Three ways to make a long-term collaborative project work

Sophia V Prater
6 min readMar 31, 2023
Sophia Prater and Joe Natoli laughing together as illustrated blue, pink, yellow, and green sticky notes fall like leaves around them.

If you’ve been following me for any time at all, you know that I am deeply passionate about Object-Oriented UX. I’ve seen OOUX drastically change my own work and the work of my colleagues, clients, and my students. I want to make OOUX accessible and implementable, and I am thrilled to have launched, in collaboration with the illustrious Joe Natoli, a new offering for folks new to the magic of OOUX, the OOUX Fundamentals Udemy course.

The production and release of this course took WAY longer than I thought it would, which definitely makes the launch all the sweeter, but it also left me with a few takeaways worth sharing. After two years of development and working alongside one of your UX heroes for the first time, you learn a thing or two…

Some projects will take two years when you think they will take “the summer” — and that’s OK.

Joe and I started talking about this project in the spring of 2021. Why did it take us so long to get to the finish line? Well, I got busy… then Joe got busy… but you know what? We were both really good about trusting the timeline and not pressuring each other.

I’ve talked and written quite a bit about “forced functions” and how helpful deadlines can be in motivating you to finish a project. But not everything needs a deadline. Having grace with yourself (and your collaborators) is really important too. Joe and I found that balance and maintained a really respectful relationship even when one of us might have been “dropping the ball.”

Before jumping in, ask: are we aligned on timeline and urgency?

This is something Joe and I didn’t do until about 6-months in. I spent a few months pretty stressed out that we were not moving fast enough and worrying that Joe was just going to lose interest and move on! Or, worrying that he had a secret deadline in mind?! Thankfully, we eventually got transparent on our schedules. We made clear to each other that neither of us were going anywhere and that we were cool with letting the process take the time it needed.

For some projects, you can’t just “take the time it needs” — you’ll have deadlines. So, getting clear with your collaborators on how you will hit those deadlines (and how much each party is prioritizing the work) is going to be critical.

Play to your strengths and let your partners do the same.

Collaborations can water down your message — or amplify both parties. You want the latter, and you need to trust your intuition on this. After a few conversations with Joe, I knew that my role was going to be bringing OOUX and ORCA to the table and I trusted that he was not going to try and change my message. Along with his massive following and well-earned clout, what Joe brought to the table was valuable feedback on how to present the course. He knows how to create a SHORT, impactful course for beginners. I, on the other hand, know how to create a 22-hour Masterclass for people who want to know it ALL. 😅 Thanks to him, we have a succinct course that’s easy to follow and goes into just the right amount of depth to get you up and running fast with OOUX.

With Joe and I, our roles and responsibilities were clear from the get-go. We had mutual trust and didn’t step on each other’s toes. I wouldn’t want to do collaboration any other way!

When you are feeling out a collaboration, here’s what to ask:

  1. Will this collaboration dilute my message — or amplify it? (And how will I help amplify my collaboration partner?)
  2. Are we clear on our roles and goals? Watch for red flags that there might be misalignment here.
  3. Are you both excited and open to signing a contract to spell out those roles and goals? And responsibilities, monetization agreements, etc? Always always always have a contract. Even if you are collaborating with a lifelong friend. Do not be shy about this!

Test and iterate your content — together.

Before we even clicked the “Create New Course” button, I had been running a live OOUX Fundamentals workshop with companies for years. When we first sketched out the curriculum, I pulled directly from that workshop content. Then we started tweaking the Udemy course outline — with Joe’s expertise — and I brought that improved layout back into the live workshops I ran. I even recorded a live version of the workshop, edited it to mimic the Udemy course structure, and self-hosted it for about six months to open it up for feedback.

That iteration helped us see gaps in the content (as well as areas that could be cut) and gave Joe a chance to critique my teaching. He made me aware that I would often skip to the next slide while I was still talking about the previous slide! (Pro tip: keep your voice and your slides aligned.) He also found opportunities to add additional animations to the slides to help better illustrate some of the complex points — and again, to help keep the content on the slides and my voice in sync.

Two things here — first, it’s so beneficial to iterate on fidelity (launch a live recording quick-and-dirty to get feedback), but also to copy the content from one format to another. I’ll often take an idea and record it as a podcast, then write an article, then turn it into a workshop. Having all that additional content to share is just icing on the cake. The main goal is to grow and strengthen the idea as you play with it in different contexts. In fact, that’s how OOUX came to be — I turned a 2013 UX Week talk into a 2014 UX Week workshop years ago! (Check out the OOUX Launch Guide for that full story!)

About OOUX Fundamentals — now available on Udemy.com!

When I first started UX design, I was so excited for what I thought my role was going to be: weeks (or at least days) of getting to be a fly on the wall observing users. Then creating detailed, custom-crafted solutions that seamlessly resolve their problems. If you’ve been in the UX industry for any time at all, you know that’s not how the cookie usually crumbles. Budgets, time constraints, shifting goals, and too little access to stakeholders and users sent me home from work tearful several times those first few years. How did I get UX so wrong? What was I missing?

As Joe Natoli said in our recent podcast episode together,

“most people new to UX find themselves running head first into wall after wall after wall. Then people usually look at themselves and think, ‘well the problem must be me,’ but no. They don’t have a set of practical methods and processes that they can fall back on. If they do, they’re not flexible enough and fast enough to get them where they need to be.”

This gap is The Reason why I latched onto OOUX. And why Joe did, too.

If you’re looking to tackle UX chaos with confidence, if you’re tired of solving puzzles in the dark with missing pieces, or if you’re new to UX and are looking to set yourself apart, join Joe Natoli and I for the OOUX Fundamentals course.

OOUX focuses squarely on the things that matter most to people and kicks everything else to the curb. -Joe Natoli, UX Consultant, Author, Speaker

Clocking in at 6.5 hours plus tons of downloadable worksheets, OOUX Fundamentals is a course that could be binged in a weekend. If you want to go through all the activities (and you totally should), maybe it will take you two weekends, but this is the kind of content that you’ll watch today and see benefits from tomorrow.

We break down the basics of OOUX and ORCA (my methodology for implementing OOUX), expose 4 of the most common UX mistakes and how to fix them, and give you our best advice on how to bring these ideas to your team so that you can get started now.

OOUX helps teams create more efficient digital products that are easier to design and develop—and easier for users to understand and use. Everybody wins. -Joe Natoli, UX Consultant, Author, Speaker

I can’t wait to see what you think of the course! Show me your Object Maps! Ask me those questions! And Happy OOUX-ing!

Enroll in our OOUX Fundamentals course

💙💛❤️💚

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Sophia V Prater

UX designer, OOUX Instructor, and Chief Evangelist for Object-Oriented UX | Download the OOUX Launch Guide! OOUX.com/resources/launchguide