Writers write, designers design and developers develop. We all have our comfort zones and our chosen happy niches, but modern website design requires us all to be cross skilled to some extent and to at least have a passing interest in other disciplines. Sometimes this can be difficult and we’ve recently been asked how to engage developers more in user experience. But rather than focus just on developers we thought we’d look at how to encourage anyone you work with to embrace user experience.
Great design + good user experience = portfolio work
We all have specialisms that we prefer and will happily read and learn more about. Similarly we all have topics that are a big turn off, where we’d rather do anything but read more about. So how do you make a topic like user experience (UX) more interesting to someone who would prefer not to care? The obvious method to wedge your mollusc-like colleague off their favourite rock is to frame the argument so that it benefits them. Great design + good user experience = portfolio work. We all want to point to well designed, popular websites and say “I worked on that!”. It’s great for the CV and good for attracting new clients with deeper pockets.
Observing real users will challenge their beliefs about UX
Often though, the big picture long-term view isn’t enough to stimulate genuine interest. If I told you that you really need to learn more about trend x to be a happy, healthier person, would that really make you want to learn more and start to integrate it into your daily habits? Unlikely. To get people interested in something they are not passionate about is near impossible unless you break down their negative beliefs about it. The most common negative belief we come across concerns the actual usefulness of user experience. If someone feels that user experience is just another buzz word, lacking any real substance the best way to challenge that belief is to get them to observe users interacting with a site that they have previously worked on.
We encourage as many of our clients as possible to come along to observe usability tests. Even if someone can only visit for 20 minutes, that is all it can take for the penny to drop. Seeing real people struggle with features that many in the industry take for granted is a humbling experience. This is the best method to help challenge their beliefs and make them realise that they were wrong when they thought real users would use the site in the same way they do. It takes a hard person to sit through that and still think that user experience is a waste of time.
Making life easier for users with good design is a no-brainer
When presented in the right way, the value of user experience is hard to argue with. Making life easier for users through good design is a no-brainer. Getting someone to accept this is the first key step on the journey. Once people get past that, it’s up to them how far they take it. Some will become passionate advocates and some will accept its value and be more supportive of UX but will never really engage more than that. This may be good enough in some instances and will depend on the context of why you want them to engage with UX in the first place. Focusing on the benefits to them and breaking down their negative beliefs will take you a lot closer than you’ll ever get by telling them they should…, ought to… and must…
How have you inspired team mates, employees or clients to embrace UX?
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About Damian Rees
Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees