“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.”
— Lee Iacocca
UX research is a process that truly holds the key to a product’s success. Sure, you as a UX advocate know it. Cut to real-life scenarios, unfortunately, it does not find many takers. As a UX researcher, you are sure to have struggled to find patronage for research sprints, despite its rather apparent benefits.
User research can be conducted in several ways – from target group interviews to classical usability studies to measure the RoI on your current product or commissioned upgrade. Regardless of the method used, the main purpose of conducting user research is to place the user ay the center of your design process and development efforts. It acts as a guiding star, revealing specific pain points and behavioral anomalies based on direct insights from actual users.
UX research is integral to the design process and cannot be conducted in an isolated manner. It works best when executed in collaboration with all the concerned parties, across departments and hierarchies.
Any research exercise needs to have its objectives clearly mapped out with the stakeholders at the outset to derive the right results. These may include – The upper management, including directors, departmental managers, and product managers. They can help ensure that the research objectives tie up with business goals, and provide the necessary time and resources needed.
Tech stakeholders include developers, QAs, and other technical support staff. They are the ones who are expected to provide the technical expertise and requirements, and will probably be the team that implements designs derived from the research results.
A well-directed UX research sprint can only be conducted with the explicit support of these stakeholders. But, that’s easier said than done, especially if the said company ranks low on the UX maturity scale, i.e., with little to no regard for usability and user-centric methodologies.
Learning to Speak the Stakeholders’ Language
Getting stakeholder backing for UX research can be challenging. As a UX advocate, it is natural to assume that convincing stakeholders about the manifold advantages of user research is easy. After all, which business wouldn’t want to invest in an exercise that guarantees increased productivity and lowered operational costs among several other advantages?
Spoiler alert: you couldn’t be more mistaken.
Interactive presentations or creative ideation sessions won’t take you too far with a group of managers who essentially believe that UX is all about ornamental increments like font size and button placement. When dealing with skeptical stakeholders, what works best is that you communicate with them in a manner that they understand best.
That means, not saying things like,
“The cognitive load is too high at the moment. A heuristic evaluation can give us better insights.”
“Flat design elements will definitely make a difference!”
Clearly, designer lingo is not easy to understand for anyone who is not a designer. How then can we expect executives to get onboard an exercise that they hardly understand? What’s more, they’re expected to assign a budget to this project – the returns of which are foggily explained. UX researchers have to know that stakeholders might not care for usability or following design principles because it’s the sensible thing to do. But what they do definitely care about is ways to boost sales or increasing the speed of a work process – anything that would make their business grow.
To bring it down to an elementary level, UX researchers need to answer these two important questions –
Will it save money for the company?
Will it make money for the company?
Those in managerial roles have their objectives mainly tied up with business expansion or profitability. This is where their frustrations and problems lie. Therefore, stakeholders are bound to listen when presented with ways to resolve issues such as –
“These 2 UX changes will help us reach this quarter’s projections with time to spare.”
“The USD 43786 that we’re losing each month can be plugged by simplifying this workflow. The users will save time while creating the ticket and be able to take on more cases.”
“7 out of every 10 customers are not getting their queries resolved within a day at the moment. With the right changes to the workflow, we can bring those numbers down to 3 out of every 10.”
When you present a solution that is “user-focused” or “design mandated”, there is a strong possibility that it won’t resonate with your stakeholders. Replace that with a solution that fixes specific business woes, and they are bound to be all ears.
Packaging the benefits of UX research in this manner sends out the message that along with being a usability expert, you’ve also taken the effort to thoroughly understand their business. And that you aren’t presenting solutions plucked out of thin air. You’ve put thought behind their actual problems, and are taking their concerns seriously.
Doing so will help ratify the potential of UX in the eyes of the stakeholders. It will slowly help shift their perspective from viewing UX as an afterthought to adopting it as a thought process that defines their project’s journey.
The job profiles of business stakeholders are riddled with risks. They’re tasked with seeing the project through to success; if they fail, they stand to lose considerably. In an organization with low UX maturity, these stakeholders are far removed from the design aspect of the development process. Basically, you as a UX researcher is asking them to invest their resources into something that they know nothing about.
Understand them. Involve them. Educate them in a manner they’d understand. Finally, empathize with them, as you would with any user.