The following experts have contributed answers to this edition of Ask UXmatters:
- Steve Baty—Principal of Meld Studios; Past President of IxDA; UXmatters columnist
- Riley Graham—User Experience Designer at Fuzzy Math
- Jordan Julien—Independent Experience Strategy Consultant
- Cory Lebson—Principal UX Consultant at Lebsontech; President, User Experience Professionals’ Association (UXPA)
Q: How would you handle a situation in which a business leader insists on your using pop-up banner advertising even though you know it’s detrimental to a site’s design?—from a UXmatters reader
“The first thing you need to do is reconsider your definition of the site’s purpose and key audiences,” replies Steve. “Look at the design from the perspective of the business leaders? What does success look like to them? (Hint: It’s not pop-up ads.) Are there ways to balance those two sets of needs? Is it possible to facilitate success for both? That’s the real design challenge and, frankly, one you have to resolve, because a site that isn’t paying its way—one way or another—won’t last, and that’s a lot more detrimental to its future than the ads.
“Another line of thought for you to pursue: Can you demonstrate that pop-up advertising will actively damage the site’s chances of delivering value to either customers or the business? Will it drive customers away—thereby rendering the ads themselves meaningless? That’s another way of meeting your design objectives.”
Do What Your Boss Wants, But Recommend Research
“Taking this question more generally, as a consultant,” answers Cory, “I am sometimes in the position of making a recommendation that a stakeholder overrides—because of either his personal preference or other political or organizational considerations. In such a case, my approach is to explain the value of the more usable design and address any objections that the stakeholder might have. However, if the stakeholder insists, I do not raise additional objections, but suggest that after the design gets implemented, we do usability testing and try the design out on representative users. Admittedly, when I have done this, I’ve sometimes seen that the stakeholder recommendation, even though far from best practice, had less of a negative impact on the user experience than I had imagined it would.”
“I love these kinds of challenges!” exclaims Riley. “Don’t get me wrong. Having too many of these would make me reconsider the business leaders’ interest in our UX recommendations, but I always have a response to comments that are backed only by a gut feeling or emotion. I would ask the leader to justify his opinion. Assuming it is grounded just in a feeling, I would explain that we need more objective data to make a sound decision. Then, I would take him through an exercise, explaining who our users are, their painpoints, and their goals. I would discuss why the users’ goals are important to us, as UX designers, and how the results of user research should impact design.
If the results from research and analysis did not invalidate the use of the pop-up banner ad, my argument would be null and void, and the leader would move forward with the design, even though clearly backed only by emotion, without further resistance from me. However, more often than not research and analysis will direct design appropriately.”