3 techniques I used to sell UX to stakeholders

So how do we sell the idea to stakeholders?

Just saying, “It’s working with the customer’s needs in mind while still catering to business needs…” doesn’t cut it.

Sure, for me (now that I’m already immersed in the concept) that phrase explains it all and more. Yet for someone new to UX that explains most business needs. So where does the UX come in?

We were recently asked to make some changes to the company site and I found myself with the idea that we had to consciously include UX in the department’s processes.

It’s always been a part of our work, but we weren’t going through all the stages and we were far from doing it right because everyone “knew what the user’s wanted or thought”. We know that’s often very far from the truth.

How was I going to sell the idea, present the data and results, all without funding or the stakeholders knowing what UX is exactly?

1. Research and Data

mockups_analytics

Nothing speaks louder to business minded people than numbers and data to backup your argument. So whenever I had free time in my day to day work I started researching everything possible. I asked my team to do the same and then created visualizations of the results.

Competition: We looked at what the best in ths industry were doing. The amount of information presented, layouts, important areas, site architecture and language. Amazingly, we found that many of their sites were complicated and overrun with information. This meant that going clean and simple couldn’t be the only deciding factor. In some cases it would be the promotions and in others the ease of use.

Customers: I asked our customer the service department what kind of feedback they had from clients. I also searched through my archive of any complaints we had received in the past. Although we had always responded to the complaints immediately, we could get a general picture of where customers found problems. We would have to keep these findings in mind throughout the rest of the project.

Analytics: We implemented Google Analytics in the earliest stage of the site’s development so we had a lot of data to refer to. Our top landing pages were analyzed as well as divided into logical categories to determine if we were showcasing our content properly. We also analyzed user flow within our site. The data proved that many pages that were receiving a lot of our time and dedication were in fact performing below expected, wheras some pages that were almost hidden away were amongst our top pages. The analysis gave us a clearer picture of how we should organise our categories, as well as the order of importance of the pages as users see them.

Documents created from this phase:

  • PDF with screen captures and details of competitor sites
  • Excel: Landing page importance, category division/results and site behaviour
  • Excel: Customer feedback from service department

DOWNLOAD (Analytics data template)

DOWNLOAD (Customer feedback template)

It’s important to note that we didn’t hold any stakeholder research at this stage because we already had a pretty clear picture of what they expected from the project.

2. Strategy

site_map

Before presenting our findings to my director I decided that we should have a clearer explanation of what was interpreted from the results and what we thought should be done with them.

Architecture: We created a sitemap using Gliffy with proposed changes to the site’s hierarchy structure and order of importance of the content.

Timeline: We put together an initial rough agenda of the whole process of the project from development to implementation. It was impossible to present a final timeline yet without having any feedback from stakeholders. It was important to show a clear picture of where we wanted to go.

Upgrades: As part of the project, we were to work responsive aspects to cater to ever growing mobile users. Due to time constraints I researched various frameworks that could make the process easier. I decided on Bootstrap for 3 mains reasons:

  1. It catered to older browsers, more especifically IE8.
  2. Learning Bootstrap seemed a little easier than most of the it’s competitors.
  3. It seemed quite complete and well rounded straight out of the box.

Documents created from this phase:

  • Sitemap mockup
  • Excel of proposed timeline for development

DOWNLOAD (Timeline template)

3. Mockups

mockups_pencil

Last, but not least, we decided to create various types of mockups to accompany the above documentation.

Paper mockups: Using sneakpeekit‘s simple paper mockups we sketched out ideas for various devices.

High fidelity mockups: We created a simple High Fidelity mockup of our home page using Photoshop just to give a more visual representation of some of the design changes we were proposing.

Documents created from this phase:

  • Paper sketch mockups
  • Homepage high fidelity mockup

Presentation:

The time finally came when I had to present our findings and suggestions. I showed up with my stack of material to a somewhat reticent audience. When asked what it all meant I asked one simple question: “When was the last time we designed one of our sites where we REALLY considered what the user wanted and expected?”.

Before letting anyone feel insulted I went straight on to explain that we had decided to collect information to support our claim that we were missing the mark on some points. Although we had always had positive results, meeting these needs could make a large difference for our users and us.

At first I could feel a lot of scepticism, but as I began going through the documents the feedback was incredible. A brainstorming session ensued that created new ways of looking at many things we had taken for granted.

I’ve since begun using UX methodologies in all my projects and now love showing up at a meeting with data to back up my words whereas my colleagues now seem to expect it.

Conclusion:

Presenting UX as a concept to someone who hasn’t been exposed to it can seem idealistic and almost like a marketing ploy. Having the documentation to backup your words is important. In some cases just the data is enough. In this case I went a little further because I felt I needed to paint a more complete picture of what it all meant and the advantages of using up company time on these processes.

Needless to say nowadays some kind of UX research is expected although I’m still trying to convince the company of the advantages of investing in some more complete tools. Luckily there are some incredible free tools for most of the processes, some of which I’ll be sharing in a future article.

I hope this helps someone out there who isn’t sure how to go about convincing their company or client the importance of a UX process in a project.

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