Design Tuts

Using Design Tools to Become a One-Man Design Team

As designers, we can often find ourselves on a bit of an island. Whether we are working independently or at an in-house position, there are times when we are left to fill many job roles that merit an entire design team.

I recently experienced this situation at my previous job where I was a solo user experience designer at a company employing thousands of people. I had to do my own research, wireframes, prototyping, functional specs, visual design, etc. I had no team to help accomplish these tasks, but I still had deadlines as if I did.

On the one hand, it was a great experience to work in all of these different roles. On the other, I was rarely afforded the opportunity to focus in on one of these disciplines and perform it at the level I would have liked.

This is me, stressed out.

Does this describe you? Are you the lone designer working at a company tasked with accomplishing the many tasks that a team would normally tackle? Maybe you are working as a freelancer and certain projects need many of these roles to be filled to really produce an excellent result.

How do we handle multiple roles?

I propose we build our own team. A team consisting of you and design tools.

I will share with you how I used some very valuable (and relatively affordable) tools and resources to help me tackle a few different roles at a much higher level than if I was trying to do it all on my own.

I used four different tools and resources to help me in my struggle to produce well-informed solutions that met my deadlines.

These four things are data-gathering tools (ClickTale), design pattern galleries/libraries, wireframing/prototyping (Axure), and design resource sites (like Designmoo and 365psd).

You can swap out the specific tools I’ll be mentioning with your preferred tools and resources, but I wanted to share with you my personal setup as a proof-of-concept.

Tools Can’t Replace People

Before going any further, let me first say that working in a team environment is almost always more fruitful than trying to do all multiple roles on our own. But when you’re at a company that doesn’t have the budget to form a design team or are working independently as a freelancer, sometimes you just have to do the best with what you have, to ensure that the results are the best they can be.

With that said, let’s go over these four types of tools.

Data-Gathering Tools

Let’s start with ClickTale, a great research/analytics tool that shows you how users are interacting with your web pages. ClickTale allows you to track page views along with some basic analytics reports that you could get from a free alternative like Google Analytics. But its strength is in features like heat maps, click-tracking, scroll reach (how far down the page your users scroll), recorded sessions of users interacting with your site/product so you can see how they navigate your site, and some great web form analytics. Six Revisions uses ClickTale on the front page of this site.


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