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The development team and I recently completed a new feature that was requested by a VIP-user at our company.

The product is not live yet, but still in development; my plan is to run the beta by the VIP-user to get feedback. The user might give design feedback, functionality (dev) feedback or a combo of the two.

The meeting will probably be short, like 30 minutes because the user is so VIP-busy.

I've been reading various things online about the best approach to this kind of thing. Just one example: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/designers-developers-doing-usability.

On one hand I tend to lean toward a developer/designer collaboration approach, but going alone seems easier to build a relationship (which, for me at least, is one of my main long-term goals). I also want to protect the development team from getting pressured into more development by a strong-willed VIP, but also see the advantage of having a developer in the room.

What are the pros and cons of going alone, going with others, devs, designers, PMs etc?

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Bringing the developer along will be beneficial for several reasons. Yes, they may have a chance to answer any specific technical questions but more importantly it will expose them to the overall process of collecting feedback and synthesizing that feedback into clear take aways. In my experience a collaborative approach between developers and designers has led to a shared ownership of the product's usability and overall experience.

To make the most of your time with the VIP-user, I would suggest having a short pre-meeting with the developer to establish a game plan for the meeting. Make sure you have both discussed potential lines of feedback and crafted follow up or probing questions in those areas. Afterwards, huddle with the developer and discuss what you heard and what the root case of the feedback could be.

Addressing your specific concern about the development team being pressured into additional work/rework, simply establish in the calendar invitation that this is an opportunity for the VIP-user to provide their feedback and that you are there to listen. Reiterate this at the onset of the meeting, and if the conversation veers towards a specific solution get it back on track by using open-ended questions to bring the focus back on what triggered the request in the first place. Let them know that you will keep them in the loop on how things progress if they'd like.

Hopefully this isn't too much information, I hope you have a great meeting.

  • I agree with @Cameron, however I'd rather the developer does not answer the questions of the VIP user. VIPs are often not interested in technical details, hence such developer's answer may have no added value and only use up the precious time. Unless, of course, when VIP asks for technical details explicitly. But then watch out - it is very likely that developer's "maybe possible" is taken as a promise by the VIP. – Mike Apr 15 '18 at 19:03
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I see at least 2 separate questions in there:

  • What's a good use of a 30-minute feedback session with a VIP user to review a feature created at their request?
  • Should a developer also attend the feedback session or not, and why?

Your needs and motivations seem to include at least the following:

  1. You want to build a relationship with the VIP user
  2. You want to try to protect developers from scope creep

Both are valid concerns. Based on the assumption those are accurate, I recommend you come up with a plan to make constructive use of those 30 minutes. Either have at least 1 important topic to cover, or be sure to leave there having identified it. Just make good use of the time and have something to show for it.

I also think you should handle this meeting yourself one-on-one this time, since rapport is more easily built this way. Unless everyone in the room is very well-acquainted and comfortable, a meeting with >2 people becomes theater. It's just inherent with group dynamics, and that is really counter productive if you're trying to research individual user reactions to software design and avoid espoused or hypothetical behaviors ("So if you were using this to do X, do you think method Z would work better for you?") VIP or not, what they actually do is more useful feedback than what they say.

In general, though, I personally support the idea of involving developers in as much of the user research as they're willing to endure. Bear in mind that they're creators too and they may not like the scope pressure or prescriptive ideas from those expert internal VIP users anymore than designers do.

You might ask the dev team to elaborate on what the dev-related questions might be....is this VIP user also a software architect or something? From a user experience standpoint, I think that is a different set of questions and a different research agenda altogether. I can't imagine why they would want the VIP user's input on the development considerations...that is mixing concerns ("what" vs "how") that should be separated.

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