to pack as much value into the budget on a project can be challenging to many designers.

Also, considering that some companies or clients underrate the designers’ input, it becomes even more challenging to negotiate a budget to get the most out of the project. This leads to another point on the UX designer challenges list—proving the value of good experience design.

4. Undervalued UX design

User experience is a process that starts with identifying the needs and finishes with building a product or service that satisfies those needs. Whereas a design is a system of interconnected values and principles that supports the building of that experience. Sadly, many companies fail to understand what great experiences genuinely mean.

As a consequence, the experience designers can spend a lot of time educating senior leaders and managers on the importance of proper product research and workflow with the users.

Moreover, UX designers should not shy away from using their abilities to align the organization with the user’s perceived value. They are well equipped with the right skills to understand their user behaviors, pain points, and the problems they are trying to solve. Therefore, they can help companies understand which touch-points they should prioritize, recognize the core funnels through user journey mapping, and identify product-related metrics. All of these are essential to define the user experience with the product.

5. Juggling between design solutions and business

Like time and budget are mutually connected, the same goes for design and business.

The product development strategy and design solutions should always run in parallel with the company’s business goals. But to have this couple happily married, experience designers should be open to compromises. On the one hand, there are UX designers with their user-centric mindset striving to deliver products people will love. On the other, there are businesses that run on profits. These two sides of the coin need to come together.

A woman juggling colorful balls. Each of the balls represent of the the ux designer's challenges.

But it does not mean that companies do not want to invest in user experience—they do, but in return, they want to see results. To reach the consensus, UX professionals should design to increase users’ satisfaction with the product which, in turn, will boost customer loyalty. Consequently, an increase in both of these will have a positive impact on the company revenue.

6. Aligning with the development

Developers and designers are equally important but can be very different in their mindsets. UX designers may even feel they speak a different language than engineers. That is because designers look at the product from the user’s perspective, while developers think in terms of technical solutions.

Nonetheless, a product created purely by the engineers may not be usable, and the design without engineers will not come to life. That is why both sides need each other. They also should be well-aligned with their common objectives by communicating and educating each other on their vision, obstacles, approaches, and expectations.

7. Focusing on one problem

UX designers are problem-solvers, but also very curious individuals. They get to the heart of a problem by asking meaningful questions and looking at it from their users’ perspectives. But the more they poke and prod, the more insights they will uncover, which will reveal new issues. Naturally, those problems UX designers will also feel they need to solve. This can lead designers astray, or make it difficult to prioritize the right problem.

Since time and budget are defined and limited, there are only so many problems that are solvable in the scope of the given project. It is natural that UX designers will uncover new pain points they will want to address. Due to these, staying focused on the right problem can be challenging. But, if you work as a member of a team, you surely use management software (e.g., JIRA, BigPicture) to set goals and objectives and track them.

Staying on the same page with the rest of the team will help you work on one smaller goal. In a long run, you will learn how to solve individual goals one iteration at a time without feeling overwhelmed with all the new insights you have recently discovered. Consequently, you will remain more focused on the bigger goal you want to solve.

Michael Jordan's quote. Focus like a laser, not like a flashlight.

Wrapping up

UX designers bridge product end-users with companies that make those products. Because they work with the business and technical side of the organization, they need to stay aligned with these two. They also need to educate on the users’ needs, while ensuring their solutions bring business values. This is probably one of the biggest UX designer challenges that many professionals face, regardless of the organization they work for.

Furthermore, since UX designers are involved in a full life-cycle of customer experience, they need to be equipped with several skills, such as prototyping, user interviewing, and data analysis. On top of that, they design for the experience—an abstract notion that cannot be looked at or touched. Therefore, explaining the role itself, or fitting into the company’s expectations, can be a challenge at times. Designers may also face the need to validate the value of their input and their role in a project.

And finally, UX designers push for the need of conducting user research, do their best to recruit the right user base, and make the interviews and tests happen—despite the limited project budget and time.