Select Page

You want me to do WHAT in WHAT hours???

Sometimes we all find ourselves on a team or project where UX hasn’t been quite estimated correctly—to put it nicely. Are you pulling your hair out feeling frustrated that you don’t have enough time to do your work? At least not to the quality level that you prefer?

Here are 5 tips and ideas for trying to get more time—both now and in the future.

1. Define a process.

Having a method to your madness helps in a lot of ways. It shows it is a rational and repeatable process, executed by an expert. It shows you’re not a magic 8 ball, and you’re not using a witch’s cauldron to brew up arbitrary designs to be considered.  It can also show people what will go into the time you spend.

This can be a personal process, a team process, or an organizational one.  If your team already has a design process – bravo!  If it doesn’t, be cautious to not get bogged down in over-perfectionism. Don’t spend the next two months drawing cool infographics that symbolize the genius and beauty of design while being just barely decodable as a linear process.  Especially if you tend to do only 1/12 of the steps on most projects.

If there’s going to be too many cooks in the kitchen, whip a personal process together on your own.  Sharpie on tabloid paper.  A quick Illustrator sketch.  A simple website that shows a cool new CSS property at the same time, cause you were learning that anyway. Take a bias towards making, and just go do shit and worry refine it later. Remember, this is a communication tool. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It has to teach your team what goes into the work you do, the steps, and that it’s actually a lot of very essential work.

2. Justify it + Link it to business results.

Whenever possible, show how each process step affects the bottom line, reduces risks, or increases quality. Know the metrics that matter to your business, and speak their language. Do you find you work 1000x better if you just spend an hour on a persona? If it only takes an hour, I say don’t ask permission and just do it. But if you want to talk about it as part of your process, a persona helps you understand your users better. Knowing your users definitely reduces risk, targets the team to reduce churn, and can save time both in focusing brainstorming and in decreasing necessary rework.

If you find some really great stories around specific processes or techniques, would writing up a quick case study help? Maybe overkill for a startup, but some corporations would eat that shit up. 😉

Changes sooner are cheaper. This is a fact of software nature. It’s been proven time and time again. The practice of building something without thinking it through in the slightest is not an efficient way to produce products or learn. If what you’ve built isn’t perfect but it will test your hypothesis, maybe that imperfection is worth the learning. (Providing your brand is undamaged or insulated from the effects.)

3. Take Baby Steps

Now that you have your process, you’ll have some ideas of what you do currently and what would be ideal. (And maybe what you should stop doing.) Make a strategic overall plan. What one process is most important? What types of projects would show the biggest wins for that kind of technique? Maybe for that one or two projects, you give yourself a secondary organizational goal of moving the needle just a little more towards more user testing, or more collaborative brainstorming, or more split testing–or whatever step you feel your team would benefit from the process.

Try to measure. If you can show an improvement over past projects, whether it’s in terms of team productivity or project quality, capture it if you can.

4. Keep Standards as High as You Can

Just because you’re pissed because someone game you the equivalent of 15 minutes to cook a gourmet 7 course steak dinner, don’t throw your hands up and give up. (I mean, unless you quit move on to greener pastures.) If you’re planning on making this work, do the best you can. Be vocal when you needed more time. (Here is a start on a wireframe concept; I usually would have worked on this about 3 times longer.) Explain steps you skipped and the cost of them. (Not having a lot of time means I skipped blah which means I am less sure of blah. Therefore I am making an assumption which might be wrong.) Don’t whine. Be a professional. Justify your process even while you are skipping it, but not bitterly. It’s just a matter of fact that doing things the right way would have worked better, but you’re doing you’re best.

There’s risk here that people blow you off and simply decide you’re okay working with less resources than you need. That’s when you either need to sit down and have a talk specifically about the subject, or think about moving on.

5. Be empathetic.

Does EVERYONE not have enough time, or is it just you?  It’s easy to forget to even think about this. It’s easy to figure everyone else is sitting pretty while you struggle, But taking a moment to consider will help you identify allies and understand your audience. How will they receive your requests for more time?

Sometimes you have to suck it up and make something quick and dirty, because the business desperately needs it this time. Sometimes you have to take the whole team on the war path to ask for the resources you really need.


Getting more resources and building design understanding takes time, persistence, and consistently great execution.


A Final Note: Check yo’ self—How much is enough?

Before taking your show on the road, let’s take a moment to pause. Do you have a sense of exactly how much time would be enough? Could you make a guess? When you approach people with problems, it’s best to have a suggested solution in mind, and in this case—that’s the number of hours you really need.

Also, do you find yourself thinking that there will just never be enough time? That you could spend years on this? I mean, is there ever enough time for design? How much would be too much? Is such a thing even possible?  Yes. YES. HELL YES. 

Too much time can turn into petty optimizations, wasted time, and navel gazing. Chances are, if you’re reading this article, you’re not in this boat. But you could be comparing yourself to someone who is. So consider how much time would be appropriate. Have other projects like this in your organization taken longer in the past? Do you have colleagues you can ask to get benchmarks on their projects?

Don’t fall temptation to the trap of designing forever in a room without external validation (from stakeholders, team members, SMEs, users, your grama). Get out of the building! Talk to people! Show them what you’re doing!

Now that you have an idea in mind of how much time you really need, you have a goal—complete with a metric! Lucky you! Let’s see if you can move that needle, on this project, or the next one.


What do you think? What’s worked for you in this situation?

How do you keep doing great work and get more time?

For more tips to consider, check out the other half of this debate, Designing Without Enough Time.

Pin It on Pinterest