Persuade your boss to buy into UX

You’re all in favour of UX but your boss or colleagues aren’t convinced that it’s worth investing in. How can you persuade them that UX design is the better way?

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Tricia Okin, New York-based product and user experience designer, shares her insights on the subject with us in the follow up to the blog ‘How to convince your boss to invest in UX’.

In your opinion, why are managers/organisations reluctant to invest in UX?

“Hoo boy. There are several reasons I have encountered while dealing with clients:

“First, they think they don’t have the time. Everyone seems to be lean startup-ing their way through all the projects right now but not actually taking on the real principles of testing and iteration. There is a fear that design, whether user experience or visual, will slow down launching.

“Fear of design slowing down development paradoxically exists with a recent trend of user experience becoming synonymous with ‘Is that button big enough?’ and ‘We’ll use a UI kit to get the UX right.’ Some people are beginning to think that UX can be templatized.

“Second, there’s a view that it can be a waste of money. See the last sentence of the previous paragraph. A constant question that crops up when trying to get buy-in for design sprints is, ‘Why are all these people sitting around doing this for a week when they could be ‘working’?’

“When you take the cost of UX consultants and the cost of employees not doing their regular jobs for a week or two at surface value, the numbers may seem astronomical and daft. My counter to that notion is tell decision makers they will actually be saving money in the long run.

“How many meetings do you save your department heads from having over the course of two financial quarters to come to an agreement? How many versions being bandied back and forth over six months will you save instead of doing the testing in two weeks? These arguments can work when speaking about both integrated long term UX and design sprints.


“Another attitude I’ve noticed that ties into the first couple of reasons is that people don’t tend to see thinking as ‘working’. This is not necessarily about what are called soft skills either. Work is still primarily measured by physical output or products and not necessarily by conceptual terms or process. This is what fuels the demand for deliverables to prove you’ve been working.

“More conceptual work tends to only be valued at the C-suite or executive level where the decision makers are being paid to think and talk. Because of this ‘work-effort dysmorphia’, bringing higher up stakeholders in on design sprints becomes a key driving factor in realigning their perceptions and understanding of how design affects their business. Here is where they can understand this type of work is open to everybody, not just colleagues at their level.

“Lastly, sometimes their industry isn’t used to facing the wrath of customers yet. A few years ago, I used to work in a startup whose CEO had a very long history of working in telecommunications. Think actual phone companies, mobile phone networks etc.

“Democratic social media’s rise has made the telecom industry face the ire of its customers, front and centre. And oh man, it is not pretty. The general attitude amongst their industry is to still try to squeeze every penny from their customers while delivering a horrible experience.

“Other industries such as banking and some government entities (varying by country) are equally disregarding of their key demographics. Because these organisations have never had to listen to the people who paid their salaries, it is only now in the last three to four years of dealing with disruptors shifting the landscape are they willing to even begin to have a conversation about doing things differently.”

What has been your most successful tactic persuading people to invest in UX?

“Honestly? Money. As previously mentioned, appealing to the business side of their thinking processes will help build a larger and more long term picture for the clients.

“How does this affect your bottom line in the next year, two years, or 10 years? How does this affect the health of the business and the core happiness of your paying customers? Lean/agile methods initially seem to sell rather well because everyone wants to ‘avoid wasting time’. Selling integrated UX as a long term solution may be a bit more difficult in some places versus selling a one time experiment.

“Usually after that first experiment, people are hooked on seeing more results. Design sprints then become an excellent way to get one’s foot in the door to a longer term engagement.”

What advice would you give somebody who is trying to convince their boss to change their approach/invest in user testing/hire a UX designer, etc?

“Show them how the markets and society have changed in the last five years. People are more design savvy and have a more design-focused vocabulary than ever before. Having software that crashes, cheats people or is just plain buggy isn’t acceptable anymore.

“Good user experience is also good customer experience. Good customer experience is part of user experience. Pre-empting questions your customers may have. Also, speak to your boss or manager’s fears. They may have quite a few: timing; a seemingly insurmountable laundry list of bugs and improvements; budgets; human resource issues; and a fear of showing ‘unfinished work’.

“It’s okay to relay that you don’t have to tackle all these changes desired by users all at once or even 50 per cent of them. Doing everything users tell us to do in feedback would result in the ludicrously ill-designed Homer Simpson car.

“Take the pressure off the manager and start your own list of what changes could be prioritised. Then research inexpensive methods of testing hypotheses, both time and budget-wise. Present your mini-test plan and your objectives, then go do it, hopefully in 48 hours or less. That should give you enough time to get some tangible feedback to show your manager that the UX process works, even in small sprints.”

Check out the blog – How to convince your boss to invest in UX

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