I work for a small team right now that is going through a requirements tornado. I know that the reason why is that they have no idea what their users want. They haven't done contextual interviews, they don't have personas, user flows, or use cases, and we've done UAT but no usability testing. They hired me as a developer (even though I'm a UX person) and it's been hard to convince them that they've been going in the wrong direction.

Similarly, I was in a job interview for an internship last week and when they asked me what my goals for the internship were. I said a lot of HCI/UX stuff and the response was "We're in a fast-moving space and the most important thing to do is get there before the other guys, so we don't have time for user research."

Now, I know most of the facts/arguments that counter these statements/processes, but I've only been marginally successful in convincing people using them. What strategies do you use to get people to realize the benefits of solid user research?


4 Answers 4


There are a couple of videos out there produced by Human Factors International and TruScribe (the videos you see of people creating large dioramas on a whiteboard). They are very well produced, commonly being drawn to a talk at a conference.

One specifically that I like to show is "The ROI of User Experience with Dr. Susan Weinschenk". It is good for the manager types and for people who spit out "fast moving space" -- giving a good illustration of how Return on Investment (ROI) work in the user experience space. The video can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O94kYyzqvTc

"Bad Requirements" is one of the reasons called out in the video as to why products fail. =)

There are several other videos on the subject of Human Factors, User Experience and the like at the TrueScribe gallery -- http://www.truscribe.com/video-scribing-gallery/. There are several other videos there not pertaining to the subject matter, but you can figure out the ones of interest pretty easily -- the good ones are at the bottom.

These videos do a good job of explaining the goals and advantages of doing Human Factors and User Experience without "talking down" to the audience.

The "whiteboard video" is a fun medium too. Kind of like when you walked into your grade school classroom and saw a movie projector -- "Sweet! Video Day!" -- you can present something that managers, developers, finance can really get involved with. In my opinion. =)


Jacob Neilson has written a lot on the benefits of usability, more than once. He also sells a report ($150) detailing exactly how they tested this, how the sites improved, and the costs and revenue these changes brought. He also discusses quick and cheap methods of doing testing that can yield significant benefits without a whole ton of expensive eye tracking or big studies.

  • 1
    Yup, I do know about this stuff. But let's say your in my position. How would you go about starting the conversation? How would you get management to actually read that stuff and take action?
    – Zelbinian
    Apr 20, 2012 at 19:07
  • Businesses value money and proof, so buy that report (bonus: get the company to buy it) and use the specific examples of ROI it has to show the benefits of investment in UX. This is a site on UX... not on debate strategies or marketing. We can point you to the information you need to be convincing, but the actual convincing is still up to you. Apr 20, 2012 at 20:56
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    In my experience, persuasive argument is a necessary tool for any UX professional and so asking for strategies around that seems like a perfectly legitimate question to me. If there's a site that you think this question lives on better, though, please point me to it.
    – Zelbinian
    Apr 20, 2012 at 21:00
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    A question applicable (specifically) to UX designers like how can I convince my boss to employ strategy X is on topic IMO
    – Ben Brocka
    Apr 21, 2012 at 0:55

This is the key statement:

that they have no idea what their users want

This is no different from companies who sell tins of beans or cans of cola (although they probably think they know what users want...but are wise enough not to just assume it)

This is what the already existing market research industry does: find out what customers want.

Usability is about whether users can use a product. It's not about whether people actually want that product in the first place.

'User Research' should cover both usability testing and market research.


The trick is get them thinking about this without getting defensive (having a threat response). It'll help if you can have someone they trust lead this.

You could Start the conversation with:

  1. How would we know if we were wrong about what the customer wants?
  2. What is the impact on us if we are wrong?
  3. What is the impact on us if we knock this one out of the park?
  4. Is there a way to diplomatically let the customer know they they aren't clear on what they want?

It seems that part of the issue (and I know someone who went through this recently) is that as long as everyone things you're doing the best that anyone can then if it fails, oh well, it was doomed from the start. Nothing we could'a done about it.

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