The UX Team at SDL – What we do

In the last post I introduced the UX team at SDL and explained our general motivation with this community group. In this post I will describe “What we do” in more detail, so the services we offer and how those map to the UX roles we have in our team.

The services the UX team at SDL offers can be broken down into 4 main pillars:

1) Strategic UX describes the collaboration of the UX team with the business, and more particularly with the product management teams. This includes all kind of activities that help defining, validating, and shaping the definition and direction of a product or service. Typical activities include design thinking & service design workshops, ideation sessions, concept validation, and the definition of design goals and success metrics. These activities ensure that UX has ownership in defining and prioritizing new features and capabilities, and influence product roadmaps with the users in mind. Strategic UX is about asking the right questions, framing design problems, and setting a design direction without jumping to solutions. For new initiatives with a high level of uncertainty, we added some lean UX methodologies to our strategic UX toolbox. This involves formulating assumptions and hypothesis about outcomes and impact, which we then can test and validate. To cover Strategic UX activities at SDL in a structural manner we introduced the “UX Strategist” role with great success.

2) User Research helps us understand the context of our customers and users including their individual goals, needs, and business objectives. Our primary research goals are to answer specific design questions, inform our overall UX design process with data, and continually increase the understanding of our users within our cross-functional development teams. Most commonly we perform qualitative research which mainly means visiting customers at their desks. There we perform contextual inquiries, conduct user interviews, or run informal usability tests of products and prototypes. Typical research deliverables include user personas, use case scenarios, user journeys, and a lot other design artifacts that describe the complexity and the challenges our users deal with on a day to day basis. We are also making progress in collecting more and more quantitative data describing how our products are being used via what we call “Telemetry”. Stay tuned for a blog post dedicated to this very topic!

3) Interaction Design represents the work most people in software development traditionally associate with “UX”. It focuses on the usability and usefulness of a design solution. It is all about iteratively working out detailed designs for a stated problem which then can be tested. For this we use design prototypes that simulate the anticipated end user experience as good and realistic as possible and necessary. This allows us to test and validate designs before a developer writes a single line of code which is necessary as correcting a wrong assumption is way more difficult and expensive ones it is being build. So ones we are confident that a design addresses the actual problem and will work for its intended audience, we start working it out in all necessary detail. This also includes the support of the development team with the implementation. Interaction design deliverables include scenarios for key personas, information architecture diagrams, screen-flow charts, sketches and wireframes, low- and high-fidelity prototypes, as well the detailed user interface specifications including colors, typography, spacing, behavior - everything that is needed to build it.

4) Digital Experience Design is closely related to interaction design but focuses on the desirability and “lovability” of a design. Its goal is to delight users, not only to give them usable solutions. If successful, digital experience design can stimulate positive and memorable experiences that users will associate with SDL as a brand. To craft such experiences, we carefully experiment with visual aesthetics, subtle nuances in typography, look at minimal but consistent use of product branding, and add illustrations and graphic design elements to our interaction designs. Digital experience design deliverables include detailed visual designs for screens and controls, sets of icons, illustrations, and “micro-interactions” (animations and transitions). All deliverables are documented in form of libraries and design guidelines to ensure consistency across products and services.

We currently distinguish 3 different roles in the UX team including UX Strategist (UXS), UX Designer (UXD), and Digital Experience Designer (DXD). The graphic below illustrates how the roles map to the four services as described above.

To complete the picture of “What we do”, let me add a description of my own duties as the UX Director too. My primary focus lays on managing the UX team at which I carry the responsibility that the team can be effective, efficient, and has the right focus. This includes finding the right talent, facilitating team growth, defining and evolving the team’s structure and processes, providing appropriate tooling, enabling team communication and collaboration, and balancing the need for design in the organization with the available resources.

I am also representing UX within SDL’s leadership team and the wider organization. In this function I am aligning UX with various adjacent disciplines and stakeholders. As an evangelist for UX and design thinking in the wider organization I am promoting a holistic customer-centric perspective across our internal teams and organizational silos. The commitment we made towards delivering great customer and user experiences across all touch-points of the customer journey requires a rigorous outside-in thinking from all stakeholders involved. Working with them all on coordinating and aligning our combined efforts is part of my personal mission at SDL. Finally, I am also representing UX design to external, this includes various activities as for instances setting up this community group with the aim to show that SDL is serious and passionate about UX design.

What’s next?

In the next blog post I will continue the introduction to UX at SDL, covering “What we work on”. I will describe how we look at customer experience from an outside-in perspective and how that defines our scope. If you subscribe to our feed, you can both join the discussion and be sure not to miss anything. However you choose to follow us, it would be great to see you back soon and often!