The 5 Questions That Reveal A UX Team's Real Worth

Thought experiment: Will you pick up a half-priced bottle of Dom Pérignon from Coles if the bottle topper is red plastic?

That's a UX mess worthy of being immortalized in memes and 'never-do-this' folders.

UX blunders of this monstrosity don’t navigate the path from being a prototype to a product sitting pretty on a retail shelf, generally. Still, subtler yet equally hilarious strains of UX-gone-wrongs are vexing unfortunate users as you read this. Critical content lurking below the fold, auto-checked 'I agree' boxes, and bottomless drop-down lists; you might not even detect these killjoys; they’re only evident in the half-uttered cuss words spewing from an annoyed user’s mouth.

Once you jumpstart a digital product development project, you don't want to lose yourself in daily meetings to discuss color choices for BUY NOW buttons with your tech vendor.

Instead, you want someone who:

  • Knows what they're doing
  • Knows that you do not know the answer
  • Knows what they don't know, and hence, what they must test and experiment

Avoid packed calendars after project sign-off. Vet your tech vendor with these 5 questions, designed to winnow the chaff from the wheat.

Question 1: What is UX; I'm clueless; explain it like I'm a teen.

Why ask? To signal that you expect clear, buzzword-free, and blabber-proof communication.

Words from Wikipedia's definition of UX design are like eye-stabs. Such a description is unnecessary in corporate boardrooms, and for business owners like you, it's gibberish of the highest order. Perhaps university students may benefit from it.

You’ll observe that this question will reveal your vendor’s understanding of UX design: An extension of visual design, a version of workflow design, or something deeper? Moreover — admit it — watching your tech vendor's pre-sales professionals sweat, that’s decent entertainment.

Don't expect or insist on well-rounded definitions, because none exist. Since 2005, the Neurointeractive team has developed 100+ digital experiences. (Neurointeractive ’s the dedicated digital experience design arm of Neuronimbus, our full-stack digital services company.)

While I don’t endorse any concrete definition of UX; I admit the following bottles its essence.

"To design UX is to understand users, their behaviors, and their wants; to use the knowledge to design digital prompts; to bring these prompts together to build a gratifying digital product."

Question #2: How much of UX is about visual design brilliance?

Why ask? To signal that you know that UX is more than visual design.

People can be forgiven for associating visual imagery with the word 'design'. Before the mid-19th century, the meaning of 'design' was more 'to plot, mark, designate, devise, scheme' than to 'draw an outline or figure'.

Your tech vendor ought to know better.

Visual creativity is only one of the many tools in UX designers’ toolkit they use to deliver satisfying digital interactions to users. It's not the only one, it’s not even the major one. I'd trade a bright visual designer for someone who knows how the human brain works when it’s locked in on an iPhone screen.

Question 3: What's your company's UX philosophy?

Why ask? Reveals whether your vendor specializes in UX, or treats it as part-and-parcel of development projects.

So, digest your vendor's answer with a pinch of salt (and a dollop of peanut butter). What you're after, at this stage, are signals that these people know when to be creative, when to be circumspect, and when to be downright sticklers for trends.

An insider secret from the world of UX design: Plagiarism isn’t without merits in this line of work, sometimes.

Puzzled? Don't be. Haven't you ever swatted your mouse cursor around on a funky home page, looking for the hamburger menu icon at the top left or right corner? You do so because you're familiar with it, you know that’s where you find the navigation menu, you expect to find it where it’s supposed to be. Obviously, when a UX designer, in a spasm of innovation, decides to remove it, he risks annoying users.

Question 4: Which skills do you value in a UX designer?

Why ask? Partly because you owe an easy, open-ended, friendly question to your vendor, and partly because it checks how nuanced their knowledge of UX is.

In an oddly elegant and utterly incisive diagram titled ‘The Elements of User Experience’, Jesse James Garrett presented UX as a ladder of layers.


From its constituents, you can infer that UX design is a complex field. A strong UX team is the coming together of skills that go beyond technology and extend into the domains of user research, content development, information architecture, navigation design, and of course, visual design. On top of that, you need the presence of an experienced UX team-leader who understands the science behind why people do what they do — good ol' behavioral psychology.

Question 5: What exactly are you after with your passion for UX?

Why ask? To nudge your vendor into articulating why they believe UX matters.

The answer to this question, ideally, should evolve.

We used to challenge every convention when we didn’t know better. Thankfully, we failed cheaply, got back on our feet, brushed the dust and debris off our coat-tails, and regrouped. Like I said, UX isn’t all about inventing something new every day. Familiarity, intuition, consistency - they all count.

Today, for Neurointeractive, all the passion translates into one overarching goal, that’s of retention. CRUX, we call this approach, that’s Customer Retention through User Experience. This means retention of attention, retention of interest, retention of familiarity, and by force of all this, retention of customers. After all, your customer has already said YES. Now, retain them. We've immortalized this spirit with a name to serve as a missive, a reminder, and a guidepost.

These questions, some thrown at us by demanding clients, and some an outcome of our introspections, have irked, prodded, and eventually empowered us. I hope they help you too. Message me for assistance in finding a digital experience design vendor that fits your mold.

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About the author
Hitesh DhawanFounder, CEO at Neuronimbus Software Services

A successful serial entrepreneur, mentor and investor. Hitesh comes from the 'street smart' crop with over 18 years of experience in the digital solutions domain. A passionate people’s man who has worked on delivering business solutions and unlocking...

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