5 pitfalls for UX design projects - and how to avoid them

Blog / 12 Aug 2019

Research + Design + User Experience + Data-driven decisions = UX Design.


UX design projects are complex. Many factors are involved.

From user research to business objectives and stakeholders' opinions; there's a high risk that a UX design project won't deliver.

In our latest article we reveal the 5 most common pitfalls - and how to avoid them.


Pitfall no. 1: Nobody in the team has experience in structuring and implementing UX design projects

The success of UX design projects depends on the ability to shape it as a methodical and systematic process in the right direction. We could argue about the type, number and order of the project stages. But certain processes are not negotiable, e.g. only data analysis provides the relevant information which makes genuine UX design possible. This means that chaos is inevitable if no one on the team knows how to do UX design projects. Should you still come to a result, it is either worthless or stays below your potential.

Our advice: Do not start without expertise. Read technical papers, blog articles, white papers and suchlike about how to get up to real UX design. Attend webinars and training. Host a workshop with external UX experts. In other words: Prefer to move slowly and purposefully than fail fast and chaotically.


Pitfall no. 2: Ambitious leaders dominate the solution development

Emotions are the natural enemies of UX projects. After all, the point is not to simply implement what the designer "likes", the tired project manager rubber-stamps shortly before closing time or bloggers recommend as best practice. The influence of alpha men and women from the executive level is particularly fatal. They are used to making decisions and will not refrain from doing so in UX projects.

But good UX design is based solely on incorruptible data. Data reveal the problems. Testing proves whether solutions work. Opinions and creativity do matter, but in systematically conducted UX projects, subjectivity should not set the tone.

Our advice: Restrict the human factor. Define the relevant stakeholders (CIO, Creative Director, Project Manager, external experts, etc) and their roles (insight, input, review, approve, etc) at specific points in the process (strategy stage, research stage, test stage, etc). Ensure that the whole team follows the instructions. The fewer concessions, the better the results. Let the data lead.


Pitfall no. 3: The problem statements are inaccurate

A problem can only be solved if it is identified correctly. Therefore, the goal of all research activities is to distil a number of problem statements from the collected facts and insights. All solutions (from the idea to sketches to prototypes) that emerge during the project can then be evaluated based on the identified problem. Although this procedure is exhausting and requires a lot of discipline, it is necessary to find real solutions. Not investing enough time on this analysis will likely lead to wasted resource.

Our advice: Make sure that the problem statement answers these four questions:

  • What is the problem?
  • Who is affected by the problem?
  • What are the consequences if the problem cannot be solved?
  • What is the desired outcome once the problem is overcome?

Beyond that, UX teams should write user need statements. These can be really helpful and form the basis to a problem statement and keep everyone focused on "who" the problem is affecting.


Pitfall no. 4: Solutions do not reconcile the goals

UX design should convince the user. Nonetheless, solutions must also be technologically feasible and serve business goals. So, there are three scenarios for undesirable developments. Solutions serve business interests but not users; or they are technologically innovative but too expensive; or they offer the customers great experiences but cannot be technically implemented with reasonable effort. The optimum is achieved when a solution meets all three goals equally.

Our advice: Create a future concept in a strategy workshop. The future concept is a first, roughly sketched solution. It is the goal of the line whose beginning is the problem. Create the future concept AFTER the detailed description of the problem, because the dependence of all steps forward to the beginning is important. Think 2-3 years ahead and be bold.


Pitfall no. 5: There are not enough resources available for UX projects

It takes a lot of effort to systematically execute a UX project from start to finish. It costs time and money but, above all, a lot of discipline. UX projects challenge project managers because they have to put together a heterogenous team of people of different trades and positions in a tight corset of rules and tasks. They also need to uphold the motivation and belief that the result of a methodically clean UX process is worth the effort.

Our advice: Assess the internal competencies and resources honestly. Find out how much practical experience with UX projects actually exists in your team. Keep in mind that UX projects employ important players in the company who will then have less time for day-to-day operations. If necessary, hire specialised consultants. They support you in project management, strategy development and design. In addition, they bring know-how into the company and spare internal resources.

Of course, there are more pitfalls that threaten UX design projects. In our white paper The Marriage of the Rational and the Emotional. A Methodology for Experience Design we explore the topic in greater detail.