The expectations placed on you in a corporate setting as a user experience professional are going to be the same expectations you’ll have to meet as a UX freelancer. The only difference is that your in-house corporate counterpart has company money to spend. Even though you may not have all the same resources, this does not mean you have to flail around in terror trying to figure out what to do. Here are a few tools and tactics I recommend for my fellow UX freelancers to help level the playing field.
Stay on Track
It’s very easy to lose track of time, especially when you’re responsible for keeping yourself on track. I like to be able to track my time on the go as well, because I never know exactly where I’ll be working, so that’s why I use TSheets. With awesome communication between its mobile and web app, it actually pulled my attention away from using the PC application Klok. If you lose track of your time it’s easy to get inside the web side of TSheets and manually move your time around. It gives you a good idea on what you may be spending most of your time on, and figure out where you can improve to make yourself a lean mean user experience machine.
Usability Test for Free
One tool in the freelancer’s arsenal should be Usability Hub or something similar. The team over at Angry Monkeys created a network that will allow you to upload a design and get feedback from multiple users using its points system. The information you put in is relative to how active you are within the community, so the amount of feedback and data you can collect is based on how many points you predispose to your test. With every test you do, you receive 1 point. With options like doing 5 second tests and navigation flows to click mapping, you can now gain a better understanding of how a person uses your designs. I’ll admit though that it’s very easy to get caught up in doing these tests and can easily become a pitfall in your productivity, but you can’t beat getting free testing for your designs.
Educate Your Clients
Education goes a long way when working with your client base; it helps keep the lines of communication open and helps them understand what exactly is going into their projects. Now there are sites like Wee Nudge to aid you in your conversations with your clients. Wee Nudge, created by Paddy Donnelly and Jack Osborne, aims to create a database of relevant design information specifically geared toward the client with sections like ‘Spec Work’, ‘The Fold’, and ‘Wireframes’.
Use a Content Management System
If your arena is more on the development side, say something in the way of WordPress, check out Video User Manuals. This plug-in creates a section within the admin panel with videos covering a variety of topics to help your clients feel more at ease and confident that they can now tackle creating and managing their own content. Up until this point most (if not all) of the things I have been writing about have been free, but I think that this plug-in is something that will eventually pay for itself. One of the great things about using a content management system like WordPress is having the ability to create a solution, then turn back around to your clients so they can manage their own content. It further perpetuates the ownership of the site. For some clients this may be their first fore into the web and they could end up feeling a tad overwhelmed.
Storyboard Your Designs
And last to help me round out my wonderful list of online tools to aid in your freelance UI/UX endeavors is Invision. Wireframes are great. I have a soft spot for them due to the fact that they can save you a lot of headache in the future as you begin to develop things. What could we do to add to wireframes to make them better? Add some simple interactivity to help you tell your story with some navigation. For those clients who live and die by the non-disclosure agreement (NDA), there is even the option to share a secure link with a password to your presentation. So now instead of using tools like Mockflow, you can make an image of each screen and set hot spots in place which will allow you to navigate through your wireframe. Think of your wireframes like an animator uses storyboards. They help tell the story through a rough draft, and as in most cases (but not in every) what you try to do as a user experience professional is help tell a story. Invision has a video that pops up under help that explains what it offers after you sign up.
So with these awesome tools now in your arsenal you’re ready to leave isolation behind and utilize your talents to their fullest potential. Think of them as your raft made out of coconuts and palm trees to help you escape the island. Your clients will thank you.
Got some freelance tools to share? I’d love to hear them! Please leave a comment below.
About the Author
Joshua Rapp has been working on the web and in media for close to 8 years and was originally educated as an animator, but has a soft spot for UX/UI/IA and front-end development. He is currently the Creative Director at Rappsody Studios. You can find him on Twitter at @rappsodystudios.