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Can You Say That in English? Explaining UX Research to Clients

The new business meeting was going swimmingly—that is, until the client started asking questions about our design process. Then we unleashed our lexicon of specialized user experience (UX) research terminology.

Why should we do that thing you called…what was it, task analysis? We’d like some of those personas. They’re important, right? What the heck is contextual inquiry?!

As mental models flew about the room, I realized how hard it is for clients to understand the true value of UX research. As much as I’d like to tell my clients to go read The Elements of User Experience and call me back when they’re done, that won’t cut it in a professional services environment. The whole team needs a common language and a philosophy that’s easy to grok.

I created a cheat sheet to help you pitch UX research using plain, client-friendly language that focuses on the business value of each exercise. But, before we get to the cheat sheet, let’s talk about how we can communicate the value of UX research at a much higher level.



Try a little Tenderness

Strong UX thinking is founded on observed user behavior. You can’t just call in a UX expert and expect to make headway with unsophisticated clients. As independent UX designer Whitney Hess puts it, “User experience designers are liaisons, not subject matter experts, doctors, or any type of magical beings. We don’t have a set of best practices that we can robotically implement, nor do we have all of the answers. Our greatest skill is that we know how to listen.”

As UX researchers, we’re hired to be the glue between business stakeholders and users. In a sense, we’re informed facilitators. And before a contract is signed, our role is to influence our clients with kindness, grace, and wit, on the true value of our engagement.

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