UX researchers must frequently deliver bad news to the creators of products and user interfaces. After we’ve conducted expert reviews, competitive analyses, usability testing, or user research, the end result is often telling our clients, stakeholders, designers, and other project team members about all the problems we’ve found in their product. Even though this is what they asked us to do—and what they expect—listening to a long list of their baby’s faults can be demoralizing.
Yes, we do try to balance our negative criticism by also highlighting some positive aspects, but most research findings tend to be negative. After all, the goal of research activities is not to confirm how great the user experience already is. The goal is to find problems and areas for improvement. Yet, despite the fact that we deliver bad news all the time, it often feels awkward and uncomfortable. Usually, the people in the room have created the problems your research has identified. While most people take it pretty well, some won’t like what they’re hearing and will blame the messenger.
People tend to become very attached to the fruits of their labors, so hearing criticism of their work really can feel very much like having someone say their baby is ugly. Read More
“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
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