3 experts on persuading colleagues to embrace user-centred design

See no evil

Imagine going to work every day, knowing your non-UX colleagues believe they couldn’t survive without deep customer understanding and, by extension, user-centred design.

Wouldn’t that be just peachy?

Knowing that if the UX team were to disappear, flags would flap at half-mast and liquor would be poured on the earth in mourning.

Unfortunately, as many of us know, that’s just not the case. And the diffusion of innovation theory suggests it may be a while before the utopia I’ve described (gangster rap analogies aside) becomes a reality. 

Diffusion of innovation

That’s because humans are scaredy-cats when it comes to trying new things. We’d rather watch other people take the plunge and only follow suit if nothing bad happens – better yet, if something good happens.

Pulling an estimate out of my backside (with no research whatsoever), I’d say the UX field is just coming out of the “early adopters” phase. At least in the UK – especially when you consider how many businesses stand to benefit from a good UX (yet choose not to).

The speed at which UX is adopted depends partly on how we (as believers) broadcast its value.

Here are 3 pieces of advice from smart UX professionals on the interwebz, showing how you can do your bit to encourage a user-centred culture within your company.

1. Have a winning attitude

This section is based on a UX Mastery article by Luke Chambers, co-founder of UX Mastery.

In his article, Luke succinctly states that “it’s your attitude, not your job description, that will make the difference”.

I agree – especially if you’re entering a large enterprise as the sole UX pioneer. It almost doesn’t matter how senior you are – the volume of colleagues who don’t give a damn about UX can override any substance and experience you bring with you.

 



“…it’s your attitude, not your job description, that will make the difference”

Luke Chambers, UX Mastery


So, what do you do? In Luke’s article, I saw 3 changes in attitude that can help you sway sceptics:

  • Practice active listening by remaining silent and letting colleagues tell you all about their problems.
  • Show openness and avoid “keeping your head down” – invite colleagues into your world and suggest it may hold solutions to their problems.
  • Know when to yield control so you don’t suffocate the life out of collaboration. Don’t try to make everything perfect – let go when it’s someone else’s turn.

This means you’ll understand your colleagues’ pain points, get them motivated to understand yours and do this without being a “UX is the solution to everything” a-hole.

2. Set winning goals

This section is based on an Envato article by Andrew Maier, co-founder of UX Booth.

Andrew explained, “…we want to move clients away from subjective goals (e.g. ‘I want it to look cleaner’), towards measurable, objective ones (e.g. I want it so clean that sales increase by 20%)”.

In short, help your colleagues change the way they think about their problems. But first, you’ll need to change the way you think about your interactions with them.

 



“…we want to move clients away from subjective goals (e.g. ‘I want it to look cleaner’), towards measurable, objective ones (e.g. I want it so clean that sales increase by 20%)”.

Andrew Maier, UX Booth


Andrew encourages you to introduce design thinking – the set of principles and frameworks that guide designers in the creation user-friendly experiences.

Chief among design thinking principles is the identification of a goal. You must have a goal –how else do you know what success looks like? Your goal is to help people see the value of UX – not merely to tell them about it.

So you need to identify an objective goal that’s high on the list of priorities for colleagues. Then the value of good UX is enhanced based on its ability to move you towards that goal.

This may seem obvious but don’t underestimate what you’ll learn when you actually ask colleagues what their goals are. Sure, everyone wants to make more money… but the gaps between teams hide some more idiosyncratic ambitions.

Your smartest business move is UX testing.

Try it for yourself – get a free trial showing 3 real people using your website or app, as they speak their thoughts

3. Befriend the winners

This section is based on the Digital Gov article by Wendy Littman, a Usability Geek author and UX specialist.

In a perfect world, you’d convince everyone of the value of UX. In the real world, you only have to convince the few who tell everybody else what to do.

It may sound Machiavellian and devious but it doesn’t have to be. This isn’t about schmoozing or politics. It’s about focussing your efforts where they’re most likely to yield the highest returns. A similar idea (in principle) to Jakob Nielsen’s “low-hanging fruit” – a reference he made during our webinar with him.

 



find a UX champion who “has the authority to direct human and financial resources,” and “can keep the initiative moving over the long term”.

Wendy Littman, Usability Geek


Show the bigwigs insightful (or even damning) clips from UX testing videos – real customers struggling with your beloved website/app. Share success stories and case studies of other companies in your industry. Make an effort to learn about their personalities and ambitions during work socials.

Wendy says you should find a UX champion who “has the authority to direct human and financial resources,” and “can keep the initiative moving over the long term”.

People aren’t just scaredy-cats – we can also be sheep. Not everyone wants or has the ability to be a UX champion… many are happy for someone else to tell them what to do.

Win over the shepherd, not the sheep.

Hungry for more? Treat yourself to our exclusive interviews with 2 design innovators

 


Jonathan Shariat, Silicon-Valley based author of “Tragic Design”

Jonathan explains the true cost of bad design – which sometimes includes death. The audio interview and accompanying article explain the powerful moral argument for UX, which you can use to sway colleagues.

View Article


Andy Rogers, founder of Rokker and “business design” pioneer

When it come to implementing a user-centred culture, Andy says “…prescribing these things as a mandate often doesn’t work. You have to culturally embed them.” The audio interview and accompanying article explain how the game-changing concept of business design can help you achieve that.

View Article


Timi is a London-based copywriter and full-time marketing sceptic – there are now more unvalidated opinions out there than ever.

He became a UX testing enthusiast after seeing its power while working at TUI – the world’s largest travel, leisure and tourism company. He then joined WhatUsersDo to sharpen his UX knowledge and work side-by-side with the field’s best and brightest.

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