By Frank Spillers

UX management team

Summary: For UX management to be effective, the entirety of UX roles needs to be understood. The most common misperception rests with the UX Designer role. For UX to include strong user representation, (its absence is a marker of failure in software projects), the User researcher role is as important as UX Designer. 

Why UX org charts are important

User Experience (UX) has matured over the last decade to a level of practice that is standard in software development. However the level to which UX is practiced, for it to have a positive return on investment on your UX efforts (INFOGRAPHIC) varies between organizations. This is due to incomplete or poorly understood Organizational Charting. 

The Org Chart is important because it shows proper management in two areas: a) proper staffing and b) properly understood roles. Many organizations with 0-3 years or more experience staffing UX roles, think that a UX Designer is all you need. Wrong!

Here is a typical Org Chart for UX:

Chief Experience Officer- Leads vision, builds UX program, Manages team, may lead design and overall ROI and health of the group. 

UX Director- Manages Overall Delivery including hiring and firing, program and resource development. 

•UX Manager- Manages strategic and tactical delivery and liaises with Product, Dev and Marketing teams/management. 

UX Lead- Manages Design and Research execution and delivery; liaises with Product, Dev and Marketing teams. 

UX Designer- Creates Interaction Design, works with User Researchers and Product/Dev team. 

User Researcher- Conducts user testing and field studies. Works with Designers. 

UX Architect- Combines UX design and Data, works with Design/Dev team typically.  

Visual Designer- Creates graphic designs, works with UX Designer/ User Researcher/ UX Architect. 

Note the UX Designer role is a piece in a larger UX execution puzzle. Also this is an Org Chart based on what a fully-staffed UX team practicing industry-standard User Centered Design (the methodology behind good UX) looks like. Several roles can be performed by the same person, depending on Org size and need.  

Which are the most critical roles for good UX process?

Four roles are the most important: UX Lead, UX Researcher, UX Designer, Visual Designer. Most Org have the last two (or combine them in one person) but miss the first two. It is often rare to have UX Managers, Directors or CXO's in an organization. This also depends on region, for example in Asia, UX Managers and Directors are more common than in North America.

User Researcher is one of the most critical value-add roles that is often overlooked. The idea is that UX Designers do everything. It is professionally impossible to produce excellent UX if you are servicing your organization's design needs (PhotoShop). Worse, many UX Designers come from a Graphic Design background or graduate from UX certification programs (like General Assembly) that do not provide strong skill development in User Research. The result is that they spend more time wireframing and designing, than validating designs with users and learning about user goals, needs and desires. 

Conclusion: Your UX management will be weak if UX roles are not clearly understood. Many UX Designers we speak to feel frustrated that they cannot perform their full responsibilities, mainly because their managers or organizations do not understand the full UX Org Chart and where they sit in the range of UX tasks. If you are overloading your UX Designer with internally facing tasks, redefine their role to include User Research-- or hire a User Researcher and/or bring in consulting support.  The first step for many organizations should be to clarify the activities and expectations of your UX Designer against the essential roles in the above UX Org Chart.  

What does your Org Chart regarding UX look like? Please comment below...!