Communicating the Value of UX

A roundtable discussion.

Every now and then, we gather as a team to consider current and contested topics in UX design and research. Part of what we love about our discussions is the chance to share knowledge across experience levels and expertise.

Our latest topic: how do we communicate the value of UX to our clients?

Although the concepts of user experience design and research have been around for at least a decade, UX is still a relatively new field in the grand scheme of business strategies. A huge part of our work as a UX agency has always been to communicate why we’re doing what we’re doing at different phases of our projects and with different types of people using different tools and strategies. We believe in the importance of explaining the critical value of UX, which is why we aim to educate our partner clients with the knowledge and know-how that keeps them informed and empowered both during and after a project.

Here, you’ll find our research team’s biggest takeaways from our latest discussion in the hopes that they’ll be as useful to you as they are for us! Continue reading to discover our five biggest learnings on communicating the value of UX with clients.

Lisa Otto

January 24, 2018

Find a shared language.

Since UX is still a relatively young field, there is still little consensus on what terms mean. Terms can have drastically different interpretations across organizations and geographies and even between team members. “UX” itself can be broadly interpreted as shaping an experience of a product or service across mediums (as we do) or it can be narrowly defined as processes for building solely digital services. Before you can even begin to explain the value of UX, ensure that everyone knows exactly what processes and methods you’re talking about. Take the time to define your terms with the client (and internal members, too). Though it can be time consuming up front, use your client’s language so they can take ownership of the processes and methods.

Tactical tip: a workshop is a great format for bringing together stakeholders, gaining a shared understanding of the problem, and establishing terminology.

Map your landscape.

Working on any UX projects means working with many different stakeholders. In trying to communicate the value of UX, it’s important to consider the audience you’re speaking to and what their goals might be. We often remind ourselves that the people who sign the SOW are not the only ones influencing decisions. Sketching out a map of how the organization is structured politically and what each stakeholder needs to be successful means time up front, but will be well worth it as you navigate different roadblocks. The map will help when it comes time to decide if you need to take a bottom-up approach or a top-down one.

Tactical tip: a stakeholder map is not only a great tool to use to map the product landscape. It can also be used to map the political landscape your are working in. Use the stakeholder map and other methods to convey the constraints and metrics your clients are working towards and how you can help promote their efforts in the larger organization.

Define your success metric.

If you’re bringing new processes to a company, you can’t just barrel in and say “this is what we’re doing,” and expect them to trust you. You have to find out what matters to your client.

Frequently, whether we want to hear it or not, the client just needs to know how this project will affect the company’s bottom line. If you can tie your work to profits, then that may be all the client needs to hear. But if your work cannot be directly linked to the money, find your one achievable success metric that matters to your client. Communicate how this “messy” process can lead to this outcome.

Tactical tip: establish tactical and strategic goals with clients early on. Remember that early wins can build credibility to the larger organization. Consider breaking down the project into bite-sized chunks where you can show success along the way.

Tell stories.

Working in UX means working with ambiguity. The process and project is different for every client and we never know quite where the project will end up. That can be scary for those unfamiliar with UX. What we have to show is a process that we know has been successful in the past but in the abstract can be hard to grasp. Instead, tell “nugget” stories — bite-sized stories that capture the concrete success of a particular method.

When presenting progress to clients, rather than presenting decks filled with text, show them what you’re working on — maybe it’s a prototype or the materials from a workshop. Rather than just saying a particular button doesn’t work, show a video clip from a usability test of a user struggling to get to the shopping cart. Being able to hold something or see the user’s struggle speaks louder than a page full of text.

Tactical tip: the stories you share don’t always have to be your own. One of our favorites is the story of how Doug Deitz “redesigned” the MRI-machine to make it more kid-friendly.

Work with clients who have “drunk the Kool-Aid.”

If all else fails, consider working with clients who are already onboard with UX process. As UX becomes a more mature field, more and more organizations are recognizing the value of design to their bottom line. While our jobs will most likely always entail evangelizing for human-centered processes, working with organizations who are already bought into the process means you can push the boundaries and try more exploratory methods. Sometimes, it’s not possible to work with companies totally on board with the UX process. If that’s the case, find your UX evangelist in the company to team up with who can share the design thinking philosophy more widely.

Tactical tip: our team recommends reading Wired to Care to understand how a shared philosophy can benefit a company.

Successfully communicating the value of UX is always dependent of the client and the context. As we talked about in the roundtable, each situation will require something a little different. How we share our value will always be an ongoing discussion here at EchoUser.

Do you have any favorite strategies for communicating the value of UX? We’d love to hear them! Comment below or tweet us @echouser

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