Working with designers of any kind can be tricky if you’re not sure where to start and if you don’t have an end vision in mind. This week we caught up with Annie Slattery, Co-founder & CEO at ConX - a platform that helps tradies find work and hire through a reliable online network - to hear her tips for successfully working with a UX Designer.
Matt has been working with us on two main projects, the first was to redesign the UX and flow of the platform. The second was helping us to create a network for our community to connect.
One of the benefits of working with Matt is that he got the big picture really quickly and was able to get up to speed on our user-base, the language they use and their motivations. All of our designs and in-app communications needed to resonate with our user base, the tradies, and Matt absolutely nailed that from the beginning.
He is super reliable, extremely professional, responsive and above else, showed a lot of patience, understanding and flexibility with the volatile nature of a startup. Although the design aspect of the project has wrapped up, Matt is still available on Slack at a minutes notice to give advice and feedback as we build it out.
Since coming out the other side of the projects, I wanted to share three key tips for those looking to engage and work with a UX designer - which most can be applied to other design contractors you might engage.
1. Be clear on the desired outcome, and structure objectives and goals around that
Before you meet with the designer, make sure you have a brief which includes a clear vision, goals and objectives for the project. If the overall vision of the business is articulated well, coupled with the objectives of the project, then you will be giving your working relationship the best start possible. Once you’ve painted your vision, break it down into clear objectives of how to get to that goal. Having this framework will give your designer a solid idea of what you’re trying to achieve as a business and how you’re trying to communicate with your audience.
2. Agree on budgets and key deliverables at the start
We’ve all heard of horror stories when working with external suppliers, stories of budget blow-out and unforeseen scope creep - all which can result in the death of a startup. We were really lucky working with Matt as he had a great way of working with our team, especially when it came to finances. Before work commenced on a project, we agreed on the deliverables, key milestones and costs. From there, we met weekly as a team to discuss how the project was progressing to ensure there were no surprises along the way. Matt was brilliant and delivered everything ahead of time and to budget.
On the second project, centred on opening up the user network, there was a bit of ambiguity as to how it should be tackled from both a business and design perspective. Matt held a workshop for the entire team to get together and flesh out ideas. Matt ran a half day tissue-session as he was sensitive to fact that we were time-poor as a startup. By getting everyone on the team's input from a sales, marketing and “tradie” perspective we had full buy-in on the project before he began designing. Off the back of the workshop Matt developed a prototype of the design for the team to go out to market and get live feedback.
3. Don’t underestimate the technical resources required to execute the designs
One of the biggest learnings I can impart for anyone engaging a UX designer to launch a new project, is to make sure you’ve got the resources to implement the wonderful new designs they’ve created! Our CTO sat in on the weekly meetings to ensure we weren’t using designs that were technically challenging or too time-consuming to implement. As a designer, Matt is extremely well versed on HTML and front end development which was a big bonus for us. We’ve introduced Vue.js into ConX with the new design, and as a result, are going through a complete transition from one platform to another which is proving quite tricky. To complete the project, we’ve hired a new front end developer full-time, and have upskilled another one of the devs on Vue.js. It’s no secret finding strong talent not just in the Australian ecosystem, but throughout the world, is really difficult. So if you’re embarking on a big design project, make sure to budget the development costs and time accordingly so you can hit the ground sprinting when the designs are complete.
A big thanks to Annie for her helpful insights on how we can get the best out of working with external suppliers.
How have you worked with designers in the past? Do you have any other tips to add?