Book Review: UX Team of One by Leah Buley

UX Team of One by Leah Buley has been with me since my first steps in the world of UX.

Last year, I had the chance to read a draft of the book and give Leah my comments. Back then, I was finding my feet as a self-taught UX practitioner (as a Sociology, ethnographic research, and visual design mixed-breed). The book was a life saver. I have now read it a second time, after working as the sole UX practitioner at Future Workshops for a year and a half. Below are my impressions from a year’s journey with UX Team of One:

From ideology to career building blocks

UX Team of One isn’t just a manifesto. This book is a practical guide, fueled by inspiring theory. The introduction touches on the basics of UX but only to set up the meatier parts of the book, which offer step-by-step instructions to many of the important methods in the user-centered design toolkit.

It is also immensely encouraging. UX Team of One encourages you to take the full responsibility that comes with caring about user experience. It’s not just full of product-focused methods but also tips on getting stakeholder buy-in, handling project constraints, thinking through business considerations and other “real world” concerns.

Aside from useful methods, the book is full of some unexpected gems:

  • How to respond to common objections to UX (my personal nemesis: “but we already know what needs to be done.”)
  • Tips on growing your career, not just your toolkit. Things like making each engagement ready for success, time management, professional organizations, and resources for further education.
  • Bargaining power. Each approach and method are backed up with benefits, reasoning, and case studies that help you understand when to use it and how to sell it to your boss, client, and colleagues.

The practical stuff

Leah Buley’s User Experience Team of One is packed with practical methods. Practical in the sense that they are actually possible to use. Each method Leah recommends is light on time and budget, easy to maintain, and is inclusive of your colleagues, clients, and peers. One of the key skills the book helped me develop is carefully considering the fit of each possible method based on its expected outcomes. It’s a great lesson in prioritizing.

How to make the best of UX Team of One

To get a first mental imprint of what’s inside, I recommend reading the book once swiftly. From then on, you can use it as a reference in your day-to-day work. I’ve used it as a checklist, a refresher for the methods I’d heard about but never used, a way to compare and contrast different approaches, and even a guide to explain a new activity to a boss or a colleague.

UX Team of One showed me how I could make things work within massive constraints. But it also pushed me to want to do more, grow my confidence, spread the word about UX, and keep improving. It’s realistic and idealistic at the same time – a rare gift in life and in design literature.

If I could marry a book…

Where other books felt like a foreign collection of methods, User Experience Team of One felt like a blueprint for my own journey. With this book, Leah Buley guided me as I turned my passion and varied range of skills into a focused UX practice. In the process, I discovered my own perspective and an approach that fit my unique work context. With her help, I became a UX Team of One within a supportive, user-centered team of many.

UX Team of One book page on Rosenfeld Media

Leah Buley on Twitter: @ugleah