We all know what’s it like right? You could have designed the best experience in the world, created the most usable website out there and no matter what, if someone from IT or the Business disagrees with you for whatever whacky reason, your opinion and expertise on the project gets trumped. This. Always. Happens. Or, it happens way more than it does for other groups (such as business or IT).
There are so many problems we, as UX Designers, see from this chain of events. We tend to become frustrated and demoralized. It begins to feel like the whole organization is against us and there is no way out. To make matters even worse we, along with our management teams, begin to make the wrong compromises in order to try to increase UX’s rank in the organization. We try to take shortcuts to get on our executive’s and project teams’ good sides. We use the wrong weaponry to win the battle instead of using our expertise and user research to prevail. This, in turn only hurts our end user because instead of focusing on their needs and the priority of those needs in order to make decicions, we make decisions and compromises based off of our own ambitions to get UX up the organizational ladder. This method very often fails because we are not showing our value to the product or project like the business and IT can. Instead we are seen as “yes” men/women who will just compromise to get ahead.
How do we get to a place where we can promote UX in the organization or even within a project team so that we can see the value of our work come to life? How do we make it so we are making the best compromises for the user, business and technology? It all comes down to being creative. Yes, that’s right you are not being creative enough! We need to get creative and find a way to come up with measurable data-driven experiences that contribute to the project’s and, at a higher level, the organization’s goals. We need to know the data (yes numbers *gasp*) behind our solutions. We need to understand the project goals and success metrics and how we contribute to them. And then we need to document how our UX decisions contribute towards these metrics. In short, it’s a numbers game.
Let’s use an example to make this data talk less scary. Let’s say you are on a project whose goal is to increase application conversion rates. Currently users are coming to this application at a high rate, but at some point in the app they are dropping off. You, as a project team, need to increase these conversion rates by 2% (threw the % sign in there. I know it’s scary but we’ll get through this I promise hehe). You are the UX person on this project, what is your first step? Well some might say we need to categorize our users, understand form design, understand the content, do a content inventory, do an inventory of questions and see which ones are necessary, etc. Yes, that would work, but what about a different approach?
The first step I would take? 1. Understand how many people 2% is. How many users is that in total? 100? 1000? 2. Talk to the folks down on the click analysis team and see if there is blatant fall off point. 3. Figure out how many people attempt to get through the app a day/week/whatever. Then estimate how many more users would get through the app based on fixing of the problem area (heuristic evaluation 101). 4. Document, I don’t care if it’s a sticky, that fixing this problem will increase user flow by X users a day. 5. Solve the problem using UX/Design, and back up your reasoning with numbers and solid rationale. (i.e. Right here in LukeW’s analysis we see that putting the form fields on separate pages encourages users to do bla. He has tested this a trillion times. If we want to raise our conversion rates by X people a day then we need to do something of this effect. I talked to analytics and this is our dropoff point, etc and so on) 6. Walk out after kicking butt, buy myself a beer, then go to analytics the day after release and see if my estimates were correct.
Ok that was a lot, but you get the point. What you have now done, is proven your worth to a project. You have been given a number, shown how UX gets the project to its goals and most importantly have kept the user in mind without compromising your soul away. You have earned the respect of your peers because you understand the project and know an effective way to see solid results for your users. By using data as well as project goals and metrics, you have now been heard, and can continue to be on other efforts. But most important of all, you have advocated for the user, you have projected their voice, have solved their problem, have gotten them heard. Good job!