The Hand Approach: An Example.

Imagine that you were pulled into a project and something about the design just didn’t sit right. You have a hunch that a graph on the screen should really be a simple calculator to communicate savings, but the rest of the team is comfortable with the current approach. Maybe you mentioned once or twice that a calculator could show more value, but the team has moved on to other problems.

It’s time to hand it up.

Gather all of the user-research done thus far. See if you can find gaps in understanding that tie back to the value proposition. Hey, maybe your calculator idea sucks. This is why evidence gathering is so important, if you’re going to throw some middle fingers in the air, you better know your stuff. But, this time your hunch is validated. Users consistently had a hard time understanding their savings, which links back to the graph. Still, you’re not done. Start researching the project’s design process. How did earlier versions of the design tackle the calculation problem? Knowing the process grows your evidence and helps you empathize with other perspectives on the team. Evidence is more than user testing, it’s everything that goes into design decisions.

At this point though, you have enough evidence to confirm your hunch. The graph had gone through multiple iterations and users are still confused. Thumbs up: time to start building your claim. You can think of a claim as the answer to the design problem. For this project, it may be a great time to revisit the initial “How might we…” — sometimes projects can lose sight of their original intent, and crafting arguments can help keep the dialogue on track. Perhaps the design problem was something like this: “How might we show customers possible savings with this new product at a glance.” Your claim, based on the evidence could read, “A simple calculator that adds savings as customers sort through their purchases easily and succinctly communicates consumer value at a glance.” Reasons tie in right away — time to point things out more specifically with that pointer finger: “A simple calculator that adds savings as customers sort through their purchases easily and succinctly communicates customer value at a glance because customers are accustomed the visual representation of calculators and they can gamify their experience on the page by increasing potential savings.”

Are we done yet? Not quite. Claims and reasons are great, but they aren’t enough. The trifecta of claims, reasons, and evidence is powerful, but it can make you sound like an arrogant asshole. You need to show that you understand and empathize with the design process, the other perspectives on the team, and users. This is your ring finger promise. For this project, you know that the team is in the weeds and you have the benefit of fresh eyes, you also know that sometimes calculators don’t work, and you can articulate how and why this one will be different. You discuss how it could add work for the tech teams, but you’ve thought about ways to simplify the calculation. You also show other graph designs that may help communicate value effectively, but next to the calculator, they aren’t quite as strong. The promise here is that you’ve thought about this; you’ve thought about them. You’ve made the best argument for the graph that you could, but it just didn’t stack up.

Just like that pinkie finger, you may or may not need to take this one step further. For this example, your warrant would address assumptions that users respond to gamification and they like saving money. You may not need to support the idea that people like to save money, but you may need to support the assumption of gamification by doing a bit of research on other gamified designs that were successful and articulating how this design will use gamification in a more subtle fashion.

Ta da! You’ve made an argument for a design change that is supported and ready for dialogue with your team. This could all be done in an afternoon and articulated verbally in your next stand up, or you could spend a week refining it in a more formal presentation-style share out. The idea is that this starts a rich conversation that will either lead to implementing your calculator idea, or sets the stage for an even better idea grown through dialogue.

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