As user experience designers we think and act differently. We belong to a field where we seem to be the only ones that understand what we really do. We work across various teams, collaborate, communicate and share ideas in the simplest forms to make good decisions.
Our job title is not straightforward. “I’m a chef”, “I’m an accountant”, “I’m a lawyer”, etc are pretty straightforward. Tell someone you are a lawyer, there is a good chance he/she understands what you do. You can hardly get off with “I’m a UX designer.” Amongst friends and family members, you often hear “what is that your job about again?” You have to explain, again, and again.
It is the peculiarity of our work. 90% of the work of being a UX designer is evangelism.
More important than mere communication, how do we communicate the value of design and what we do? On the surface, few people understand the true value of design. The concept of user experience is abstract, you cannot tell what user experience is, you can only show.
The challenge to communicate the value of user experience lies in getting clients to understand the benefits of a user-driven process. Explaining the benefits of user experience and customer-centered thinking may not be enough to convince a CEO/shareholder it is worth the effort even if the benefits match the company’s goals and values. Evangelizing UX is a continuous process.
See yourself as an advocate. Fight for your users.
As a UX designer, you are tied to fighting for the user and achieving the company’s goal. The main goal of companies/shareholders is to make money. Focus on customers is the surest, most direct way to make money. A customer-centric approach and thinking is the start in the right direction.
Share your story. Support it with data.
Share the story of your desired outcomes, the opportunities that both design thinking and customer-centric understanding could bring to the company as users engage with products and services. What will the company look like if it achieved your goals? How will the users be impacted? Your story needs to draw people in, it has to be dramatic, emotional, engaging and still retain the core of its message.
Data wins arguments. It helps for solid and strong reasoning. To drive home your point, data should be part of your arsenal. Do your own homework. Don’t wait for approval to do research, carry out tests and present your results.
Keep a record of past successes so you can fall back on it.
It is natural for people to react to past experiences and results. Past success on even small projects is really important. When you demonstrate the success of successive projects or on a small part of a big project, the company’s culture can shift to embrace UX and customer-centered design and thinking.
Your colleagues are your first disciples.
Success likes company (association), when others see a change in thinking/design and the results one small change could bring, they’d begin to respond positively. When you have a team of evangelists who like the new way of doing things, the organizational magic happens.
Deploy empathy. Listen Intently.
Many CEOs and shareholders see things from their perspective, anything different may seem intimidating to them. To deal with these kinds of people requires empathy, a must have for UX designers. Either you put yourself in their shoes, or you put your shoes on their legs.
Evangelism and communication is not a one-way lane. The reason most of us find it difficult is because we do not really listen. We listen to respond.
To lead someone into a UX mindset, you’d have to listen more than just to respond.
Showcase projects. Prototype your idea to communicate your vision.
At times, our ideas may seem abstract to the next person. It doesn’t help when we keep talking, describing and narrating to communicate such ideas. A sketchbook or marker board may still not be enough to convey such ideas. At this point, it is best to create a quick prototype either low or high fidelity. It’s stressful, and may even be a waste of time and effort, but it does go a long way to make things come to life and best communicate your ideas. Most of the time, it will be worth it.