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A new project is starting, 8 people are forming the board of decision-making. They have high expectations regarding the user experience - yet, they do not seem to have a strong experience with a process or user-research.

As the main responsible of the design process I want to make sure that they understand that user testing is absolutely mandatory and that there will be some iterations. On the other hand, I do not want to appear too blunt or to impose a methodology.

How should I behave on this first encounter? What should I be concerned about the most?

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You should be asking questions.

You need to find out (at high level) what they want.

You will also need to find out what is crucial and what would be 'nice to have'.

And you will need to agree a set of assumptions about anything that you have no information for (this could be anything from server capabilities to data sources).

Finally, you will need to set the road-map for the project: explaining each phase of the design process and giving them an idea of what they should expect to see and how long it should take (including user testing).

This may require more than one meeting to achieve. For your first meeting I would concentrate on finding out what they want and agreeing assumptions - you could call this the "kick-off" and state that you'll be organising further meetings to discover what their definition of Minimum Viable Product is or what 'done' looks like and to set out a road-map for the project.

  • Yes, Asking is really important. Once I made a website. I thought I knew everything they want and two days before launch, they wanted me to make the website double-languaged. Luckily I could satisfy them with the Google Translate API. – Noah Krasser Jun 21 '17 at 19:22
  • I like the idea of knowing the assumptions and their representation of a MVP. Explaining the process is needed as well. But it feels like there is no plan, I was wondering if there would be any common misconceptions to address. – asiegfried Jun 22 '17 at 10:58
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    You can gauge what you need to tell them about the process after that first meeting. They might walk in saying "I don't want to see any user testing nonsense - I know what my users want" or they might walk in saying "I'm really keen to find out what our user think". There's no point trying to antagonise them by assuming that they think a certain way before you've even started – Andrew Martin Jun 22 '17 at 11:06
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Delivering value starts with understanding what people value. Get to know your audience.

To give them what they need, you'll need to talk to them and ask questions.

In order to do that, you'll first need to learn their language and establish some rapport.

In a consultant or specialist role, it's tricky to go from a cold open with a bunch strangers in the same conference room. Group meetings are more theater than communication anyway.

If you can supplement group discussions with offline 1-on-1 conversations with each of the important stakeholders, your group conversations with stakeholders will get a lot more mileage.

Focus on understanding and getting to know the decision-makers who are vision owners, in particular. They're used to thinking about the work in terms of outcomes, and if you can show those people you work with how what you do applies to what they do, they'll go to bat for doing things the right way and in the right order.

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