Project Management for UX Designers


UX Project Management – ew, or yay? Which camp are you in?

For some people, the mere thought of keeping a budget and schedule makes their skin crawl. For others it’s a Godsend.

As a UX/UI designer, you’re probably working with a PM right now. If not, perhaps you wish you were.

Either way, it’s good to have some basic project management skills in your tool kit, because even the best project manager will never know your project as well as you do. So here’s three key UX project management tips that might help you move forward if you’re ever stuck.

A Long, Long Time Ago

But first, a little backstory. My web design career began over 20 years ago with a project management role at a software company. It was way back in the 90’s when the web was very young. At the time I didn’t even know project management was a specific discipline. I just seemed to have a knack for getting stuff done.

Thankfully I had a great boss who sent me to NYC for some formal training at the American Management Association, and another one at my next job who paid for my PMP certification (yep, I was once a certified project manager).

And while my UX career eventually evolved from that experience, I’m so thankful for all that project management training. I still rely on it every day to run my business and client projects.

1. Time – Cost – Scope: The Triple Constraints

The most important PM concept is the notion of Time, Cost and Scope, also known as the Triple Constraints. The reason this is so important is because Quality is held together by these three variables throughout any project.

Once time, cost and scope are established, quality is constantly at risk if any of them change. For example, quality assurance (QA) is one of the first things to be cut when a deadline is looming and the creative or development teams need more time.

In a perfect world, quality should be protected by adding more time to the schedule, but that would likely add cost and increase the scope as a result. See how it works?

2. Setting Expectations

Another key UX project management principle is properly setting expectations. Once a project is off the ground there will be a lot of moving parts. Since you will probably know more about your UX/UI project than anyone else, you will have the best vantage point to see progress or road blocks over time.

Think of how important headlights are when you’re driving at night. You can only see about 600 feet in front of you, but that 600 feet is what keeps you on the road. Properly setting expectations is like that – it helps your team see the road ahead.

And whether it’s good or bad, always keep your team and stakeholders informed. There may be times when you have to deliver disappointing news.

Try to remember it’s not you – it’s just information. Information that can make the difference between course correcting and crashing depending on when it is received and understood by everyone.

3. Managing Change

Last but not least, I believe the ability to manage change is the most important skill to have as a project manager. In more than 20 years I’ve never once finished with the same exact plan I started with.

No matter how much research you do, it’s impossible to have everything you need to know to get started on any project. If you’re lucky, you’ll get 60-70% tops. The rest you will discover as you go along. That’s because new information, new people, and external influences often crop up once a project gets the green light.

So clear communication is absolutely critical to effectively manage change. Whether you use online tools like TeamworkZoom, or Slack, don’t be afraid to over-communicate.

For example, before you get everyone in a room to make a major design decision, it’s probably best to have a few side conversations first to see where everyone’s at.

And once everyone is on the same page, document it. Not as a CYA – it’s to make sure everyone truly is in agreement and so that you’ll have a reliable reference later on when you can’t remember who said what because you’re putting out a brand new fire.

Your Turn

How do you manage your UX/UI projects? Do you agree with the tips outlined above? What’s working? What’s not working? What are you struggling with the most right now? Hit reply and let me know.

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