I answered this question over at Quora, and thought it might make a great post here (plus I’ve been busy). Read on…
Having a bad UX designer can kill a startup, or seriously hinder a product. I’ve worked on several products past and present that had a lot of catchup to do because the previous UX designers and product types were brought on because they were cheap.
Remember, developers will build what’s designed, and if what is designed has issues, that’s going to be the result.
Money and Options That’s Appropriate To Finding Great Talent
There’s nothing worse than hearing the sentence, “We pay less than other places and we think the option package is fair.” While UX Designers are not completely driven by money, they want to be rewarded for what they bring to the table. In that sense, their talent can sometimes make or break a startup.
I love what I do, but I also have to pay rent on my posh mansion in North Beach (sarcasm). Unless the idea is going to cure cancer, the business folks should have the funding in place to pay for talent.
Great development talent is finite, but so is great UX talent. Both should be compensated accordingly.
A Great Idea To Start
UX Designers are in tune with what works and what doesn’t (well, the good ones, anyway). If a UX Designer interviews, looks at the idea, and screams at the founder, “This will work only if hell freezes over,” and the founder is STILL insistent on the approach as described, that company doesn’t want a UX Designer, they want a wireframe monkey.
We as a group get to work on very few ideas that are truly special, and I’m going to put effort into something I want to believe in.
A Champion In Management
Most UX Designers that are good aren’t necessarily the most politically correct, so they need someone in management to give them the support to run the UX Process so it’s about finding the best solution and not have it be design of one or design by committee.
The best clients I’ve had and wanted to work with wanted to test over and over, because that’s when you got the best feedback.
Freedom From A Cubicle
I believe that the best UX doesn’t come on a 9-to-5 schedule — it may happen in a bar, or walking, or at 11pm at home. It may happen 1,000 miles away. You never know. Collaboration is important, but like any great company, there should be freedom to work away from people and let ideas percolate.
I’ve been told a few times, “your job is to sit in a coffee house and think up shit.” That’s what UX designers do — they think up ideas. They watch people. They observe their surroundings. And they come up with amazing solutions to really tough problems. You cannot do that in a cubicle.
This is probably why so many UX Designers like to work remote (like me) — because that’s how they work the best.
Look To Products You Like — And Steal That Designer
The good UX designers are on LinkedIn, Coroflot, and usually can be found hidden in plain sight. They write blogs. They surf Quora. Do reference checks with other UX designers to ask how good they are.
Contact them directly. Tell them about your idea. If it’s a really good idea, they’ll listen. If the idea isn’t so good, they’ll tell you why.
Best of all, you’ll learn if they are easy to collaborate with, because the idea you started with is not the idea that’s going to launch.