You don't need a 10x engineer to build a 1000x product

Originally coined in the Silicon Valley, the ‘10x engineer’ is someone who is 10x more (or just massively more) productive than their average counterparts. As you can imagine, having the title, either self styled or otherwise makes these people highly desirable by tech companies and startups.

The techy circles on social media have been ablaze recently with plenty of viral discussion about 10x engineers, whether they actually exist and how often these exceptional individuals come along.

As you probably know by now, I was always going to wade in and share my own opinion. The idea of the magical ‘10x engineer' is just too tempting, I can’t help myself. I mean, I’m sure there are those people out there who are incredibly talented and achieve these insanely high levels of productivity, quality and output by being as fluent in code as their native language. But, to deliver 10x times the work of a normal developer? I’m not convinced.

Surely there must be more at play than just that individual’s skills? Context, planning, research and the wider team must work in sync to create a perfect storm.

A 10x engineer won’t save you from building the wrong thing, you’ll just build it quicker

I’ve seen some exquisitely well engineered products flop. Products which follow best practice around development and all the latest technologies. Even if they’d had the best engineers on the case, they wouldn’t have worked. Why? Because they weren’t actually solving real problems for users.

This got me round to thinking about 10x in other roles, specifically in the work we do. Is there such a thing as a 10x UX designer? A 10x researcher? Probably not. And even if there were, are they want we want and need? Again, probably not.

You don’t need a 10x UX designer or researcher either

I’m not convinced someone can conduct 10x the user research using qualitative methods. These things take time and often cannot be rushed. For example, a one-on-one depth interview is always going to require 45 minutes to an hour to really delve into a usability problem. This isn’t something which can be sped up to get the work done quicker. The same with surveys and workshops, these things take time and are an integral part of most research projects we run.

For designers, tools are limited by the need to place elements on an artboard. Working on complex wireframes and prototypes mean speed will always be a limiting factor. Again, these things cannot be rushed.

Of course there are ways that UXers can deliver results quicker. Working in an agile way and implementing a process like Lean UX for example, where concepts can be quickly iterated on or discarded. But 10x the speed? Na.

Building a 1000x product

To build a 1000x product -that is something which smashes the competition out the park- you need more than a 10x-er. You need user-centred design. And you need to do it properly.

Following these steps might not be fast but they’re thorough and will result in a validated product which has a much better chance of survival post-launch:

  • Understand what problems your audience have, through user research  
  • Validate your assumptions around how to solve them by designing and testing a prototype
  • Refine your vision based on what you learn
  • Check whether people are willing to spend money to solve that problem and how much, with a smoke test
  • Track how users are interacting with the product using cohort metrics
  • Continue to iterate on the design using qualitative and quantitative research to inform your decisions

That 1000x product multiplier is ROI gained from taking the right action at the right time.

UX takes the risk away (whilst enabling creativity) in so many ways. For those key stakeholders reading this, UX can increase shareholder value, generating 3x the returns compared to organisations who don’t invest in customer experience.

If that doesn’t pique your interest, these facts and figures should:

UX can help reduce the cost to serve customers, by increasing their ability to self serve (through design which helps them achieve their end goal, as defined through research). It can increase conversion by eliminating pain points in the sales journey, delivering growth and increase average order value by understanding when and where to upsell.

Good user experience can increase retention, by measuring evolving customer expectations and driving future iterations in design, features and even content by helping you anticipate their needs and designing from their perspective.

Alongside good UX, you also need to consider accessibility. 18% of the working age population has different access needs. Bad accessibility practices could stop these people from using your product.

Interested in finding out more about UX for product design? Get more stats or get in touch for tips and advice for starting out.