This is a story about how one of our favorite new clients is changing the way we work.

A New Service Designed By Our Client— “UX Study Hall”

February 14, 2023

We listen to our customers.

Call them anything you want— users, humans, people, customers, clients, prospects— they are the people that keep us in business. Without them, there is no Useagility. You clicked the link and you’re here now, right? Thanks for being here.

Our current favorite client asked us to user her retainer hours on what she’s affectionately labeled “Study Hall,” half-days spent collaboratively working on various digital projects for her organization. Our work feels like a literal study hall— we’re helping, but she could do this without us. She has been doing with out us. Nobody needs an agency. 

She’s already being asked to do UX-adjacent tasks in her Communication role, including customer research, content auditing, visual design, maintaining a style guide, making important decisions about the public-facing website and back office systems it’s connected to, etc. 

We’re managing the project of building a new public-facing website for her organization, essentially coaching her through the early days of planning for a complete digital renovation and facelift. 

Sometimes relationships are different than you thought.

Hopefully, that causes you to reflect.

Why are we stuck in the thinking that project relationships have to go a certain, prescribed way? 

Billed hourly. 

Scoped precisely. 

Legally bound by a precise delivery agreement.

It’s because a lot of people have lost track of the love of what they’re doing.

This client works at a non-profit, not an agile software company.

Like romantic love, we need to learn that projects take all shapes and sizes, we do funny-seeming things, and we behave in peculiar ways. 

We almost told her we didn’t want to work like this. 

But now it feels like it honors something about the way that I prefer to work that I didn’t know was possible— it’s possible for us to witness and teachers (as much as design and research) to achieve many of the same goals while strengthening skills better than traditional “waterfall” agency relationship ever could. 

For $2500, the client gets our talents for 20-24 hours every month, delivered every Friday morning, exactly like Study Hall. During that time block, I am part-time advice giver— sometimes a content designer, other times I am a wireframer, workshop designer, or prototype maker. Whatever she needs, we’re the UX Swiss Army knife. We love working with her (in real-time) because she always has organizational context that we don’t. It’s the context an agency-side designer needs to get their job done. We want to make services like this more affordable and more widespread.

We’re hearing clients say they want to get back together.

With so many teams embracing remote realities during the pandemic, we have forgotten how massively beneficial in-person collaborative work can be. Some bigger corporate clients have picked up quicker, but lots of our clients have stayed remote (like us) to be extra safe. We love being in person— on-site, working with people who think our physical design thinking practices are interesting, isn’t afraid of a rabbit hole or a long period of intense focus, and are more concerned with making the right long-term choices than speed. that’s the way we run our business too. It’s the definition of work time well spent for us. Week-to-week, this client sees our work turning into immediate wins for her otherwise digitally disorganized workplace. 

Who is the mystery client? 

We’re not going to name names here, but we will share with you the persona that we use to think about one of our best customers: 

Lindsay/Dane, 52

→ Married, college-aged kids, and highly driven to serve others in all areas of their life; completely overworked; our best clients are usually women (or at least not the stereotypical “pushy Alpha sales dude” or “know-it-all computer guy” (sorry guys being honest that’s a type 🤣). 

→ Has a “Director” title; often not on a product team; employed in marketing, communication, or another customer experience - focused area, usually not sales.

→ Works at a non-profit, #small business, or small corporate; the kind of super-Mom/Dad who can do anything; doesn’t sleep much; their organization usually schedules way too many meetings.

→ Has a cluttered PC desktop and tons of shared drives, files everywhere; there is a method to their madness, but no digital process within their organization seems to work as it should; they’re frustrated every day, but very dedicated to the mission of their work. 

→ Feels perpetually under-staffed and under-resourced by their organization; their employer can easily give .25 or .50 FTE digital support to their team (especially if the expertise helps multiple employees). 

→ Doesn’t have someone at their organization that’s entirely focused on user experience and/or interface design research and strategy, but needs it. 

→ Has lots of experience in more traditional marketing and legacy IT infrastructure, usually a bit less in modern digital architecture; almost always has a significant stint in a corporate on her resume. 

→ Aware of many out-of-the-box solutions and does not want to reinvent the wheel; afraid of making costly, wrong decisions; values high-quality advice-giving and coaching relationships; not a stranger to reading the manual; values deeply thinking thru problems before jumping to conclusions.

→ Isn’t afraid of asking obvious questions and transparently managing projects and people to achieve a goal; doesn’t demand immediacy, will wait a week to talk to me.

→ Understands the core importance of just enough research and making decisions with prototypes in the early stage of a product.