I self-learning UX/UI right now. My friend asked me to improve interface in his application that will be used to organize every city event. The stakeholders are city officials who will be deciding on buying, however, they are busy people, so the product owner has forbidden me to interview them.

To get around this, my friend offered to answer my questions on their behalf. Though he developed the application and has been in contact with them, I don't feel like it is good idea to trust only his opinions.

Would it be better if I ask somebody who works with the stakeholders to complete the interview, or would it be sufficient to trust my friend?

  • When you say you're "not allowed to interview them", what do you mean? Do you mean that the product owner has forbidden you from interviewing them, that the product owner doesn't think it's work trying to get an interview with them, or that they are not responding to requests for an interview? Also, what kind of interview do you want to carry out? Is this high-level requirements gathering, detailed user journey mapping, persona generation, etc? – Andrew Martin Aug 22 '17 at 13:08
  • The product owner has forbidden me from interviewing them. – Ada Aug 22 '17 at 13:16
  • In that case, my suggestion would be similar to the one posted by Pectoralis Major below: Keep asking for them but work with what you have. Stakeholder interviews are important (if not crucial) and shouldn't just be cast aside in favour of a more immediate source of information. – Andrew Martin Aug 22 '17 at 13:20

You're on the right track. Although your stakeholder may claim to be a subject matter expert, at the end of the day the only people who can provide the best answers to your questions are the users themselves. The strategy of contacting employees that work closely with these stakeholders to get a better understanding of your audience is a good idea.

Keep in mind, however, that the city officials who are responsible for purchasing the application may not be the end users who use this program on a day to day basis. The job of organizing events may be delegated to other government administrators. Find out who the true users are, and then get as close as you can to interviewing them or people similar to them.

Good luck!

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  • I wanna know why they switch to us, before they get my friend offer they was using another, cheaper solution. (I plan to interview users to.) – Ada Aug 22 '17 at 15:52

Research is at the heart of UX. Without solid data to build upon, it's impossible to build truly functional and user-friendly experiences.

There are ways to go about gathering data without directly interviewing the users involved:

  • Analytics
  • A/B Testing
  • Automated Remote Screen Recording

Let's take a quick look at how these might be effective in your case.


Gathering and drawing conclusions from analytics is a key skill for UX engineers and researchers. UX Booth has a great introduction into how to use analytics in a UX capactity and is definitely worth a read. In general, however, you'll want to do at least a couple of things to use analytics to your advantage.

Setup an Analytics Gathering Tool

This may be more difficult given the government nature of your project, as there are some security concerns and most analytics tools require open access to at least their APIs. Still, there are many out-of-the-box options that require very little setup to be effective from day 1, of which Google Analytics is the most prominent and commonly used. In a pinch, it's possible to setup some basic analytics gathering using some server-side coding and a database, though anything you build would have a hard time being as fully functional as a dedicated suite like Google.

Set Key Performance Indicators

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are the metrics that you'll use to measure success. KPIs are different for every organization, and you'll want to spend some time nailing down what a successful re-design will mean to you and your client. While your KPI could be just about anything, there's one thing it must be: measurable. cxpartners.co.uk have a great write-up on common and uncommon KPIs that's worth a glance over as you begin to brainstorm what measurements will mean success in your project.

A/B Testing

A/B testing is a method of testing that relies on presenting two different site designs to different users to test which is most successful. This can be done through moderated testing (not an option in your case), surveys (also not an option), or automated testing efforts in which the site randomly or semi-randomly assigns a site design to users when they visit. This requires additional software installation on the server, and therefor there are security considerations that need to be taken into account, especially in a government context.

Due to the constraints of documentation and the need to provide at least a moderately consistent experience to users, A/B testing is, by its nature, a rather slow way to evolve a website, as only one change can be effectively tested at a time. It also relies on analytics gathering to be successful, especially if done by automated site design assignment. Invisionapp.com has a great getting-started guide that you should read over for more informaiton.

Automated Remote Screen Recording

Automated remote screen recording is the screen capture of users on a site using a piece of software installed on the server (which, as we said before, comes with its own set of security concerns). This allows you to remotely review users interacting with a site at your leisure.

There are some great benefits here. For starters, you get to actually see users interacting with the site, and have a good idea of where they are stumbling or stalling or failing. It gives you a great idea of how users go about error recovery. What's more, you can track mouse movement, which some studies show has about an 84%-88% correlation to eye movement. From this data, it's possible to do create of the the traditional eye tracking metrics and data outputs with much less invasion and cost.

Check out this list from creativebloq.com for a good rundown of some of the available tools.

A Word of Advice

Here's the thing - setting up any of this will be far more expensive and time consuming than taking the time to actually interview your users. Yes, they may be busy people, but your client's reluctance to allow interviews is going to have a very real impact on your project's success, budget, and length.

Consider presenting these alternatives and also suggesting asking for a timeboxed, half-hour interview with each stakeholder. If you design your questions well, you shouldn't need more than that to nail down the basic usability concerns of your users. Most users are receptive to UX testing requests, as the testing shows that your organization is engaged and interested in helping solve their problems. In the end, this will provide more immediate, real benefits than any of the above methods.

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Will it be better if I ask somebody who is working for them about filling the interview?

Yes, since those people will ask the questions to those "officials" and will get better informations then your friend.

Or should I give up getting more info about this stockholder?

It depends, if you need to get informations from the stakeholders to deliver a better product you should definitely not give up.

Make sure that your friend (since he seems to be the only contact to the stakeholders) understands how important it is to the overall design process for you to get informations, if it really isn't an option to talk to anyone then just deliver the first drafts and note that you need more information to optimize your work.

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It would help if you could interview every relevant stakeholder, but since that's not the case, can you bundle your questions and relay the information through city staff?

And are you able to interview and usability test future users? Insight in your target audience and having people you can test your designs on would be very valuable as well.

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