UX: Defending Your Ideas
As a UX designer, you need to present your ideas, a lot. Whether it’s your own team, your boss, or your client, sharing your work should demonstrate that you know your craft, that you’ve done your homework and that you’re a good listener. Building trust as often and as early as possible will make the rest of the project run much smoother and even help to mitigate the occasional irrational, flip-flopping, revision hungry, bad-idea-factory of a client.
TL;DR: In the end, clients are much more likely to agree with your conclusions if they trust you. As a UX designer you can build that trust quickly by properly framing up your presentations, backing up what you’re saying, and asking for specific feedback.
Framing the Question
When we say we’re presenting our ideas to clients, the unspoken part is that we’re trying to sell them. Clients have paid us for our ideas and our execution, so presentations where we show them what they’ve paid for are definitely part of the sales process. Charles Kettering is often attributed the saying “A problem well stated is a problem half-solved.” One of the most important parts of a presentation is making sure everyone understands what problem or goal you were aiming at.
Your questions should be concise, focused and demonstrate your understanding and expertise. Here are some examples of basic questions that could be answered in an opening:
- What did the client ask for?
- Who are we making this for?
- Why do users want it?
- How are users accomplishing this now?
- What benefits will the business get by making/providing this?
This is your opportunity to show you understand your clients goals very clearly, and that’s a great foundation to build trust on.
I once worked with a CEO that said “Statistics are like torture. You just keep hitting them with it until they see it your way.” While he was probably right, research does play a critical part in our work.
Did you do a basic competitive analysis? Did you research some best practices? Conduct any labs, surveys or even just hallway usability? It’s great if you did, so make sure you communicate it. It’s hard to make the best “User Experience” without actually talking to some users, so make sure you share what informed your decisions.
Speaking of decisions, as a designer you had to make several to produce your work. As an expert, it can be easy to overlook the knowledge you have as obvious when it’s nothing but. Why’d you do it that way? Why is it that colour? How come the navigation is on the left instead of the right?
Rather than describing the UI they can already see, use the rationale as the basis for your walkthrough. “We know that search is the primary method for our users to engage with us so you can see how we’ve treated it,” rather than “We put the search bar at the top and in the middle so it’s prominent.”
Design at its core is intention. The more clients know why something was done, the more they can judge it beyond first impressions and personal opinions.
Wrapping it up
What you should never, ever, EVER ask is if they like it. If you catch yourself asking this question, politely excuse yourself for a moment, step out of the room, taser or waterboard yourself and then come back and start again. The problem with “Do you like it?” is that if they say “yes” then it seems like you got lucky and if they say “no” then you’re absolutely screwed. Why don’t they like it? Is it too blue? Well you’re probably not going to convince them that they like blue, so I guess it’s back to the drawing board.
Instead, as you finish up the presentation, bring it full circle and touch on the key points you mentioned when you defined the problem. These are the criteria that your work needs to be judged by. If we all agreed to the premise at the beginning, then the question should be “Do you agree that we’ve met the goals/solved the problems we set out with this work?” If they agree to that, then even if there are items they still don’t “like”, you’re on a much better footing to have the discussion.
Final Pro Tip
Since we’ve agreed that presentations are a form of sales, it’s also important to remember that your presentation should be interesting. What you don’t want is to knock out all but the most heavily caffeinated with KPIs, statistics and long drawn out explantations. This is your work and you should be proud of it. Share that pride. Get them excited. I know it can be tough and sometimes the subject matter is a bit dry, but you don’t have to make it worse by boring everyone. Keep it snappy. Throw in a joke if you’re funny. (Note: ask someone you aren’t related or married to if you are in fact funny before trying this.) When people are interested, when they feel confident that you know your craft and you know their challenges, your ideas will practically sell themselves.