Here’s Why Your Manager Doesn’t Take UX Design Seriously (And how to change that)

Here’s Why Your Manager Doesn’t Take UX Design Seriously (And how to change that)

Here’s Why Your Manager Doesn’t Take UX Design Seriously (And how to change that) 3000 2000 Use Design

As silly as it may seem, there are still many smart, competent people out there who have no idea of what ‘user experience’ is about.

You’re probably thinking: Here comes another 101 on UX design. I’ll learn 2 new catchphrases and a couple of neat visuals that I can show people every time they misunderstand the role of design.

But that’s not what I’m here for.

I believe the real problem isn’t in how well we pitch user experience — I’ve met many brilliant designers who knew every single aspect of the field, from technical constraints to strategic decision-making, but still failed to make their statement. 

And it turns out they all had one obstacle in common: they underestimated the little things, the logistics, and the soft skills surrounding design.

“It’s all about the little things, the logistics, and the soft skills surrounding design”

Does it mean I should forget all about the ROI of UX? Of course not. Even though Alan Cooper urges you to. But if you don’t take the logistics out of the way, your team will have a hard time being heard by the guys who do take ROI seriously.

There are 3 common roadblocks when it comes to UX soft skills:

1 – The multi-professional vocabulary

2 – Stakeholder participation

3 – Workspace transparency

Let me show you what I’m talking about…

 

Roadblock #1: We still don’t speak the same language.

It’s been decades since the field of UX design has been formalized by evangelists such as Alan Cooper. But to this day, we still have long discussions about what we call ourselves, and how to translate our role to other domains. Mr. Alan Cooper himself spoke about this challenge:

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve tried to explain the role of ‘user experience’ to family, friends, or clients. Sometimes I succeed. Too often I fail. And when I do, I find myself going back to cliché terms such as “it’s how it works”.

I get it. It’s important to strengthen the name of “UX”. But is it absolutely necessary to restrict ourselves to these 2 letters? Why aren’t we OK with just “designer”? Why not “business consultant”? Product consultant? Customer experience strategist?

I think you get the point. There’s no need to be so strict. We shouldn’t be afraid to walk into a meeting saying we are something other than “UX designers”. Yes, we are businessmen. And sometimes, we just happen to be technologists too.

ux-design-business-joke

Did you think this joke breaks some designer stereotype? Then, you’re probably in the right place.

Don’t hesitate to adapt to other people’s vocabulary. Use the same terms they use to describe their work. UX design IS business after all. And good business should always be human-centered.

This brings me to my second point.

Roadblock #2: We advocate that everyone should be user-centric, but we don’t let others participate in our product design.

Designing is not easy. It requires experience in research, iterations, trials and errors. You’ve probably come across a “design” proposition by someone who hasn’t even thought about who was going to use it. Let me guess, it sucked.

But being too prideful and ensuring no one else can participate in the design process will only make people feel UX is a purposeless, obscure field.

Let them try it out. Ask them to think about their business problems and reflect on design objectives. Have them sketch some solutions on a piece of paper, a powerpoint presentation, or however they want.

Critique their design just as you would like to be critiqued as a designer (or a user ambassador). Then show them what you would have done, step by step, from research to proposition.

At Use Design, we’ve created our own tool to facilitate the collaborative design process. Caravel is home to all UX projects we share with clients, and it’s also a safe place for them to share their feedback and build on our propositions.

caravel-ux-project-management-tool

Caravel helps making design methods and deliverables more accessible to non-designers

I’m not saying you need to use Caravel to get the job done. But you should find a place where you can share the UX responsibility with non-designers and encourage managers to participate.

Once you invite other people to participate in your design process, they will understand why you are called UX designer (or a user-centered manager). And they may even become your new advocate.

Now, could we dig even deeper?

Roadblock #3: We’re still hiding our workspace.

Empathy is one of the rules designers live by. We try to put ourselves in other people’s shoes before designing products.

To let us carry our research, end users will often welcome us in their own home or office. People will usually listen to all our layman questions, and show us everything we ask them to. They understand that it’s important to grasp their environment.

So why don’t we do the same when managers (or clients) are trying to grasp ours?

Let me give you a couple of examples. 

How often do we share our Sketch source files with clients or managers and let them play around with our design? How many of your design files do not require a special software to be opened by non-designers?

You’re probably thinking: “That’s natural! Design tools require some operational skills and a lot of sensibility”. That’s understandable. But those tools also create a parallel world that is almost invisible to non-designers.

Would we understand what an accountant does if we’d never seen a complex spreadsheet?

You definitely don’t have to invite clients or managers to your desk everyday. But if you want their respect and understanding, you need to have some common tools.

At Use Design, we also try to be more transparent and invite clients into our workspace: our research files, wireframes, prototypes, and even some of our design and strategy techniques.

And if you’re not a designer, this point is just as important. One of Use Design’s clients, a sensible UX-believer, did an amazing job at spreading the message to her more sceptical colleagues. She had the idea to compile a list of videos of the design workshops and prototype tests we had done with real users. When the executives from her company saw how she had come up with her product decisions — and most importantly, when they watched users’ reactions — they finally understood what UX was about.

Our UX hero could have kept the videos we sent her deep down her computer archives, along with a few other design files we had put together. But she understood the importance of opening up.

Again, the answer here is not in using a specific tool. It’s in adopting the right mindset. Go ahead and keep your design files for yourself. But look out for other ways to share your workspace. Be transparent. Make your work accessible to others. Explain it as often as you can.


For design-led giants with big UX teams and mature design structures, this article may not be so enlightening. And that’s great for them. But for most UX designers or user-centered managers, struggling for space is still a reality.

Getting UX to the next level will require some soft skills. It takes patience, and sometimes the kind of work you thought you didn’t really sign up for.

1 – The multi-professional vocabulary

2 – Stakeholder participation

3 – Workspace transparency

Revolutions are tough. If you want to stand out, you better be sure to battle from all angles. Leave your pride aside. Start with the simple things.


Pedro Sant’Anna — Business, Product & Design Strategist @ Use Design

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