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I was asked "If you want to redesign some part of the application but the engineers said it will take too much of their time and don't want to change it, what would you say?"

I think it's a very common and classic interview question that has been asked A LOT. What do you guys think it's a better way to approach it?

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That's a business and project management question more than a UX question. –  DA01 Sep 11 '12 at 20:31
    
@DA01, that really depends on how the company is structured, but you're right in that this is very much related to managing a project or product for a business. –  zzzzBov Aug 2 '13 at 18:54

4 Answers 4

up vote 34 down vote accepted

I have faced this challenge a few times and I have found the best ways to handle this would be to use the methods highlighted below or a use a combination of them:

  • Conduct some usability tests and get some data about the pain points experienced by users using that specific module: I have generally found engineering teams are more receptive if they are presented with concrete data about what are the issues users are facing rather than just presenting a design change. One way to do this is to record usability tests and show real users going through the interface.
  • Create a prototype with the updated design and test users with it to determine relative success rates: I usually go for this approach when I can create a quick prototype and test users to determine how successful the redesign would be and what would be the relative benefits in going for the redesign. This data supplemented with the data from the previous method is usually pretty beneficial in convincing management if not the developers
  • Break the proposed redesign into small iterative steps which would incrementally improve the user experience: This approach really works well when the entire redesign would take a lot of time and there are a number of small changes that can be made to enhance the overall user experience. These changes can be something as small as changing the content used to communicate the process to the introduction of a new call to action button to drive the process
  • Talk to the management in terms in their language i.e conversion or lead generations or profits: I usually try this approach at the last when my efforts havent really managed to convince the devs to consider a redesign. In that case, the best way would be to talk to the management about the potential pain points and how eliminating those pain points would drive conversions or increase sales. Though the issue remains that it might be a considerable rework,sometimes you can get additional resources allocated which would make the redesign a much faster process.
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+1 for crisp answer! –  sree Sep 8 '12 at 3:24
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Also including the engineers as observers in the user testing can help them better understand the need. –  hannahd Oct 4 '12 at 23:34
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One thing that's missed here is the opinions and feedback of the engineers/developers. It's possible that they may have some important information such as security requirements or implementation details that the new design doesn't account for. Understanding why they don't want to make a change goes a long way toward convincing them that a change is necessary. –  zzzzBov Aug 2 '13 at 18:52

I've also found it handy to offer to pitch in and help out with any updates/modifications, if you are comfortable getting your hands dirty with code. When I offer to write the HTML/CSS/JS necessary to get the change implemented, I've found that our developers are often receptive to making the changes (its still work on their parts, but offering to help out also shows that you think its an update worth spending time on, rather than just "something the designer wants to be prettier").

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+0 It's a good answer for how to resolve the actual problem, but not one I'd be comfortable giving in an interview. –  Racheet Aug 2 '13 at 16:17

I'd ask why I wanted to redesign it. I'd only want to redesign parts of an application provided it met a variety of criteria:

  • users would benefit
  • the business, in turn, would benefit

Provided those criteria are met, I'd nee to come up with a compelling proposal.

At that point, it becomes a budget and resources question and if there's a ROI.

If it's not an easy numbers answer, then I'd look at working with the tech team to see if compromises/alternatives that are more workable for everyone and still produce some ROI are viable.

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The first thing I would do is to try to understand why the changes would take too much time. Is the system outdated? Are there enhancements to the technical design of the application that they would like to accomplish but have not gotten attention or prioritization? Do they have other priorities that are more important to them and why? Is it possible that we could find a win-win that supported the customer experience changes needed as well as the objectives of the engineers.

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