David ParmeleeUser Research & UX Strategy for Development Shops

Your development shop should not be building products on spec or automatically bolting on every feature idea that is just technically feasible. These approaches may result in a passable MVP or v1. But, to stand the test of time and future releases, you need a better system.

I help dev shops create products that more of their target audience will use and buy. To do this, I use user research techniques that help us make data-driven design decisions based on your users' goals, pain points, breadth of tasks, expected business value, and expected market share. This leads to a well-prioritized prototype for your next release and a roadmap for your future releases.

I have over 10 years of experience, evenly split between development and UX, and my upcoming ebook is UX for Development Shops. Download the first 2 chapters for free on my website.

Recent Answers

Every new field on a signup form costs you more conversions from people who might become established contributors in your community.

Registration is never a user goal in itself. Don’t assume that you’ll get users just by making the first screen of your app a sign-in wall.

Your app needs to convince people of real reasons not only for signing up but also for providing the information that you want them to provide. They need to build their trust in your app first, and the more personal the information you want is, the more trust-building it takes to convince them to provide it.

If you think of collecting this data after registration as a funnel in itself, you won’t get all of the data for everyone, but you will build up more trust. Over time, you could expect to have more data (on average) from the users in your community who are more engaged.

To collect the data in this manner, first, think of a benefit for every piece of data that you are asking for. Is it only for your benefit or clearly for theirs as well?

Second, think of the best time to ask for this information. People will have the most goodwill for contributing it if they can experience the benefit (the first step above) right after they give it to you.

So that’s the users’ perspective. Now for your investors’ perspective: how important is it for your community to be exclusive? For example, if you’re setting up a network of verified experts in a field or you clearly distinguish between contributors and consumers, you need to verify the contributors’ expertise. A community where anyone with any set of credentials can contribute will not have as strong of a need for that.

I'm a UX strategy consultant with significant experience working with developers and startups. In most cases, yes, you should hire a UX designer first.

In my ebook, I’ve written several reasons each for hiring a UX designer first and for hiring a developer first. Here are the ones which apply to what you are describing.

The case for hiring a UX person first:

1. They can help you validate or create the requirements for your product. They do rigorous research, focused on how your potential users would use your product - as opposed to a market researcher’s research, which focuses on what they will buy.

2. UX designers are good at imagining the world as it can be (as opposed to the world as it is), based on your users’ goals. So that helps you to truly move ahead of your competition.

3. A UX designer can build a prototype that helps you raise funding without requiring any code to be written. You don’t need to write code in order to have an MVP. Even a fake door pretotype (not prototype) can gauge interest in a new product or feature.

4. This is rarer in the mobile app world, but for website projects, companies may have already decided on a no-code platform.

The case for hiring a developer first:

1. You may have a solution to a complex enough problem that just getting a functional prototype built will be a huge win. This may be a good path for getting your first check from a big customer.

2. You may have already committed to a ship date and “can only get it built”. A UX designer works most effectively when there is time upfront for user research. If you need someone to jump straight into design and development, you may have to live and learn.

3. If you yourself have both deep expertise in UX - as opposed to just knowing how to use a prototyping tool - and the time to do UX work, you may be able to just hire a developer.

I know you already have a wireframe, but you should expect your wireframes to change after working with a UX designer. UX (as opposed to visual design, often called UI/UX) is more focused on problem-solving and research than on making an existing wireframe pretty.

Work at a fixed price rather than hourly if you are concerned about going over budget. Expect UX consultants to charge per project phase and/or per iteration to work well within this framework since a big part of their work is discovery. Fixed prices are a better arrangement for both client and consultant because it moves both of you away from micromanaging the work process and scrutinizing timesheets.

Let me know if you're interested in a call to discuss further.

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