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  • Writer's picturekristensunny

Leah Buley's Survival Guide for Solo UX Designers is Now My North Star

A book review of Leah Buley's The User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival Guide, and how it can guide you on your next solo UX adventure

Ever worked on a team as the only UX Designer and feel like you have to do the impossible? Have you struggled to articulate the value of UX Design, the methods you use, or even what UX Design is? Find yourself feeling lost on how to approach these topics in your company or to get buy-in from other team members?

As someone new to the field of User Experience Design, I've fallen in love with the idea that designers can look at a problem that affects the daily lives of others and come up with novel solutions with great impact. But even though I see the many facets of value that UX Design brings, it can still be hard to express why a client or company should invest in it. As a solo designer, it can also feel overwhelming to know which design methods will have the most impact and will take the least resources or time. Leah Buley's The User Experience Team of One feels like a supportive mentor who has advice for me at every stage of the design process.

Buley shares tried and true approaches to design that do more with less, and she provides practical tips for each method that can be used by both newbies to the field or more seasoned designers. She also shares ideas for how to gain insights from each tool and effective ways to express these insights with the rest of the team to gain support for your work. The book is split into two sections; the first focuses on the philosophy of what it means to be a UX team of one and the second serves as a reference guide to putting UX tools into practice. Each chapter comes with templates and examples to help you get started as a lone UX wolf.

"You don't really need permission to be a UX team of one. You can infuse the UX philosophy into work that you're currently doing. You can also find small opportunities to get started." -Leah Buley

I found this book to be a hidden gem, and one that I will refer back to throughout my career, especially in the early days when I find myself still learning how to approach projects as a solo UX Designer and thinking through which tools are most impactful for specific situations or contexts.

I think one of the most helpful aspects of this book is that Buley provides the estimated time it takes to utilize each design tool, as well as clear guidelines as to when and why you should use that method. This makes the book easy to scan and refer back to and serves as a guiding light for when you might not have another designer to consult, you're unsure of how to move your project forward, or you simply have limited time and resources.


Buley also includes a section at the end of each chapter, titled "If You Only Do One Thing...". Here, she calls out what, in her experience, is the most impactful approach in each phase of the design process, ensuring that, if you only have time for one thing, this method will level up your design and provide the insights that you need to make sure the project is successful and provides value to the company and team. For me, this gives me a sense of direction and feels like I've spoken with a seasoned mentor who has guided more towards the MVP of design methods.

Although published in 2013, this book also provides timely advice for those of us working remotely during a global pandemic. Design tools are presented with tips and tricks on getting the most out of each process, and Buley shares best practices for implementing the tool while working remotely, as well as sharing the results with colleagues. This advice will come in handy as we continue to navigate a pandemic and post-pandemic world of remote teams.

This was a quick read that gave me valuable insight into balancing it all as a UX team of one, and I recommend it for anyone who is:

  • Working cross-functionally at a startup or small company

  • Feeling like they are juggling different roles and responsibilities as a lone UX Designer

  • Working as the only UX Designer in a lean or agile framework, with limited time

  • Transitioning to the UX Design field

I hope this review helps! Wishing you the best of luck on your solo UX adventure.


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