“To design is to communicate clearly by whatever means you can control or master.”—Milton Glaser
User experience and its associated fields of expertise—such as usability, information architecture, interaction design, and user interface design—have expanded rapidly over the past decade to accommodate what seems like insatiable demand, as the world moves toward an increasingly digital existence.
As UX professionals, we often take technology for granted, accepting the massive complexity and rapid change in our field as the norm—and perhaps even something to embrace and enjoy. With this outlook and because we’re steeped in our daily professional activities, it becomes all too easy for us to forget that ours is not the usual point of view, and the technological change we expect, the expert jargon we speak, and the processes we use are foreign and confusing to other people. So, while we focus our attention on the users of digital products, we can sometimes be remiss in our treatment of another important audience—the stakeholders and clients with whom we collaborate to complete our assignments and projects. Read More
In many respects, we have reduced the ambiguity in our world. We can now sample an entire music album before deciding to purchase it, use a smartphone app to learn what’s happening at home while we’re on vacation, or click a button to discover who has viewed our LinkedIn profile. However, while we might enjoy the occasional mystery/thriller novel or movie, in which the story’s outcome remains uncertain as we’re propelled through suspenseful twists and turns, we are becoming much less tolerant of mystery in our daily lives. We like to disambiguate the circumstances of our lives. We like to know things. This gives us comfort and favors predictability, which in turn reduces our anxiety and stress. Resolving uncertainty is actually something for which people are willing to pay.
But ambiguity is still alive and well in the work we do as UX designers. Those of us who design enterprise software should be very familiar with ambiguity. We encounter it often, whether in vague feature requirements, unfamiliar capabilities that derive from the acquisition of a new product or company, or the complex workflows that are characteristic of the highly specialized domains in which we work. Read More
While we might not think of stakeholder management as a key UX skill, it is integral to our work. So much so that it occasionally surprises me that we don’t all approach stakeholder management with the same rigor that we do user-centered design. This becomes clearer when we consider the frequent headaches that are associated with poor stakeholder management—from having product-team members perceive User Experience as an impediment to delivering products to losing our UX budget and headcount.
In the course of my work as a UX designer, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and experimenting with how to provide the most transparency to my stakeholders, while also keeping the scope of my design work realistic and manageable. I’ve been able to consolidate my learnings from experience down to six major points that I’d like to share, in the interest of professional growth.
Before diving in, I need to say that, even though the putative subject of this article is the management of stakeholders, the intent of the techniques that I present here is neither to corral nor obstruct. When using these stakeholder-management techniques, think of your job as a servant stakeholder whose job is to create transparency, head off conflict, and maintain your own sanity as a UX-design professional. Let’s get started. Read More